Titanium Noir is an excellent near-future alternate-history murder mystery that follows the murder of a Titan, a medically-enhanced person who became physically massive and borderline immortal. Titans are elites, the case is sensitive, and nothing is quite what it seems.
Many authors try to write noir stories with hard-boiled detectives shuffling down rainy streets, occasionally getting beat up while trying to get justice for a murdered little nobody, and many authors fail. It’s harder than it looks. Fortunately, author Nick Hardaway pulls it off. The book is fun, funny, clever, and paced whiplash-fast.
Recommendation: If murder’s your thing, absolutely read this.
I’m a big fan of humorous, character-driven books about alien languages (we all have our kinks) and Drunk on All Your Strange New Words checks all the boxes. It’s even an intriguing murder mystery, which gives it extra points.
A young woman is specially trained to communicate telepathically with an alien species that has been on Earth long enough to have their own embassy. The trick to this communication is that it makes the human involved essentially drunk, and after a while, they can’t focus on anything because they’re too busy singing or spinning in their chairs or something.
The protagonist is pretty good at her job, not especially concerned with the rules, and when a dead body hits the floor, is in completely over her head while being thrown into the stew of interstellar politics.
Oddly, I recently reviewed another book with a spunky female protagonist who’s in a unique situation that allows her to privately listen to aliens: Axiom’s End. That’s more of a First Contact adventure (and recommended).
Recommendation: Read it. It’s engaging and fun.
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.
The Earth is just a tiny bit farther away from the sun in Early Riser, but that’s enough to make the winters harsh enough that humans have evolved to hibernate. The exception are the Winter Consuls, a group of misfits tasked with keeping the sleeping population safe.
Elysium Fire is a solid, interesting mystery with Reynold’s typical fantastic worldbuilding and strong characters. However, several issues made this book a bit of a disappointment for me.
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.
Author Alastair Reynolds isn’t afraid of big, strange ideas, and he puts on a parade of them in House of Suns.
Bimbos of the Death Sun is a clever, funny murder mystery that takes place during a science fiction/fantasy convention. So it’s not really a science fiction book, but I think most SF readers would enjoy it, given the large number of SF references. It features no actual bimbos.
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!”