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Bernard: You're going on holiday. You want trash. But you want different kinds of trash. [To female customer] You're a woman, you want social themes, believable characters. [To male customer] You, you want plots, suspense. This'll do you both. There's this temp, right? She's 29, she can't get a boyfriend, oh my God.Bernard: And she's got twelve hours to stop nuclear war with China.
Female Customer: Great!
Male Customer: No way.
—Bernard synopsizing "Tempocalypse", Black Books
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 it out.
On the other hand, some decent authors do or have made 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.
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.
- Contemptible Cover: Why else did you buy that third-rate fantasy "epic" if not for the topless elf girl on the cover?
- Doorstopper: You need something to fill up that 5 hour flight!
- Extruded Book Product
- Romance Novel