1. Community
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    Good at describing environment or atmosphere

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Community, Jul 20, 2010.

    Who is a good author or a what is a good book that has vivd descriptions of the environment that make it feel like you're inside their world?
     
  2. Perdondaris
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    Lord Dunsany is best known for his descriptive writing. This is from 'In the Twilight':

    There's some writing about Dunsany's writing here, with quite a few great extracts. Most of his earlier short stories, especially the first four books (listed here), should be alright. His novels generally contain great descriptive prose, and quite a unique narrative voice, so they're worth checking out.

    You did not restrict your request to prose, so I'll also mention Francis Ledwidge, who Dunsany was a fan of. He wrote poetry based to a large extent on the Irish fields, and was great at it; unfortunately, he then died in a war. Dunsany had compared him to, "a mirror reflecting beautiful fields."

    Better known is Percy Shelley:
    It's also worth looking at Mervyn Peake's Titus books, better known as the Gormenghast series. They are described quite well here. As that page says, Peake is very good as creating the oppressive, perhaps claustrophobic atmosphere of Gormenghast castle.

    Somewhat similarly to Peake, 'Roadside Picnic' by the Strugatsky brothers is based to a large extent on a certain location, in this case the mysterious Zone, where an alien landing took place. Redrick Schuhart's life essentially revolves around the Zone, and it invades just about every aspect of his life, which makes the title rather darkly ironic (I won't elaborate, as that would involve spoilers). The Zone is gradually built up throughout the novel, through each journey, and even when the characters are not within it, as it permeates every aspect of their lives. Indeed, somewhat like the Titus books, it's also quite character-driven, but nonetheless the setting is practically a character itself.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love Mist Over Pendle by Robert Neil - I felt very much part of the world.

    Gervase Phinn - I am right there sat in headmaster's office or school room with him.

    Mark Twain is also really good and Louisa May Alcott.

    More modern my favourite is probably Kate Morton or Kathy Reichs
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    H.P Lovecraft, dispite his purple prose and all, could make an atmosphere and enviroment better than almost anyone else I've read. This is the opening to The Shadow Over Innsmouth:

     
  5. Aconite
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    Aconite Senior Member

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    I've been using this book a lot for examples, but Truman Capote's In Cold Blood: It was the first really famous example (I think) of a "true crime" book, and the descriptions (from "the high lonesome plains of Kansas" onwards) fit the events perfectly without being maudlin or salacious. It gives you exactly the details you need to understand the setting--no more and no less.

    For a pop fiction example, try Ramsey Campbell, a British horror writer. He's able to evoke atmosphere, especially lurking dread, without it seeming overdescribed. Again, he keeps the details spare, though he claims a debt to Lovecraft. That debt is more in what he describes than in how he describes it, I feel.

    You also wouldn't go wrong reading a bunch of mid-century pulp fiction. A lot of it might seem a self-parody or cliche nowadays, but nobody knew how to turn a quick phrase of exact, accurate description like Hammett, Chandler, and the rest.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I know that the younger set has turned its collective nose at the like of Frank Herbert and Larry Niven, but these authors were masters of the very thing you ask.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Ray Bradbury.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books.
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    His short story, The Jar, was great.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    John Steinbeck was a master of describing setting. So was one of my favorite writers, Joseph Conrad.
     
  11. MissBelle
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    I dont know if this will be helpful, but I think sometimes, I feel more in the world, when I can identify with the character, and the character knows the world really well. I love stories about people who have lived places all their lives. Where the character is almost a part of the setting themselves.
     
  12. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    M. M. Kaye's books, Death in Kashmir and The Far Pavilions. Also, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. These are just a few that popped into my mind, lol.
     

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