I am often asked, “Erik, how is it that you choose which genre to classify the books you review?”. Well, not often…or at all. However, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend people do ask me that and that it has happened so often that it warrants a blog post.
There; now that we are all operating under the same collective delusion, how do I go about assigning genre?
To be honest, I find that the best way to do so is to take the broadest classification possible based on the themes and motifs that are present in the story. To better illustrate this, I’ll use two of my reviews as examples (because who doesn’t love a shameless plug? No shame here): Soul Hunter and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
For Soul Hunter, I classify it as science fiction because the story takes place many years in the future and showcases technology that we currently don’t have. At least, I’m unaware of our ability to create super human warriors if such a thing exists. Also, aliens. There are many subgenres that Soul Hunter can fall into, however I think that using a broader term helps to recommend at a glance and the review then dives into more of the specifics.
Soul Hunter has aspects of horror, political intrigue, some fantasy, and elements of war stories, but it is the science fiction world, or galaxy in this case, that it all takes place within that defines it most.
Now, my review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Or Philosopher’s Stone, if you’re from anywhere besides America) and the subsequent reviews of the series have two genres posted: fantasy AND magical realism. This is due to the fact that fantasy is so ridiculously broad that The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire both fall into that category. I don’t think I need to explain the differences between these two series, due to their popularity in popular culture.
Due to this immense category, I added magical realism to help focus in on the type of fantasy that Harry Potter falls into so that those who take the recommendation understand that it takes place in a world much like ours but that has magical elements which sets it firmly in the realm of fantasy. However, the setting dictates a necessary distinction because it isn’t in the same vein as say high fantasy, which would focus on knights, castles, and often take place in the past.
The Harry Potter series also can be classified as children’s literature and young adult fiction depending on the book, so while these are appropriate to the stories, I don’t think they are large enough to define them as a whole.
It is important to remember that genre is often defined by majority consensus and people often disagree on genre. That is okay. Humans seek to find meaning through classification so it is natural for us to try and put the art we enjoy into categories to better understand and recommend them to others who might enjoy them as well.
So that is how I choose which genre to classify the books I review. What do you think? How do you go about choosing which books to read and is genre a contributing factor? Feel free to comment below.
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