The ReviewerAmy R. Biddle‘s website.
Genre fiction has, over the past few decades, become more and more prominant. As independent fiction becomes more accessible and profitable, genres have become more and more crucial to marketing, and more and more niche. The word "genre" has, in many ways, come to embody a certain kind of writing in itself, and today it has a somewhat negative connotation - it's the cheap thrill, the quick fix. In the popular perspective, it is the antithesis of "literature". But what, really, is the difference? George Orwell was the father of dystopia, Kurt Vonnegut wrote science fiction... so why do we discuss their books as "literature" and others in their genre as "genre fiction"? You can look up a hundred definitions, but the undeniable fact is that these books hit a chord with their readers. They broke a mold, pushed boundaries and opened eyes. So often I hear people talk as though "genre" and "literature" are two different kinds of writing. But that isn't true. Genre is only a label that is assigned to a story based on simple setting and plot elements. Literature is something that transcends genre - a book with a message that goes deeper than the back cover synopsis. Literature can be any genre, and any genre can be literature. The only distinguishing factor is that literature has heart.
This year we have had well over 300 books submitted to Underground book Reviews. Our goal is to find great independent literature, but with that many submissions, the task is daunting. It doesn’t help that our submissions span the gamut of genres. Over time, we have developed a system to pick out the most promising titles. It begins with our Pitch Perfect Pick competition, which brings relies on a combination of careful individual scrutiny and public voting. When our reviewers choose a book to review, they are first presented these promising Pitch Perfect Picks, but are instructed to select any book on the bookshelf. They are asked to select books that interest them, in genres they like, and to read the first few pages before they commit. The goal is to find good books, not trash bad ones. Five stars are supposed to be given to books that "did exactly what it set out to do, with originality and style". In other words, 5 stars are given to books that excel within their genre. If it's fantasy, there should be some creative world building. If it's a thriller, there should be lots of page-turning suspense. We ask reviewers to then nominate books for Novel of the Year by making them Top Picks. These are 5-star books they truly loved. This means the book hit a chord. For that reviewer, it was more than a good story; it had deeper meaning and substance.
At the end of the year, I read all of the Top Picks, along with a team of judges. As we agonize over the final choice Novel of the Year: Editor’s Choice, we are ultimately in search of finding the book that is larger than the box it has been placed in. In order to do so, we put aside our own genre preferences and ask ourselves what the reviewer thought made it so special. Meanwhile, you, dear readers, are in charge of finding our Novel of the Year: Reader’s Choice.
Below are all the books that are eligible for the Reader’s Choice award. If you would like to be a part of this honorable venture, pick at least two, read them before the end of February, and make sure to vote!
May the most transcendent book win.
All Lesser Means by JA Pipes
Day Moon by Brett Armstrong
Dominion of the Star by Angelica Clyman
Gary’s Guide to Life by Michael Nabavian and Phil Wall
iHunt by David A Hill Jr
Monstrous by J.L. Murray
Reverie by Lauren Rico
Stanley McCloud Must Die! by Adrian Baldwin
Stim by Kevin Berry
The After War by Brandon Zenner
The Last Detective by Brian Cohn
The Latina President by Joe Rothstein
The Right Wrong Number by Jim Nesbitt
The Vatican Cameos: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure by Richard T. Ryan
Judging will close at midnight on February 28th
Winners will be announced in the last March issue, on the 26th
Learn about entry & prizes
Amy R. Biddle‘s website.