The best novels that combine science fiction and detective stories

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Aaron Conners Why did I love 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.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…

Book cover of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Aaron Conners Why did I love 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.

By Douglas Adams,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Douglas Adams, the legendary author of one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, comes a wildly inventive novel of ghosts, time travel, and one detective’s mission to save humanity from extinction.

We solve the whole crime
We find the whole person
Phone today for the whole solution to your problem
(Missing cats and messy divorces a specialty)

Douglas Adams, the “master of wacky words and even wackier tales” (Entertainment Weekly) once again boggles the mind with a completely unbelievable story of ghosts, time travel,…

Book cover of The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Aaron Conners Why did I love 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.

By Michael Chabon,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Yiddish Policemen's Union as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The brilliantly original new novel from Michael Chabon, author of THE ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY and WONDER BOYS.

What if, as Franklin Roosevelt once proposed, Alaska - and not Israel - had become the homeland for the Jews after the Second World War? In Michael Chabon's Yiddish-speaking 'Alyeska', Orthodox gangs in side-curls and knee breeches roam the streets of Sitka, where Detective Meyer Landsman discovers the corpse of a heroin-addled chess prodigy in the flophouse Meyer calls home. Marionette strings stretch back to the hands of charismatic Rebbe Gold, leader of a sect that seems to have drawn its…

Book cover of Tea From An Empty Cup

Aaron Conners Why did I love 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.

By Pat Cadigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tea From An Empty Cup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

To find what they seek, Konstantin, a hardened cop investigating a series of grisly murders, and Yuki, a woman searching for her missing lover, must delve deep into the dark world of cyberspace, an artificial world where the lines between virtual and real have become blurred. Reprint. LJ.

Book cover of The Caves of Steel

Aaron Conners Why did I love 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.

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Caves of Steel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Isaac Asimov's Robot series - from the iconic collection I, Robot to four classic novels - contains some of the most influential works in the history of science fiction. Establishing and testing the Three Laws of Robotics, they continue to shape the understanding and design of artificial intelligence to this day.

In the vast, domed cities of Earth, artificial intelligence is strictly controlled; in the distant Outer Worlds, colonists and robots live side by side.

A Spacer ambassador is found dead and detective Elijah Baley is assigned to find the killer. But with relations between the two cultures in the…

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Split Decision

By David Perlmutter,

Book cover of Split Decision

David Perlmutter Author Of The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a freelance writer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, specializing in media history and speculative fiction. I have been enchanted by animation since childhood and followed many series avidly through adulthood. My viewing inspired my MA thesis on the history of animation, out of which grew two books on the history and theory of animation on television, America 'Toons In: A History of Television Animation (available from McFarland and Co.) and The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows (available from Rowman and Littlefield). Hopefully, others will follow.

David's book list on understanding the history of animation

What is my book about?

Jefferson Ball, the mightiest female dog in a universe of the same, is, despite her anti-heroic behavior, intent on keeping her legacy as an athlete and adventurer intact. So, when female teenage robot Jody Ryder inadvertently angers her by smashing her high school records, Jefferson is intent on proving her superiority by outmuscling the robot in a not-so-fair fight. Not wanting to seem like a coward, and eager to end her enemy's trash talking, Jody agrees.

However, they have been lured to fight each other by circumstances beyond their control. Which are intent on destroying them if they don't destroy each other in combat first...

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in robots, private investigators, and murder?

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