Book Talk: Praise for genre fiction

Genre fiction can, at times, transcend the form and create an emotional journey

Peter Critchley

Special to The Morning Star

Essentially, the best genre fiction features great writing and craftsmanship and tells a captivating story to escape from reality. Literary fiction, on the other hand, is much more an emotional journey that leads to a stronger grasp of the universe and of ourselves. But this does not always hold true and some genre fiction transcends the form and accomplishes both.

Crosstalk 2016 by Connie Willis is a perfect romantic comedy for the digital age, especially of late. Briddey works for a cell phone provider and is always searching for the next great way to help people connect, despite being deluged with calls, texts, social media and impromptu visits from friends and her family, an Irish-American clan with a decided propensity to meddle in all aspects of her life.

Trent, her boyfriend, asks her to get an EED, a procedure to telepathically sense the emotions of her seemingly perfect boyfriend. The procedure does not go as planned and she ends up connected to the wrong person, co-worker C.B. Schwartz, who actually attempted to stop her from getting an EED in the first place.

This is definitely a return to the lighter romantic comedy the acclaimed author did so well in To Say Nothing of the Dog (2011). But it also skewers cell phone addiction and raises a red flag about the menace of dishonest developers pose to privacy, morality and emotional stability.

At first glance The Thicket (2013) by Joe R. Lansdale might not appear to be the type of genre fiction that transcends the form. But the writing style of this captivating Western adventure, a brilliant coming-of-age story, is evocative of Mark Twain and shines a light on the human condition and the heart of the young protagonist.

Sixteen-year-old Jack Parker knows first-hand how brutal turn-of-the century East Texas can be—his parents die in smallpox epidemic, a band of hard men kill his preacher grandfather and his 14-year-old sister Lula is kidnapped by a criminal who likely believes wearing a dead man’s clothes will protect him from death. Jack, now having lost almost all his family in the world, does not intend to lose his sister and he forms an unlikely band of righteous ruffians to ever appear in a novel.

And together with Shorty, a midget sharpshooter and Eustace Cox, the grave-digging son of an ex-slave, a fugitive from a house of prostitution and a sheriff and part-time bounty hunter, Jack sets out in the wilds of Texas during the early days of the oil boom to rescue his sister.

The Wanderers (2017) by Meg Howrey is an extraordinarily inventive novel that clearly bends genres to tell the compelling tale of three astronauts training for the first-ever mission to Mars. The tale begins when Helen Kane leaves NASA to participate in the Prime Space company’s Martian voyage simulation, joined by cosmonaut Sergei Kuznetsov and Japanese astronaut Yoshihiro Tanaka.

The mission is the last chance for Helen to return to the only place she ever truly felt at home, Yoshi views it as an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the wife he has loved absolutely and Sergei is willing to spend 17 months in a tin can if it means travelling to Mars. In this remarkably empathetic and measured tale, all three characters find the mission as much about exploring within as exploring the galaxy.

These three titles are available through your Okanagan Regional Library www.orl.bc.ca.


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