I read The Magicians by Lev Grossman a few days ago (and reviewed it over at Skunk Cat), and I keep thinking about it. I recommend the book even though it's kind of depressing. One of the things the book does is look at fantasy worlds--in this case, both the hidden-magical-world a la Harry Potter, and the portal-world Fillory, a la Narnia--and how real people would behave if suddenly given access to them. In Grossman's book, people continue to act as they did before, only with new things to angst about.
That's probably pretty accurate. As the main character in The Magicians discovers, changing circumstances doesn't change the person appreciably. Even if you get precisely what you've always dreamed of, you will always want more. That's human nature.
Then again...I don't know, sometimes I feel like I'm the last person on earth fighting the good fight against entropy. I still assume most people--if given the right circumstances, the right chances--will be brave and good and noble. I'm probably wrong. But I want to be proven right when I'm reading; I want characters to rise to the challenge when it counts, I want them to struggle and overcome adversity--whether it's a bad guy or just their own inner demons. I want characters to change for the better over the course of the book.
And if, say, a group of characters sets off for a grand adventure in a magical world, I would like at least one person in the group to have a tiny little clue about hiking and camping. Please! Spare me from imbecilic city characters!
Okay, actually, this is not where I intended to go with this post. But what the heck. Buy good hiking boots and break them in carefully before you leave on your first trip! Pack light, but pack for emergency weather conditions! Research your destination before you leave, using up-to-date sources! And lighten up, for God's sake--you're supposed to be enjoying yourselves! Oh, and don't get drunk and talk to a tree. That tree is bad news and if you weren't drunk you would have figured it out.
I feel slightly better now. Also, if I weren't suddenly, deliciously writing The Trickster Society at a proper breakneck-can't-finish-it-fast-enough clip, I'd be going back to Adventures in Zoology, where Our Heroine, a zoologist, does actually end up in a magical land she's wanted to visit for decades, and she brings her properly broken-in hiking boots. Because she's not stupid.