Genres are for suckers. Take a book, pretty much any book out there, and see where it falls on the genre scale. Not what it’s marketed as, what it is. A good horror novel will develop characters and relationships and then use those to heighten the effect when they’re shredded. The best sci-fi and fantasy novels utilize philosophy, politics, and religion as a springboard. Action and adventure will have an underpinning of social justice.
Your mileage may vary on these statements, but any good book should be genre defying. Not to the extent of starting out as a Western and ending up with zombies – although that might make for an interesting story if handled correctly – but rather a story that makes use of the richness of life and fantasy and uses all manner of elements to weave together a tale. As long as the pieces fit, it’s all good and there’s no reason you can’t have a romance with a malignant phantom, a detective story with a man being hired by Satan to find a lost soul, or an action/adventure story about an assassin being hired by the Devil to kill God (Satan apparently gets around).
Toss aside notions of genre and look at the story itself.
Robert K. Swisher Jr’s A Circle Around Forever is a book that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre. As I’ve already established, though, it doesn’t need to. It’s officially (according to Amazon, anyway) listed in Horror and Science Fiction & Fantasy. While it has elements that fit into those categories, A Circle Around Forever is really more than those categories.
Once you strip away the veneer, this is a story about decisions. It’s a story about the voices that whisper in your ears, telling you to be calm and don’t overreact or to crush the people that have hurt you. As the characters make more and more decisions they find themselves slaves to the choices they’ve made (yes, even the good guys) and the voices that whisper truths and lies continue to pursue their own agendas. It’s a story of reckonings, failings, and forgiveness.
Like any good sci-fi or fantasy story, there’s a hefty dose of philosophy holding it together. While not religious, per se, there are certainly spiritual tones at work here. In some ways, there’s a subtle stripping of religion happening in here, too. Take away the veneer of religion and you find yourself with a simple message of love versus hate and that becomes the backbone of A Circle Around Forever. Swisher’s story takes that message and expands it into an tale where forces push people into making decisions, ghosts try to feel nothing, and one young man finds the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Part horror, part fantasy, part philosophy, all epic.
Throw away your notions of genre and just enjoy the tale.