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Airport Novel
aka: Airport Fantasy
"Do you have anything by Robert Ludlum?"
"Get out!"

Bernard: You're going on holiday. You want trash. But you want different kinds of trash. [...] This'll do you both. There's this temp, right? She's 29, she can't get a boyfriend, oh my God.
Woman: Sounds great.
Man: No way—
Bernard: And she's got twelve hours to stop nuclear war with China.

It is a simple universal law [that] People always expect to use a hilday in the sun as an opportunity to read those books they've always meant to read, but an alchemical combination of sun, quartz crystals and coconut oil will somehow metamorphose any improving book into a rather thicker one with a name containing at least one Greek word or letter (The Gamma Imperative, The Delta Season, The Alpha Project and, in the more extreme cases, even The Mu Kau Pi Caper). Sometimes a hammer and sickle turn up on the cover. This is probably caused by sunspot activity, since they are invariably the wrong way round.
Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent

The junk food of the literature world: a lap-breaking paperback you buy cheaply at an airport bookshop to fill your time during a flight. Maybe you finish it in the hotel room; maybe you save it for the return trip. Either way, you know perfectly well, that, as much of a page-turner it may be, you just bought for lack of anything else to do.

Usually light reading — the airport novel isn't something you seek out for profound thoughts, philosophical insight, or masterly writing; it's just something to take the boredom and discomfort of travel away for a few hours. It has to be engaging and exciting, though — a story that wades through 200 pages of Expospeak before getting to the good stuff isn't doing its job. Get to the action and romance, already.

It is usually a derogatory term — "Get your nose out of the airport novel and read something worthwhile!" — but it is not necessarily bad, per se. You just need to keep your expectations in check. Done well, Airport Novels might be deliciously campy or even So Bad, It's Good. What were you going to spend that $6.99 on, anyway? Some people even actively seek them out.

On the other hand, some decent authors write or have written Airport Novels, including the famous author Stephen King.

Also called a Beach Book; or, in French, romans de gare ("railway station novels"). Fantasy books in the genre are called airport fantasy.

Airport Novels are a genre which is not defined so much by content, which encompass Clancy-style techno-thrillers, adventure books, Joan Collins-style romance novels, High Fantasy, and other light fare, but by social function. They are almost always Doorstoppers and often feature a Contemptible Cover. If not, expect a sequel that follows up some much more popular work like a leech; Pride and Prejudice sequels are popular, as are Biblical Fan Fiction.

These books are always of cheap manufacture, rarely designed to last more than one or two readings. Often seen as the Spiritual Successor to the Pulp Magazine. Compare Extruded Book Product.

Remember that just because you bought it at an airport doesn't make it an airport novel; you can get the likes of American Gods in airport bookstores. Some modernized airports even offer full-featured bookstores with titles of just about every type and even the ability to "rent" a book - read it, return it when you come back (or to another location that has the same chain) and get something like half back what you paid.

Despite the fact that everyone who can afford a plane ticket can probably afford something you can read an eBook on, this is still some way from becoming a Dead Horse Trope. Most of them can even be bought as eBooks.

Common tropes:

  • Cliché Storm: Practically a given.
  • Contemptible Cover: Why else did you buy that third-rate fantasy "epic" if not for the topless elf girl on the cover?
  • Detective Drama: A common trope for airport fantasy is to follow a shockingly gruesome crime. Expect lots of gory descriptions of the killer's victims.
  • Doorstopper: You need something to fill up that 5 hour flight!
  • Extruded Book Product
  • Mr. Fanservice: Regardless of the actual genre of the book, it's almost guaranteed to have at least one shameless sex scene involving one or both of these.
  • Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game: Goes hand in hand with Contemptible Cover. It will usually have miscellanious fanservice to balance it out, though (see above).
  • Romance Novel: If it's a romance novel, the chances are it'll be full of the raunchiest sex the author could think of.

NovelProse FictionSerial Novel
About The AuthorLiterary TropesThe All-Concealing I

alternative title(s): Airport Fantasy; Beach Book
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