I’ve been reviewing genre fiction for almost half of my life – and I’ve seen an extraordinary evolution in genre fiction during that time. In the late ‘80s, before I became a reviewer, I managed bookstores all over Upstate New York and got a firsthand look at this transformation in genre fiction, not only from the perspective of the type of novels being published but also in the changing literary appetite of my customers.  

 

Back in the day, readers largely stayed within the boundaries of their favorite genres – it was almost like being a member of a tribe. Romance readers entered the store, went straight to their tribal grounds, picked out a few books, paid for them and left, rarely looking to see what was being released in other genres (mystery, science fiction, horror, etc.). The same can be said for members of the science fiction and fantasy tribe, the mystery tribe, the small but devoted western tribe, etc. The boundaries between genres were like unassailable walls – and in some cases, exploring new genres was nothing short of sacrilege. I distinctly recall an exchange between a group of young men who frequented one of the bookstores I managed. They were hardcore fantasy fans – bigtime David Eddings fans as I remember – and when one of them meandered over to the bestseller pyramid at the front of the store and picked up a mainstream fiction release, his friends descended on him like a pack of wolves and ruthlessly mocked him. Yes, it was in good fun but there was something deeply significant behind it that stayed with me – reading fantasy defined who they were in some sense and perusing something new was comparable to an existential crisis. It was almost like they were saying to their buddy: “The tribe has spoken. It’s time for you to go.”

 

 

After the phenomenal success of LKH, the floodgates slowly but steadily opened – and with the arrival of exceptionally written and wildly original genre blending sagas from Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich, Patricia Briggs, J.D. Robb, etc., the boundaries between genres blurred into nonexistence.

 

 

This is the future of genre fiction – and there’s no going back.

 

Yes, there will always be clearly defined science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance and horror releases – but these novels that blend elements from various genres are the future of genre fiction. The quality and quantity of these releases will continue to rise. Mark my words. Think about it – writing a novel that incorporates elements from fantasy, romance, mystery, and horror not only expands an author’s readership exponentially, it makes for a potentially unique and entertaining read. There is a lot of formula, a lot of cliché, in conventional genre fiction – after experiencing a well written genre hybridized novel, reading a conventional mystery, for example, seems bland.

 

 

I absolutely loved The Greyfriar and literally couldn’t put it down. (In all honesty, I hugged this book after finishing it.) It’s simultaneously alternate history, epic adventure fantasy, apocalyptic horror, and heartrending romance. With a storyline powered by steampunk sensibilities and an audacious tone reminiscent of the Golden Age adventure pulps (like Doc Savage and The Spider), this novel was simply a brilliant amalgam of genre elements.

 

Here’s the backstory:

 

“It had been one hundred and fifty years since the vampires rose. The monsters had lurked quietly among humanity from the beginning of time, but one dark winter night in 1870 they came en masse intent on subjugating human society. It was not known why they chose that moment to attack. Perhaps a great leader had inspired them. Perhaps they sensed a particular weakness in human culture as it teetered between faith and science. And clearly, humans were not prepared; they were taken totally by surprise. Most people had even given up their beliefs in the existence of such creatures as vampires… Within two years, the great industrial societies of the north were cadavers and the vampire clans divided the old world between themselves.”

 

In a few short years the world was completely remade, with most remaining humans living near the equator (vampires couldn’t tolerate constant heat) and the vampires living everywhere else.

 

But in 2020, the world is on the brink of war once again. Constantine II, the Emperor of Equatoria, is planning on marrying his daughter Adele to a brash American Republic war hero named Clark. Once the two powers are united, they can begin the “War of Reconquest,” in which humans will take back their lands and vanquish the parasitic vampires once and for all.

 

But when Princess Adelle’s airship is attacked by vampires during a tour of the frontier (France), the very future of humankind hangs in the balance. If Adelle is killed, her father’s grand schemes are all for naught. But as vampires rip through her guard, she is miraculously saved by a living myth called the Greyfriar, a seemingly unstoppable masked hero who has slaughtered countless vampires. But as the enigmatic legend fights to keep Adelle out of the hands of an army of sadistic vampires, the princess begins to realize that the world isn’t at all as it seemed – and neither is her masked protector…

 

Yes, this novel has been appearing on numerous “Best Vampire Novels of the Year” lists – and I couldn’t agree more. The take on vampires in The Greyfriar is a decidedly unique one:

 

“They all floated up into the air like a child’s balloon suddenly released from the grip of a small hand. More and more of the creatures began to drift up out of the village, leaving the slaughter where it lay. The breeze caught them and they wafted away as if they were dead leaves.”

 

But, as I stated earlier, The Greyfriar is so much more than a vampire novel. It’s an insanely appetizing mélange of genre fiction ingredients. It’s works like this that get me excited about the future of genre fiction – I challenge anyone to read this novel and not feel compelled to hug it like I did after reading it.

 

The future of genre fiction is now – and it’s Clay and Susan Griffith’s The Greyfriar.

 

 

 

Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.

Comments
by on ‎11-19-2010 09:00 PM

You've written a wonderful review Paul. I absolutely loved reading 'The Greyfriar'. For all those people who love epic adventure fantasy, vampires and/or a heartrending love story, I can only say GET THIS BOOK!  This story hits all the right buttons. I hope your blog gets out the word Paul. I can't wait for the two follow-up books.:smileyhappy: 

by LordRuthven on ‎11-19-2010 10:32 PM

I've been rereading H.P. Lovecraft recently, and what gets me is that once upon a time, genres weren't as stratified. Lovecraft is considered a horror author - and rightly so - but many of his stories were intriguing blends of occult fiction, science fiction, and fantasy. And he was one of many blending genres in those days; Robert E. Howard (interestingly enough, a favorite author of Laurell K. Hamilton's) is another example. It was only later that things got cut up and sorted into (relatively) neater boundary lines.

by on ‎11-19-2010 10:34 PM

Paul,

 

I'm going to try and convince the library to get this book.  It sounds really good. Thanks for the review.

 

Toni

by PhyllisJ on ‎11-20-2010 02:18 AM

Paul, I fell in love with The Greyfrair, it was one of those rare books that touch on so many of our emotions and it lingers on long after turning the last page of the book.  I am telling all my friends and family to get a copy of this book.  :smileyhappy:

by on ‎11-20-2010 08:49 AM

Paul,

This book looked very good before I read this. Then I read your article and see that you hugged the book. It is definitely in my pile. I do wish it was offered as an eBook.

by Author CarenCrane on ‎11-20-2010 11:47 AM

Paul, I agree with you on how wonderful this book is. My husband and I went to a booksigning last week where the authors were signing. In their discussion about the book, they said exactly what LordRuthven said here. They have always been huge fans of old adventure and pulp novels, as well as old movies. Those classic tales were a rich mixture of genres, which only became stratified in recent decades. The silliest thing to me is that "literary fiction" is now its own genre. What makes a great story has nothing to do with how a bookstore classifies it. The characters, setting, pacing and artful storytelling make great books great.

 

This book is DEFINITELY a great one. My sci-fi loving husband and romance loving self both agree on that!

by on ‎11-20-2010 06:55 PM

I've never read stories from the Golden Age of adventure pulp, but when I was reading "The Greyfriar" it gave me a sense of exhilaration that I haven't experienced since childhood. It was similar to the feeling I experienced when "The Scarlet Pimpernel" as a child.  

by VampireLibrarian on ‎12-06-2010 07:45 PM

I absolutely loved everything about this book - the adventure, the romance, and the wonderful, genuine characters. Two more books are planned, but I have yet to find pub dates. Really looking forward to the next installment

by kimba88 on ‎08-18-2011 09:20 PM

Thanks Paul...i am going to pick these up :smileyhappy:

Advertisement

Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.