In celebration of the announcement of her next novel, the near-future crime thriller The Subjugate (more on that here), Aurealis Award-nominated author Amanda Bridgeman joins us today to talk about books that walk the line between science fiction and police procedural.
Genre-blending is becoming more prevalent in fiction. Some genres, it seems, tend to complement each other more than others. Two such genres are science fiction and crime thrillers, although at first glance it may seem they are heavily contrasted. Where science fiction is broad in scope, drawing us into amazing worlds which explore the social constructs of humanity and the science and technology that coexist alongside, crime fiction tends to have a more defined and precise focus, exploring individual human behaviors in single set locations. Where science fiction allows us the chance to escape reality, the crime thriller anchors us deeply to it.
Despite these contrasts, the two genres have important elements in common that make them very compatible. They both rely heavily on mystery and intrigue to keep readers turning the page. A fine blend of these two genres, therefore, only deepens that allure. Whether our heroes are police officers, FBI agents, private investigators or bounty hunters, we yearn to learn more about the worlds in which our heroes live and how the science/technology exacerbates or accentuates their journey, as they race to solve the mystery and hopefully catch the bad guys.
Here’s five very different books that blend science fiction and crime successfully to make a killer read.
Lock In, by John Scalzi
Set in the near future, the world has been shaped by what’s known as “Haden’s syndrome,” a disease that causes “Lock In”: Victims are fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. Rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann, and the two are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder. The suspect is an “integrator” – someone who can let the ‘locked in’ borrow their bodies for a time. But if the Integrator was carrying a Haden client at the time of the murder, then naming the suspect suddenly becomes much more complicated. Lock In was followed this year by a sequel, Head On, that presents Shane and Vann’s next case. [Editor’s note: You can hear Scalzi talk in-depth about both books on the B&N Podcast.]
Great North Road, by Peter F Hamilton
Set a century from now, this thriller combines the nail-biting suspense of a serial-killer investigation with clear-eyed scientific and social extrapolation to create a future that seems not merely plausible but inevitable. The story revolves around the murder of a clone in an English city, and Detective Sidney Hurst is assigned the case. Hurst is a solid investigator who’d like nothing better than to hand this case off to someone else. Whether he solves the crime or not, he’ll make enough enemies to ruin his career. But stuck with it, can he actually solve it and make it out in one piece?
Leviathan Wakes, by James S.A. Corey
This is the story of a reluctant ship’s captain and a washed-up detective who find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl. What starts out as a typical investigation for Detective Joe Miller of Star Helix Security, soon brings the solar system to the brink of civil war and exposes a massive conspiracy. While known primarily as a space opera, it’s an equally engaging science fiction mystery!
Naked In Death, by J.D. Robb
It is 2058, New York City. Technology now completely rules the world. Eve Dallas is a New York police lieutenant hunting for a ruthless killer. In over ten years on the force, she’s seen it all—and knows her survival depends on her instincts. J.D. Robb’s In Death series has spawned over 40 successful novels so far. Not only do they blend science fiction with crime thriller, but there’s a dash of romance too.
Thirteen, by Richard K. Morgan
Marsalis is what’s known as a ‘Thirteen’. Genetically engineered by the U.S. government, Thirteens were intended to be the ultimate military fighting force. After a series of events, Marsalis finds himself imprisoned on Mars, until he’s offered the chance for release. All he has to do is use his superior skills to bring in another fugitive – a serial killer. But this one is no common criminal. He’s another Thirteen–one who’s already shanghaied a space shuttle, butchered its crew, and left a trail of bodies in his wake on a bloody cross-country spree. And like his pursuer, he was bred to fight to the death.
What’s your favorite SF-nal crime novel?