The best novels that combine science fiction and detective stories

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

The Books I Picked & Why

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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