Yes, bad books in some genres are horrible, while bad books in others are just so-so. Let me start off acknowledging that I read primarily science fiction and fantasy books, but that does not mean have not read books in other genres. I mostly don’t read these other genres because they simply do not hold my interest and are therefore not worth my time. I don’t care about great essays portraying the human condition or odes to the great unwashed masses. I just don’t care to be lectured by some dimwit writer with all his pretentious hyperbole and self righteousness about how I should feel about his pet concern of the day. I don’t want to listing to the insufferable whining of self important authors that write great literature. I want a story that is entertaining. I want a story that presents me with new ideas and interesting perspectives.
Westerns from my perspective are just boring. As I grew up my grandfather had a large bookcase of hard back Zane Grey westerns. We watched televisions shows on the few channels we could get such as Gunsmoke, Paladin, and Bonanza. They were alright, but as a book, I never could immerse myself into the genre. (Now if you add dinosaurs or maybe some spaceships that is another story.) So I can’t fairly judge westerns as a genre, because from my perspective they all sucked.
Horror is another genre I have read. I enjoyed some of the Poe tales. The Telltale Heart is particularly notable, but none of it was really frightening. H. P. Lovecraft is a good read, but mostly because I like to look at the complex sentence structure and story structure, and I admire the purple of his prose. There is a plethora of people writing horror these days. Many are writing one vampire novel after another or repetitive zombie novels. Some are alright, but none are frightening or scary, none are horrific (except some of the really bad writing is horrific). I find the best of them somewhat amusing, sort of like “Shaun of the Dead” only not as funny. So the best of them are at best OK, and none achieve the horror they are suppose to instill. The really bad ones are really bad where you are so bothered by the bad writing than the repetitive content seems merely boring in context. The redeeming characteristic of some of these novels is the inclusion of various fantasy elements and if you are lucky, the author gives a new take on aspects of these elements.
Mysteries are a genre in which there have been some excellent novels and stories written. I particularly like the stories where the reader learns the facts along with the protagonist as he works his way through solving the mystery. There are two areas where they can go badly wrong. One is where the protagonist solves the mystery in the last page by revealing some fact that was never known to the reader. The second is where the reader figures out the answer in early in the story and book, and during the rest of the story the reader is merely an observer while the unusually obtuse investigator misses clue after clue to the identity of the murderer, thief, or whatever. The game is over once you figure out the answer and I for one am ready for the book to end at that point.
Comics are something many science fiction fans enjoy. Not me. I have a friend who is a writer, James Robert Smith. His grew up with his father running a comic book store. His knowledge of the field seems encyclopedic. I enjoy reading his blog and frequently his subject is about various classic comics. Perhaps I am missing something, but I never was into comics. I would, to be perfectly honest, rather read about his take on the comic book industry than read the comic books themselves. I am sure there are both good and bad comics, there certainly are plenty of bad comic book based movies out there.
I have left fantasy and science fiction for last. I am lumping these genres together because my comments for each genre are pretty much the same. Perhaps it is bias on my part but I think even the bad books in these fields generally have some redeeming features that make them worth reading. There are bad books to be sure. There are books that are badly written. There are books where the future science or magic is inconsistent in how they work. Where the science presented in the science fiction is just plain bad. I am not talking about the conventions that include some things thought to be impossible such as faster than light drives, star gates, and time travel, but where basic fundamental science applications are just wrong. There are books with plot holes where the for no apparent reason the good guy lets the mass murdering bad guy escape rather than finishing him off in the interests of fair play. There are things that make me want to pull my hair out. (I keep it really short so I can’t grab onto it.) But still in even the worst of these books there almost always a gem of an idea that catches my interest. Because of this spark, I think that even bad fantasy and science fiction books are not a total waste. The bad fantasy and science fiction books are not as bad as bad books in other genres.