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My poor little brain took ages to get to grips with the concepts of genres in books. Since childhood, I have always read avidly and widely across fiction and non-fiction, and to me books were always just  books. I began to understand why some people like to classify books into genres, as it helps you to understand whether or not you might like a book. When people have limited time to read, they don’t want to spend time with a book that they will not enjoy, plus it makes it easier to shortlist books in bookshops, and especially on Amazon.

So, I now understand genres, and why people like them, but then sub-genres rear their ugly head! What’s that all about? Are people so limited in their tastes that they must have their hand held all the way to choosing a book? Whatever happened to the joy of stumbling across a book by accident?

And of course, I found myself using the sub-genre classifications, only in my case I used it to avoid books. My escapist reading has always been SF, for those times when I just want to relax into a book without stretching the grey cells. I started off with authors like Isaac Asimov, EE Doc Smith, and Robert Heinlein, and now read Peter F Hamilton, Stephen Baxter and Iain M Banks. So, this is now classified as Space Opera, while other sub-genres such as Combat/Hard SF , Steampunk etc now exist. Having tried these, I decided I didn’t like them, as so I did what I was condemning others for, but by choosing not to read them. And then along comes a book that confuses the issue. Although being classified as Combat SF, the reviews I saw were full of praise for it. So I bit the bullet (whoops, bad pun) and read “Veteran” by Gavin Smith. It had the top layer of big boys with big guns common to Combat SF, but underneath this were ideas and themes that had more depth. Some were well realised, and others not quite so well handled, but that is true of many books. In the end, I enjoyed it.

So what am I saying? The use of genres and sub-genres helps people to find books they will like, and avoid those they won’t like. What it can do is take away those magic moments when you find a great book by accident, and that is a loss I am not prepared to live with, even if it means I sometimes read books that I don’t fully enjoy.

Basically, I don’t like sub-genres.

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