This one time at Writer's Camp…
The Novel That Wasn’t
Ever read a science fiction novel and realize halfway through that it… wasn’t?
I’m reading this story right now that someone sent me (friend of a friend, apparently) and it was billed as a SF novel. I went ahead and started reading it and realized about 100 pages in that it was more of a dystopic society based on religion in the far-flung future. There were elements of SF in it, though, so I continued onward. It was, after all, still sorta SF.
About at the halfway mark I finally decided that it was more of a fantasy novel, very much along the same vein as Star Wars was fantasy. It had the technology, sure, but a lot of it was based on the presumptive hero having the mutated ability to recall every single minute detail he ever heard, saw or read. So… he’s just got exceptional memory. Nothing more.
I still struggle to call this SF, even after reading the end (which brings out the HARD SCIENCE™). I don’t know how people classify dystopian future novels now, whether it falls into SF. It might, since Science Fiction has recently been suborned into being Speculative Fiction.
I suppose this allows Tom Clancy off the hook, since he’s been writing SF since 1988 or so…
What do you do? Do you tell the person “If you were aiming for a science fiction novel, you both succeeded and failed, and I do not know how to explain this”?