Great novels that are hard to categorize

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Stick to one lane and pick one genre is common advice for aspiring writers. But in the literature, any rule can be broken. There are many great writers who make us wonder which shelf their book should be on: science fiction, fantasy, thriller or… miscellaneous? Let’s review some of the best books that defy categorization.

Silvia: “The Darkangel” (1982), by Meredith Ann Pierce, is a fascinating young adult novel that is technically science fiction – it’s set in a dim, distant future – but reads like a fairy tale. A vampire must get 14 brides before he can become immortal, but things get complicated when a young woman invades his castle. A charming read.

Patrick Suskind’s “Perfume” (1985) focuses on a man from the slums of 18th-century Paris with a sense of smell so sublime that it leaps into the realm of the fantastic. But it’s also the story of a serial killer on the hunt for the perfect scent – and the ideal victim. Likewise, Christopher Priest’s “The Prestige” (1995) may at first seem like a historical novel in letter form about two rival stage magicians, but as the book progresses it becomes part mystery, part science fiction.

Let’s talk about science fiction and fantasy books that would make for great TV

I’ve described Mervyn Peake’s “Titus Groan” (1946) as a “fantasy of manners” and a “Gothic” novel, although neither term hits the mark. It lavishly describes life in a labyrinthine castle, reveals a large cast of characters and follows the machinations of a socially-climbing kitchen boy. “Piranesi” (2020) by Susanna Clarke, bears a resemblance to Peake’s impossibly large castle Gormenghast, so if you liked one, you might like the other.

Life: Shimon Adaf’s “Lost Detective” trilogy comes out this summer, translated from Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan. While the first novel, “One Mile and Two Days Before Sunset,” is an almost traditional mystery, set in the aftermath of Israel’s short-lived ’90s rock renaissance, by the third (and epic format) part, ” Take Up and Read,” it transitions into science fiction, blending with a cross between realistic fiction, detective and all-out Weird. But even in the first book, Adaf’s love of science fiction is reflected in his detective hero, Elish Ben Zaken, whose reading of reference classics if you like Roberto Bolaño, you will love Adaf.

Speaking of Bolaño – another writer with a genuine love for science fiction – I have a soft spot for his “Nazi Literature in the Americas” (2008), translated from Spanish by Chris Andrews. Everyone should read Bolaño, but if you’ve been struggling with the epic “2666,” consider this an easier starting point — a twisting saga of dreamers, conspirators, and, yes, fascist science fiction writers that’s a delight from start to finish.

Science fiction: a history

Silvia: For those looking for shorter texts, I recommend the novella “Helpmeet” by Naben Ruthnum. A woman cares for her ailing husband, who suffers from a condition that takes this story from the realm of historical fiction to bizarre fiction. Sometimes a deeply disturbing, body horror story and sometimes a tender love story, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Finally, Kim Fu’s “Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century” is a beautiful new collection of eclectic stories, featuring everything from virtual simulations featuring the dead to a man made of sand.

Life: Disturbing and tenderly reminiscent of Christie Sims and Alara Branwen’s “Taken by the T-Rex” (2013), which took the literary world by storm and ushered in a new, golden age of dinosaur erotica. Yes, it really is a thing – talk about mixing genres!

In EJ Swift’s “Paris Adrift” (2018), the young protagonist works a late shift at a bar in Montmartre – where the cellar allows for an ever-increasing series of time-slips in Paris’ history. Science fiction, historical adventure or contemporary coming of age? All those, and it’s delicious.

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Finally, one of the funniest and surprising sci-fi novels of recent years has to be Philip Palmer’s “Version 43” (2010), in which a RoboCop-like cyborg (titled “Version 43”) is sent to a remote planet to to investigate a crime. He promptly does, discovers the conspiracy behind it all and is killed for his troubles. Enter version 44. Bodies pile up in this mishmash of science fiction, detective and conspiracy thriller — with plenty of humor and hyperkinetic energy on the big screen. And you, dear reader? What hard-to-classify titles do you like?

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books include “Mexican GothicVelvet was the night” and “The Return of the Sorceress† Lavie Tidhar’s most recent novels are “the escapement” and “The neighbourhood

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