The Great Genre Wormhole (A Missive From Where The Sun Don't Shine)

on Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I can't seem to shake the spectre of Genre-ary. Following a month of reading (and mostly being disappointed by) genre fiction, including some of the great canonical texts, I was left to ponder wether I have disappeared so far up some literary wormhole (that was the clean version) that I can no longer appreciate anything with a discernible plot. Or am I right to think that, while there are many wonderful, enjoyable distractions to be found out there, there are very few truly great genre novels?

I was speaking with a friend about this the other day, and he suggested that the great genre novels are merely great novels that happen to be situated within a genre. I'm not sure whether he was right, or whether we are such lit wankers that we are willing to accept disingenuous quasi-logic like that just to prove ourselves right.

To that end, I thought I might have a go at naming some of what I consider to be really top notch novels from a bunch of different genres. I'll leave it to you to decide whether their essence is in genre or whether it does a disservice to their greatness to tar them with the genre brush. I should add, this by no means purports to be a definitive list. It's just a few books that sprung to mind. Also, there is considerable overlap between the categories so my labels might not tally with your own. Whatever. Load up your tomatoes, folks. Here I go:

Favourite Sci-Fi
The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem (or pretty much any number of Lem books), Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut and The Bridge by Iain Banks
Favourite Fantasy
Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
Favourite Mystery
An Instance of The Fingerpost by Iain Pears, Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell and And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Favourite Thriller
Fatherland by Robert Harris, The Silence of The Lambs by Thomas Harris and The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt
Favourite Crime
American Tabloid by James Ellroy, The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson and Along Came A Spider by James Patterson (yes, I went there!)
Favourite Horror
Misery by Stephen King, Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe and The Monk by Matthew Lewis
Favourite Romance
The Postman by Antonio Skarmeta (I know that's cheating)
Favourite Humour/Comedy
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh and The Princess Bride by William Goldman

And just outside the bounds of genre, but still on topic:
Favourite Biography/Autobiography
The Nightmare of Reason by Ernst Pawel and Damned To Fame by James Knowlson
Favourite Narrative Non-Fiction
The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester and Them by Jon Ronson
Favourite True Crime
Hunting The Devil by Richard Lourie and The Killer Beside Me by Ann Rule
Favourite Young Adult
I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier

I'm also open to suggestions... and pasta recipes.


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