In The Reader’s Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (ALA, 2009), Joyce Saricks divides genre fiction into four categories: Adrenaline Genres, Emotion Genres, Intellect Genres, and Landscape Genres (h/t to Jonathan Hunt for pointing me to this wonderful resource–and click through that link to read some fascinating commentary on the categories). I find this categorization much more helpful than traditional breakdowns by SF, Mystery, etc., because it speaks to the way readers actually respond to books, and how to match them to new ones. For example, even though I read fairly widely among traditional genres, the books I respond most strongly to can almost always be considered “Intellect” books, with the occasional dip into “Emotion.” Which is to say, I’m probably not the best first reader for the books under review today, which are all variants on the Adrenaline Genre. Here’s what Saricks has to say about Adrenaline:
[R]eaders who appreciate fast-paced books don’t honestly care whether we call these Suspense, Thrillers, or Adventure. They want the page-turning pace that drives these genres. Grouping these together as Adrenaline genres . . . helps us understand that we can often offer titles from any of these to readers who talk about their desire for a book that pulls them into the story quickly and keeps them turning pages until the very end.
Adrenaline Genres–Adventure, Romantic Suspense, Suspense, Thrillers–all appeal to readers who appreciate intricately detailed stories told at a pace that moves almost more quickly than they can turn pages. Pacing is the most important element; it engages from the first and offers multiple plot twists that keep them on the edge of their chairs. (pp. 3-4).
Saricks broadly places Fantasy among the Landscape Genres and Science Fiction among the Intellect Genres, but it is clear that the three books under review today, even though they each have elements of Fantasy and SF, are Adrenaline reads. Indeed, Saricks specifically mentions James Rollins, co-author of The Blood Gospel, as an example of an Adrenaline author (p. 18). And you can see below that our reviewers located the heart of each novel in its plot, pacing, and suspense. Laura notes the strength of the suspense , “ratcheted up by the use of a timeline/clock a the start of each segment” in The Blood Gospel. Carla (who reviewed the first book in this series last year) highlights the “action and drama” of The Queen is Dead, though note that she sees some potential for Emotion readers. And Sarah states outright that in The Kassa Gambit, “the plot carries the day.”
We all know teens who want action, action, action: so for the adrenaline junkies among your patrons, here are three great books to get them hooked on.
ROLLINS, James & Rebecca Cantrell. The Blood Gospel. Bk. 1. 496p. (Order of the Sanguines Series). Morrow. Jan. 2013. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9780061991042; ebook ISBN 9780062235756.
Adult/High School–In the beginning, there were the strigoi (vampires). Lazarus is one, but by the grace of Christ’s blood he becomes the first Sanguinist, leading an order dedicated to living a life of devotion and celibacy, with the hope that if death is honorable, their souls will be returned. Flash forward to modern-day Caesarea, Israel, and an archaeological dig that might prove the truth of the Slaughter of the Innocents unleashed by Herod (only–oddly–there are human bite marks on the bones). Suddenly, an army helicopter appears, kidnapping Dr. Erin Granger and taking her to Masada, where an earthquake has unleashed a toxic gas and opened a route to a formerly hidden temple. She’s accompanied by Sgt. Jordan Stone and Fr. Rhun Korza, and together they may fulfill an ancient prophecy that will open the Blood Gospel–written by Christ, in His blood. Thus starts a journey that takes the trio to Nazi hideouts in Germany, a modern-day meeting with Rasputin in St. Petersburg, and, finally, to the Vatican, all while outrunning Bathory, a follower of the demon Belial and in control of several strigoi and blaphsemeres (vampiric beasts). This is the book that readers of Anne Rice, Dan Brown, and Toyne’s “Sanctus” trilogy have been waiting for: the suspense is ratcheted up by the use of a timeline/clock at the start of each segment; the cast of characters is continually a surprise (Judas–check. Lazarus–check. Elizabeth Bathory–check.); and a cliffhanger ending will leave readers eager for Book Two.–Laura Pearle, the Center for Fiction, New York City
LOCKE, Kate. The Queen Is Dead. 352p. Orbit: Hachette. Feb. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316196130; Audio $24.98. ISBN 9781619693333.
Adult/High School–This follow up to God Save the Queen (Orbit, 2102), is set in a future Great Britain where a plague has turned the ruling classes (“aristos”) into werewolves or vampires who dominate humans physically as well as politically. At the start of the book, Xandra Vardan’s world is in chaos. She is still reeling from uncovering the lies she’d been fed by the people she trusted most and is trying to cope with the resulting violence. She must come to terms with the fact that not only is she a goblin (half werewolf, half vampire), but she is also the goblin queen. Humans, who have steered clear of aristos after staging a bloody revolution many years ago, are starting to get more aggressive; they are making moves to overthrow aristos and take their society back. With another human uprising on the horizon, Xandra is being pressured by multiple factions, each wanting to be chosen sole ally to the powerful goblins. On top of all of this, her beloved brother has been abducted and it is up to her to find him. Xandra’s impatience, anger, and fear have her bouncing around emotionally, but her headstrong ways and commitment to doing whatever it takes to solve her problems serve her well. The action and drama in this paranormal/mystery mashup will appeal teen fans of the genres, but they will likely engage on a deeper level with the issues of shifting identity, loyalty and trust. To fully enjoy this, read God Save the Queen first.–Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, CA
PLANCK, M. C. The Kassa Gambit. 288p. Tor. Jan. 2013. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-3092-5. LC 2012026480.
Adult/High School–Prudence Falling, captain of the tramp freighter Ulysses, drops out of node-space on a routine run to the remote farming planet of Kassa, only to discover that there is something seriously wrong. Despite the fact that everyone knows, after centuries of space travel, that humans are the only sentient beings in the universe, it appears that Kassa has been attacked by aliens. Meanwhile, when League police officer Kyle Daspar arrives, Prudence assumes he knows more than he’s telling, and Kyle (who is actually a double agent) assumes Prudence has been sent to kill him. When a Fleet ship shows up unexpectedly, both of them are suspicious. Kyle and Prudence–separately at first, and then together–attempt to find out what happened on Kassa, and who is responsible. As they hop from planet to planet, a conspiracy of epic proportions begins to be revealed, and Kyle and Pru are right in the middle of the action. Planck’s debut novel is a fast-moving tale of political intrigue and social commentary (with a little romance thrown in), told in the context of a classic space opera. The writing is awkward at times, especially in the dialogue between Pru and Kyle, but the plot carries the day. Fans of David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series (Baen) or Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Miles Vorkosigan” books (Baen) might enjoy this quick and fun read.–Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County Library, CA.