A man dies in an apparent suicide, but a police detective suspects it may be murder. However, he can’t get anyone else to care because a four-mile-wide asteroid is going to hit the Earth in six months and probably wipe out humanity.
We like mystery because life is mysterious, and storytelling exists to help us figure out how to live. Mysteries help us figure out how to deal with the unending avalanche of unknowns in our own lives (probably not directly, unless you deal with dead bodies a lot).
Some say that mysteries are popular because people like puzzles. Well, I like a certain kind of mystery, but I’ve never been a puzzle person.
I like Raymond Chandler mysteries, the hard-boiled detective who fights to stay alive while prowling dark alleys and darker minds. Often, I don’t care that much about the final reveal of who the real criminal is. It’s the journey, the tortuous path that I like.
In fantasy especially, the who-dunnit can easily become a what-dunnit.
Six Wakes is a good old-fashioned murder mystery in space that starts with everyone on the ship being murdered. Everyone’s backup clones then wake up to the bloody massacre and have to figure out who killed everybody and why. Any one of them could be the killer, and not even know it. As the clones appear to work together to piece together clues, secrets and ulterior motives slowly come to light.
If you’re a child of the 80s, reading Ready Player One is like mainlining heroin-strength nostalgia. It’s so ridiculously fun that I frequently imagined author Ernest Cline giggling and saying to himself, “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!”
It’s easy to be a hero when you’re saving the entire world or galaxy or species. Which is why the hard-boiled detectives are the most heroic characters out there. They’re not out to ram the bad guy’s spaceship. More likely, they’re trying to find justice for a murdered little nobody, or get an intensely offensive (but innocent) man out of jail.
This dogged deathgrip on principle directs the actions of private detective Conrad Metcalfe in a bizarre future world populated by talking animals, drugs for all, and the most authoritative state I’ve ever come across. It’s dark, funny, fast-paced, clever, and chilling.
Recommendation: Buy it new and place it in a prominent place. I’ve got it on a shelf right over my desk.