“Genre Fiction” was once called literature.
At some point, briskly-paced, suspenseful novels with high entertainment value where branded with the pejorative slur of “Genre Fiction”.
What critics and academics mean by “Genre Fiction” is that the fun and straightforward page turners preferred over more “challenging”, PHD-approved texts are not real literature. They’re dumbed-down fast food for the mind, etc.
Sorry, but if you can’t see the talent it took for Crichton to seamlessly turn up the suspense with every page turn in a book like The Sphere, this speaks to your flaws as a reader and critic, not to the lack of writing chops of a Crichton or a Dan Brown or a Tom Clancy.