The best novels that combine science fiction and detective stories

Aaron Conners Author Of Tex Murphy and the Tesla Effect
By Aaron Conners

Who am I?

I grew up reading the Hardy Boys, then Sherlock Holmes, then Hammett and Chandler. I’ve always been fascinated by mysteries and the process of solving them. This led me to create my own interactive murder mysteries, then a career designing and writing videogames. Two of the games, featuring a 1940’s-style P.I. living in the post-apocalyptic 2040s, won “Adventure Game of the Year” awards, and spawned a series of four (so far) novels. The stories, which combine light sci-fi with detective noir and a lot of humor, have been influenced by many different movies, tv shows, and books, including the five in this list. I hope you enjoy them!

I wrote...

Tex Murphy and the Tesla Effect

By Aaron Conners,

Book cover of Tex Murphy and the Tesla Effect

What is my book about?

Tex Murphy, an old-school P.I. living in a post-apocalyptic New San Francisco, wakes up one day with years of memories inexplicably erased, leading a new, totally unfamiliar life, and neck-deep in trouble. In his search to find out who wiped his memory, how they did it, or why, Tex learns he’d been working a case related to secret documents confiscated by the F.B.I. from Nikola Tesla after his death in 1943, a lost Egg, and a shadowy organization specializing in Cryonics – freezing (and, rumor has it, reanimating) dead people.

Tex is a man out of time—in more ways than one—as he races to unlock a secret someone desperately wanted him to forget…and prevent a whole new Apocalypse.

The books I picked & why

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Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

By Philip K. Dick,

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Why this book?

The fact that this book was the basis for Blade Runner—my favorite sci-fi movie ever and the gold standard for post-apocalyptic cityscapes—is more than enough to recommend it. Like the movie, it has the DNA of a detective novel, with a bounty hunter hired to kill a rogue group of human-like androids, but it’s also a fascinating exploration of identity, reality, and what it means to be human.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

By Douglas Adams,

Book cover of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Why this book?

Adams described this as a “detective-ghost-horror-whodunit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic,” and I love this book in part because of how well it blends genres—something I do in my own stories. Humor, in particular, is hard enough to pull off, and other than the occasional hard-boiled wisecrack, most detective fiction doesn’t have a whole lot. Adams not only tells a ripping yarn, you’ll snort and chuckle all the way through.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

By Michael Chabon,

Book cover of The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Why this book?

This Hugo Award-winning novel takes place in an imagined reality where the Jews settled in a patch of Alaska and Israel was never founded. While it’s more alternate history than sci-fi—and one of the very best alternate history stories, in my opinion—at its core it’s a classic detective story told in brilliant prose that pays homage to noir writers such as Chandler, Hammett, and MacDonald, but funnier and much stranger.

Tea From An Empty Cup

By Pat Cadigan,

Book cover of Tea From An Empty Cup

Why this book?

Cyberpunk Noir isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (sorry), and this story is dark and downbeat, with two female protagonists who aren’t especially sympathetic, so readers tend to love this book or hate it. For me, the kinetic writing style, crackling dialogue, and richly-detailed descriptions of cyberspace—as well as the fresh take on the “locked-room murder” (a virtual reality parlor in this case)—makes it a highly-recommended read.

The Caves of Steel

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of The Caves of Steel

Why this book?

Asimov wrote this novel way back in 1953, after an editor insisted that mystery and science fiction were incompatible genres. While some aspects of the story are understandably dated, it shows a remarkable amount of creativity and imagination given the year it was written. It introduced the “buddy cop” trope, but with one human detective and a robot (R. Daneel Olivaw, one of the great sci-fi characters), who must abide by Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”. Like all of Asimov’s work, it’s well-written, a great read, and, in my opinion, perhaps the true genesis of the Sci-Fi/Detective genre.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in robots, murders, and private investigators?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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