HOOKED ON BOOKS: Genre mash-ups make diverting reading
When reading one genre at a time feels like a waste of precious time, try these books where multiple styles of fiction meet.
For many of us, book reading follows one or more predictable pathways: a favorite genre like police procedurals, steampunk fantasy or paranormal romance. But it’s nice, once in a while, to explore a fictional world that blurs the neat lines between genres.
Here are some genre mash-ups that might shake your reading routine out of its rut. Fair warning: This could get weird.
Fantasy meets police procedural
This crossover could take as many forms as there are types of fantasy or police detective story.
Try, for example, “The Eyre Affair” by Welsh author Jasper Fforde. The start of the “Thursday Next” series, it introduces a world where fictional characters can step out of books and “real” people can leap in.
Thursday Next is a detective who specializes in solving crimes where reality and fiction intersect. Enjoying the mind-bending weirdness does require a well-read reader. However, there’s a lighter spinoff series called “Nursery Crime,” beginning with “The Big Over Easy.”
Sci-fi/fantasy meets comedy
If you’ve read every book by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett – an impressive achievement – you’ll most likely have two things: a taste for speculative fiction with a funny streak and a hankering for more.
Try Tom Holt’s “J.W. Wells & Co.” series, starting with the “Portable Door.” It’s about a London firm that does magic in a modern, professional setting – with all the modern, professional pratfalls.
Like your SF/fantasy-comedy seasoned with a pinch of horror and a dash of spy thriller? I can’t recommend better than the “Laundry Files” series by Charles Stross, starting with “The Atrocity Archives.”
Main character Bob Howard is a nerdy James Bond type who faces off against eldritch beings from the darkness between the stars. Think H.P. Lovecraft, with secret agents patching rips in spacetime.
Pokémon meets lost Roman legion
Didn’t I warn you this was going to get weird? Behold, the “Codex Alera” series by Jim Butcher.
It’s said that someone bet Butcher he couldn’t write a good story based on a “lame” idea, and Butcher countered that he could do it based on two lame ideas of the challenger’s choice. Guess what two ideas they chose.
The result? A six-book epic starting with “Furies of Calderon,” set in a strange world where people command elemental spirits known as furies. These folks live in a Roman-style empire seething with intrigue, surrounded by barbarian races that come in strange, inhuman forms.
It’s a rip-roaring tale, full of thrills and suspense, with admirable heroes, a dose of romance and a complex gameboard of political and military agendas.
A few more mash-ups
Before I run out of space, I want to plug Mike Resnick’s “Weird West Tales,” a series of books set in an alternate-history Old West with magical monsters and futuristic weapons. The first book is titled “The Buntline Special.”
Mike Lupica, who specializes in novels about teenage sports heroes, takes an intriguing perspective on a superhero origin story in “Hero.”
How about a book about a genre mash-up? Middle-grades novel “The Island of Dr. Libris” by Chris Grabenstein is just that. It reveals a summer camp where every book you read brings something from its pages into reality. With kids indulging different tastes in reading, the island is soon overrun with a bizarre combination of heroes, villains and monsters.
Finally, I recently fell in love with David Donachie’s “Privateersman Mysteries.” Starting with “The Devil’s Own Luck,” they’re murder mysteries crossed with naval adventure in the Napoleonic era. If you don’t believe that combination could work, try it.
Robin Fish is an avid reader who blogs about books and other topics at afortmadeofbooks.blogspot.com. Contact him with questions or suggestions at email@example.com.