It’s difficult to understand why I would say that it doesn’t fall into a category if you haven’t read it, and I can see how, with the plot synopses out there, why it would be easy to say it’s strictly sci-fi. The problem with that is that, yes, it does have elements of sci-fi or paranormal, but there are elements of literary fiction, romance, fantasy, scientific drama (think Michael Crichton), history, horror and many more. I think because Cronin’s background is in literary fiction, there’s depth to the writing and to the characters that’s unexpected and unusual for a straight sci-fi novel. There are things about it on the surface that would place it in sci-fi, but it bends that genre so drastically that it’s hard to keep it with two feet planted under just that umbrella.However.
I understand that not every buzzy book is going to be a hit for everyone. But I caution people from staying away from a book just because of the buzz. Everyone will read the same book differently, and this is certainly outside my normal comfort realm, but for me, it paid off. Even going by the official definitions of sci-fi — good sci-fi — I still think it’s a good book. I loved it, and that doesn’t change just because of the genre it may or may not fall into.
Elements of romance, "literary" fiction, etc. - these things do not disqualify a book from being science fiction. There is no contradiction. Depth to characters and writing... also not contradictory to the genre science fiction. And as I discovered in Sci-Fi Month, the science fiction genre covers just about everything.
I can't really discuss the book because I haven't read it, but something about this response seems to come from the wrong angle. It's as though (and I interject here to invite any and all other interpretations, especially those of the author) to justify the popularity, one has to distance the book from the "standard" sci-fi genre. Yet what exactly does that mean? Elements of horror, romance, deep characters... this all still sounds strictly sci-fi, but as though to detract me from ignoring the book (because the label "sci-fi" is still something bad to many readers...), readers who themselves would have otherwise ignored the book find themselves calling it genre-bending. And of course, I may be entirely wrong.
But I can't shake this feeling that the reason this book defies genre isn't really because it's actually falls into multiple genres (very possibly because I've grown to believe that most genres blend together and are virtually indistinguishable - a different topic for another day), but because publicists (and subsequently, bloggers, readers, reviewers, etc.) do not want it defined. The term "science fiction" doesn't do much for the intended audience, especially when it has grown to mean much more than its official, you know, genre.
Rachel's response indicates this as well. There is an impression that once labeled "sci-fi", "The Passage" will also be labeled as "not for general public", as though describing the book as precisely what it is will deter readers. I am curious to hear more views on the matter from readers of the book, and from those like me who have only read numerous reviews. There are so many reviews and thoughts on this book that it's hard to keep track, but it could be that I'm wrong in my impression, and that I entirely misunderstood Rachel's response. I open the floor for discussion.