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Scenery Porn / Literature

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  • Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy is a pure example of the trope. Page after page after page is given over to detailed descriptions of the Martian landscape — that nobody has ever laid eyes on yet. Could easily be condensed to a single volume without it.
  • Dan Abnett does this in droves, particularly in the Gaunt's Ghosts novels, where he'll spend a couple of paragraphs just describing a single room.
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  • Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series — more known for its normal Porn, but full of pages and pages of descriptions of apparently identical hills covered with many, specified, types of grass.
  • Victor Hugo is notorious for devoting whole chapters of The Hunchback of Notre Dame to describing the cathedral itself and the Paris skyline. The book is actually called Notre Dame de Paris — the name of the church — and a large part of it is a plea for the preservation of old cathedrals. Many literary critics in fact consider Notre Dame to be The Protagonist.
    • Hugo did much the same thing with Les Misérables, wherein the story - changed in the musical version to be centrally about Jean Valjean and Cosette - was centered around the entirety of France.
  • The heath is described so much in Thomas Hardy's Return of the Native that it might as well be its own character.
  • Robert Jordan had a tendency towards this sort of thing - settings, views, and even minor character mannerisms were described in great detail.
  • Dean Koontz can take this to great lengths, sometimes exaggerated for humor.
    • By the Light of the Moon features a very detailed description of a bedroom shared by two brothers, contrasting the personality of the elder with the younger, ending by mentioning that the latter has been left bound and gagged on his bed. The surreal church visions throughout the book (isolated bits of the church appearing in hallucinations to the protagonists, such as a font seen in the desert and a confessional booth reflected in a restroom mirror rather than the stalls that are really there) are crowned with elaborate descriptions of the church interior proper late in the book. One of the viewpoint characters is a painter, which helps justify some of the Scenery Porn.
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    • Dark Rivers of the Heart: Justified Trope in that the traumatic memories of the male protagonist center around a childhood incident involving his father's home; he says of his father, a noted painter, that anything he did was done with the aesthetics well worked out in advance.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. At least 80% of it was Scenery Porn, or it felt like that. This is why it made such good stock for film. There's a particularly good speech by Gimli about the caverns behind Helm's Deep, which goes on for a page and a half.
    • Much like his Fictionary, Tolkien insisted on drawing (and making corrections to) a Fantasy World Map as the story was being written, setting a trend for future writers. His scenery descriptions were sufficiently detailed that geographer Karen Wynn Fonstad was able to reconstruct a thematic atlas of Middle-Earth including geology, climate, and vegetation.
    • The moon world in his children's book, Roverandom is so imaginative and vividly-described that it qualifies as this.
  • H. P. Lovecraft is best known for indescribable Eldritch Abominations, but he certainly didn't skimp on description when it came to scenery. He was very much a fan of architecture, and his stories feature long and detailed descriptions of the scenery (see for example the descriptions of Providence in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward). Usually this worked well and helped to set the mood, but on a few occasions it came out as rather egregious. The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath in particular has a scene near the end where it seems like the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep has been hired as the spokesbeing of the New England tourism committee.
  • Cormac McCarthy's The Road intricately describes the bleak, empty, lifeless wasteland setting in far more detail than he does any of the book's characters.
    • Forget The Road. Look at Blood Meridian or Suttree. Just read the first page of Suttree
  • Chris Riddell's pictures of the sky ships in The Edge Chronicles. Hell, most of the pictures in those books. None of the illustrations distract from the actual written story, but they're still rather detailed and well-drawn.
  • The World at the End of the World by Luis Sepúlveda. Read it, and feel how you're actually picturing yourself looking at the majestic landscapes of the far southern tip of South America.
  • John Steinbeck had a crush on the Salinas Valley.
  • Shaun Tan, man. Just Shaun Tan. If you're reading this page, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of The Arrival. Or The Red Tree. Or Tales from Outer Suburbia. Or any other book with his name on the cover.
  • All of Jules Verne's Les Voyages Extraordinaires are like this.
  • Dragons Wild by Robert Asprin spent an extremely inordinate amount of time describing both the scenery and streets of New Orleans French Quarter and the people who lived there (and their hours and routines as a result of living in the Quarter) as if to say "see, I really lived here! I'm a local!"
  • The first two books were fine, but the last two books of the Hyperion Cantos—especially the last one—are largely endless descriptions of pretty nonexistent locales on other planets (well, aside from the transplanted Vatican City), with little bits of completely inconsequential plot and exposition thrown in here and there.
  • Lampshaded in Unwoven Legacy when Red sees Cuteness Valley for the first time:
Red: Only a girl would create a world made entirely out of pink.
  • Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. According to rumour, he wrote the first few chapters especially Scenery Porn-heavy in order to drive off readers looking for cheap and quick thrills. Elitism isn't dead!
  • There's an awful lot of Scenery Porn early on in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Once Lord Foul really gets going, however, it turns into a kind of Break the Cutie exercise on the world. Scenery Gorn, anyone?
  • 3001 by Arthur C. Clarke has the first two-thirds of the novel basically taken up by a tour of the future world through the eyes of 21st-Century viewpoint character Frank Poole.
  • Ridiculously long sections of Gormenghast are dedicated to descriptions of the titular castle.
  • David Weber seems to do this a lot. In his Prince Roger books, pages and pages are devoted to lovingly-crafted descriptions of the Mardukan jungle, cities, and other locales, while in his Bahzell Bahnakson series, he had a tendency to get overcreative when it came to creating his cities, and he seemed to want to let the reader know every in-and-out. This is most evident in War God's Own, in which the characters never seem to be able to go into a city without commenting in 3-5 page long descriptions on how advanced/beautiful/innovative it is. To be fair, this is probably because they are country boys who have never been out of their respective, reasonably barbaric homelands in their lives, but the point still stands.
  • Watership Down may require you to consult a botanical guidebook in order to follow the story, as it slides seamlessly between Scenery Porn and existential dread. After an opening quote from Aeschylus about death and dripping blood, you get this:
    The primroses were over. Towards the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog's mercury and oak-tree roots...
  • Stephen King is a big fan of describing the surroundings even when the characters are being hunted by The Legions of Hell. If it weren't for the looseness of his geography, it would be possible to draw a map of his fictional Maine towns... and he spent extra time describing the entire American landscape in The Stand.
  • Hannibal is worth reading for the sumptuous descriptions of Florence.
  • E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros frequently stops in order to describe the supernaturally beautiful scenery, both indoors and outdoors. The description of the Demon Lords' throne room is the most outrageous example, but there are others. The novel contains its share of Costume Porn as well.
  • L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables put Prince Edward Island on the map, for this very reason.
  • Discworld novels don't usually have too much of this stuff beyond the Establishing Shot of the Disc at the start of the early books. But you can definitely tell that Men at Arms was being written at the same time as The Streets Of Ankh-Morpork: A Discworld Mapp was being compiled. The description of the "gnarly ground" in Carpe Jugulum probably counts as well. And then there's The Last Hero, and Paul Kidby's gorgeous pictures of the Rimfall, Cori Celesti, and the Disc as seen from the moon.
  • Tales of the City is the urban version of this trope featuring not just streets and locations both notable and mundane, but accurate (for the time) bus lines. While it was admittedly a serialized story in a local newspaper and thus explicitly aimed at a local audience it can still feel like more effort is spent on showing off how real and local it was than writing a compelling narrative.
  • Ben Aaronovitch does this with London in his Rivers of London books, it starts to get a bit out of hand in the sequel Moon Over Soho.
  • In Stanisław Lem's Tales of Pirx the Pilot, a spacesport is described very vividly. You can almost smell the Diborane.
  • Brett Roehr's The Yukon Wolf uses plenty of description involving snow-covered landscapes, mountains, icy rivers, and of course the Aurora Borealis.
  • Both of the primary narrators in The Historian describe their surroundings in lengthy and exquisite detail. Landscape and architecture both receive near-fetishistic attention, taking up a sizable portion of the book's 650+ page length.
  • The illustrations of Dinotopia are filled with gorgeous cities and ruins. See for yourself.
  • William Golding's Lord of the Flies is full of this.
  • Gene Stratton-Porter's The Song of the Cardinal opens with several paragraphs of lavish description of the Limberlost.
  • E. Annie Proulx does this really weirdly. In "The Half-Skinned Steer," she has a character trapped in a Wyoming blizzard compare the swirling snow to mythical beasts and Arab women. Never mind that a character trapped in a Wyoming blizzard should be wondering why he was stupid enough to leave his car and try to navigate his way through the storm on foot, while no one knows where he is.
  • Gives Light, which takes place on an Indian reservation, delves into this frequently, especially whenever Skylar is describing the sky, the badlands, or even the desert.
  • Bride of the Rat God gives lots of detailed descriptions of places and events.
  • María, the novel by Jorge Isaacs, is all about this. The author spends pages and pages talking about the beautiful scenery of the region of Valle del Cauca, in Colombia.
  • The novels of Tony Hillerman are famous for their depictions of the deserts of the American Southwest, especially in his Leaphorn & Chee series. The characters are Navajo, Pueblo, and Zuni Indians, so the scenery has spiritual importance as well.
  • Danielle Steel sets her novels in glamorous locales such as Paris, London, San Francisco, New York, etc, and treats her reader to endless descriptions of them.
  • Avenger, the second volume of Way of the Tiger Gamebook series has a sequence when your at a Lord's estate and you can't sleep one particular night and so you walk around. What follows is an evocative sequence of a palatial residence in the dead of night that creates a beautiful atmosphere while still giving off the feeling that something is wrong. Then you find a dead guard and you're suddenly being garroted and the book's climatic action sequence begins.
  • Roald Dahl indulges in this in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with regards to the Chocolate, Inventing, and Television Chocolate Rooms. (Adaptations tend to follow suit, especially with the Chocolate Room.)
  • Something noted by the lone reviewer of Murder at Colefax Manor on
  • Dark Lord—The Rise of Darth Vader:
    • Alderaan is a jewel of a Core World. The Royal Palace is a Big Fancy Castle in the center of the capital city Aldera, which in turn is in the center of a mountain lake surrounded by picturesque peaks.
    • Kashyyyk is described in lush detail. The capital city Kachirho's central tree is a multilevel edifice, with balconies, bridges, and walkways both inside the trunk and out, all carved from the living wood with intentional imperfections that draw the eye.
  • The Misplaced Legion devotes two pages to Marcus Scaurus' first impression of the architecture of Phos' High Temple (which is based on the Hagia Sophia).
  • The Brambly Hedge picture books are lovingly illustrated with a wealth of warm colors and background details, from lavish clothing to stocked cabinets. The animated television series also worked hard to replicate this look.
  • Wish Book Series: Quite a few photos used to make these books are stunning.
  • Frankenstein: It is from the Romantic period, after all. Particular highlights include Victor's walk into the Alps at the end of Volume 1, scenes on Walton's ship in the Arctic, and the cottage owned by the de Lacey family that the Monster shelters near.
  • Danny, the Champion of the World describes the English countryside in loving detail.

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