Category Archives: Isaac Asimov

I Saw the Mighty Skyline Fall*

What with recent events and world political developments, it’s not really surprising that there’s an interest in dystopian fiction. Sales of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and of George Orwell’s 1984 have skyrocketed, and those are just two examples.

Dystopian fiction can show us the selves we don’t want to believe could exist. And, when it’s done well, it can provoke discussion, and bring frightening possibilities to a very human level. Little wonder that it’s found a place in literature.

There’s an argument that The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 could ‘count’ as crime novels. Certainly, there are crimes committed in both. But dystopia figures into other novels, too, including novels more generally considered crime fiction.

For instance, Isaac Asimov created a short series of novels featuring New York homicide detective Elijah ‘Lije’ Baley. He lives in a dystopian society of the future, where the population has grown, and people live in huge, domed cities that are more like fortresses than today’s cities. Everyone is assigned living quarters and other resources based on status. Everything is scarce, though; so, although no-one starves, very few people live really well. There are communal areas for eating, hygiene and entertainment, so there’s also very little privacy. And the number of children any couple is permitted to have depends on that couple’s IQ ratings, Genetic Value, and employment status. Baley and his wife have a decent standard of living, because they have high IQs, and Baley has a job with some status. Still, life isn’t easy. It’s against this backdrop that Baley and his police partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, investigate crimes. If you’re interested, the Baley novels are: The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn.

Alex Scarrow’s Last Light and Afterlight tell the story of the Sutherland family. Andy Sutherland, his wife, Jenny, and their two children, are caught up in the global upheaval that results when the world’s supply of oil is deliberately cut off. When it first happens, the family happens to be scattered, and the members try desperately to re-unite. We also see how the family tries to cope in a world with no access to oil. Later, Jenny Sutherland becomes the leader of a small group of survivors who’ve made a home on a former North Sea oil rig. When the group learns that another group, living in London’s Millennium Dome, may have access to oil, it sets off a whole chain of events, some of them tragic.

Ben Winter’s The Last Policeman introduces police detective Hank Palace. In this trilogy (The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble), the dystopia has resulted from an impending collision with a large asteroid. With certain destruction in the offing, world economies have collapsed, infrastructures are crumbling, and there’s very little day-to-day government. Most people don’t see the point of living a ‘regular’ life, since the asteroid is expected to hit in six months. But Palace continues to try to do his job. In this series, it’s interesting to see how people respond to the imminent catastrophe. Many local governments have simply ceased to exist, and there’s not an easy way to get ‘normal’ things done. Even as Palace investigates, there’s the question of why to bother.

In Antti Tuomainen’s The Healer, we meet writer Tapani Lehtinen. He’s concerned about his journalist wife, Johanna, because he hasn’t heard from her in more than twenty-four hours. She was following a lead on a story, so at first, he wasn’t very worried. But now, a whole day has gone by with no word from her. Lehtinen knows he’s not going to get much help from the police, though. The Helsinki in which this novel is set has come close to descending into chaos. Climate change has meant that millions of refugees from other parts of the world have poured in. The police are badly understaffed, and can’t even do much to solve major crimes, let alone look for one missing person. In fact, the only real security comes from expensive and corrupt private security companies, which most people can’t afford. Gangs roam freely, and life has gotten so bad that everyone who can leave the city has done so, and moved north. With so little infrastructure, Lehtinen decides to try to find Johanna on his own. He believes that, if he follows up on the story she was investigating, he’ll be able to find her. That choice gets him into real danger as he uncovers the story she was tracking.

And then there’s A.R. Shaw’s Graham’s Resolution series. These novels feature former math professor Graham Morgan, who’s lost his entire family to a pandemic that killed all but 2% of the world’s population. In the first novel, The China Pandemic, Morgan is trying to cope with the loss of his family members, especially his father. He’s also trying to get and keep the basic things he needs to survive, without being killed by someone else who wants those things. Then, unexpectedly, he’s approached by a woman named Hyun-Ok, who’s near death from the illness that’s swept the world. She asks Morgan to look after her son, Bang, who seems to be immune. At first, he refuses, but she insists, and it’s clear that the boy has no-one else. Morgan finally agrees, and he and Bang set off to his father’s cabin, where he’s hoping he’ll be able to carve out a safer existence for him and the boy. With no infrastructure and desperate people, you can imagine that the danger they face doesn’t come only from the virus.

Dystopian crime fiction can take several forms, as authors explore different possibilities. Some novels have an added purpose of making a statement – a ‘wake up call,’ if you will – and some don’t. Whatever form a dystopian crime novel takes, it can invite the reader to reflect and think about human nature. These are only a few examples. Your turn.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Billy Joel’s Miami 2017.

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Filed under A.R. Shaw, Alex Scarrow, Antti Tuomainen, Ben Winters, George Orwell, Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood

You Don’t Like My Point of View*

groupthinkAs I post this, it’s the 63rd anniversary of the publication of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It wasn’t a best-seller when it first came out, but since then, it’s established itself as a classic piece of literature.

Lord of the Flies isn’t, strictly speaking, a crime novel (although crimes are committed in the story). But it touches on some themes and considerations that we see a lot in crime fiction. One of those is groupthink. Groupthink happens when people go along with a group in order to achieve consensus, even if they disagree privately with the group’s decision. Sometimes, consensus has some purpose. It’s hard to get things done otherwise. But groupthink can also stifle creativity; worse, it can stile the individual sense of responsibility. And that can have tragic consequences.

Agatha Christie touches on groupthink in a few of her stories. For instance, in Mrs.McGinty’s Dead, Superintendent Albert ‘Bert’ Spence pays a visit to Hercule Poirot. He’s concerned because James Bentley is about to be executed for the murder of his landlady, Mrs. McGinty. Although Spence collected the evidence that eventually convicted Bentley, he’s not sure the man is guilty. So he asks Poirot to look into the matter, and Poirot agrees. To find out the truth, Poirot travels to the small town of Broadhinny where the murder occurred, and begins to get to know the residents. As it turns out, Mrs. McGinty was the kind of person who found out people’s secrets. And one secret wasn’t safe for her to know. What’s interesting about this village is that everyone agrees it’s a ‘nice village,’ with ‘very nice people.’ So the murderer had to have been James Bentley, at least according to this groupthink.

In Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, we are introduced to Elijah ‘Lije’ Baley, a homicide detective in a futuristic New York City. In this world, humankind has been more or less divided into two large groups. One group, Spacers, are descended from those who explored space and returned to Earth. The other, Earthmen, are descended from those who never left the planet. The groups fear and dislike each other to the point that they live in separate places, with the border between them carefully protected. Then, Baley’s boss, Julius Enderby, informs him that a well-known Spacer scientist has been murdered. Spacers suspect an Earthman, so to ensure transparency of the investigation, Enderby wants Baley to investigate. And he wants him to work with a Spacer partner, R. Daneel Olivaw. Working with a Spacer will be difficult enough, but when Baley discovers that Olivaw is a positronic robot, he feels the task may be nearly impossible. If there’s one thing Earthmen hate and fear more than scientists, it’s robots. Throughout the novel, we see all sorts of examples of groupthink about robots, the threat they may pose, and misconceptions about them. We also see groupthink about the Spacers.

Groupthink can definitely play a role in what happens during jury deliberations. If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Jurors want to return a verdict, especially if they’re sequestered, and especially if it looks to be a long case. And when the stakes are high, there’s a lot of motive for swaying a jury in one direction or another. That form of groupthink plays a role in John Grisham’s Runaway Jury. In that novel, a very high-profile lawsuit is brought against the tobacco industry. Specifically, Celeste Wood is bringing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Pynex (formerly called Union Tobacco), in the wake of her husband’s death from lung cancer. With so much money at stake, it’s not surprising that it soon seems someone is trying to sway the jury and use groupthink to get a verdict. Even after they’re sequestered, the jury still seems to be behaving strangely. Bit by bit, we learn what’s really going on, and who’s behind this attempt to get the jury to return the ‘right’ verdict. There are plenty of other legal mysteries, too, that involve juries and groupthink.

We see groupthink in several of Qiu Xiaolong’s novels featuring Shanghai police detective Chen Cao. In the Shanghai of the late 1990s, it’s considered very important to maintain social harmony. So independent investigations, ‘watchdog’ groups and so on are highly discouraged (or worse). That reality plays out in several of the stories, including Enigma of China. In one plot thread of that novel, a watchdog group has been using the Internet to expose corruption at high levels. One of this group’s targets is Zhou Keng, Head of Shanghai’s Housing Development Committee. The government, of course, is aware of this investigation, and Zhou is arrested. He’s moved to a Shanghai hotel to await trial. One morning, his body is found in his hotel room. The government authorities want Chief Inspector Chen to ‘rubber stamp’ the theory of suicide for a few reasons. But Chen isn’t sure that’s what really happened. As he works to solve the case, he comes into contact with the group that posted the accusations against Zhao. And he finds an odd paradox. At the same time as the government is cracking down on the group (in order to encourage groupthink), they need the information the group gets to stop trouble and to keep social order and harmony. It’s an interesting look at the way groupthink can work at the macro level.

Garry Disher’s Bitter Wash Road shows how groupthink can work among the police. In that novel, Constable Paul ‘Hirsch’ Hirschhausen has just been transferred from Adeliade to Tiverton, in rural South Australia. He’s basically a pariah among the Adelaide police because he has a reputation as a ‘whistleblower.’ And he soon finds that his reputation has preceded him. Right from the beginning, his boss, Sergeant Kropp, and the other local police, make life as difficult as possible for Hirsch, sabotaging and humiliating him at every opportunity. But Hirsch still has a job to do. And when the body of fifteen-year-old Melia Donovan is discovered by the side of Bitter Wash Road, he investigates. One theory is that she was hitchhiking and was accidentally hit by a passing car. But there are other possibilities, and Hirsch explores them. Despite the groupthink of his peers, he finds out the truth about what really happened to the victim, and we see how groupthink impacts everyone as he does. It’s an interesting plot point in the story.

On the surface, groupthink can seem an efficient way to get a group to reach consensus. But that’s not always a good thing, and groupthink can have terrifying consequences. Right, fans of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Blind Melon’s No Rain.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Garry Disher, Isaac Asimov, John Grisham, Qui Xiaolong, Shirley Jackson, William Golding

Between This Genre, That Genre*

Crossover WritersI’ve started a new manuscript (an occupational hazard for writers). This one’s not a Joel Williams mystery; in fact, it’s not really even a traditional-style whodunit, ‘though it is a crime novel. I’m pleased about the idea, but it’s still in its beginning stages, so we’ll see how it goes. The process of getting started on this story has got me thinking about other writers who make an even bigger leap with their stories than I am with mine.

Some authors have even written in different genres. Or, they’ve written both fiction and non-fiction. Or they’ve written both poetry and crime novels. That sort of ‘branching out’ is risky. After all, many people write what makes them comfortable, and perhaps even get a reputation and a following. Trying something new means building up a new audience, using different skills, and so on. To move on to something different isn’t always easy. But it can result in some excellent work. And it gives the author the chance to experiment and ‘stretch’ creatively.

As you’ll no doubt know, Edgar Allan Poe is often credited with pioneering the detective story. Works such as The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter are frequently cited as examples of detective fiction. But as you’ll also know, Poe was a master of the horror story, too. The Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Black Cat are just a few examples.

More recently, Alan Orloff has done a similar thing. Under his own name, he’s written Diamonds for the Dead, Killer Routine and Deadly Campaign, all crime novels. Under the name Zak Allen, he’s written The Taste and First Time Killer, both of which are horror novels. You might argue (and you’d have a well-taken point!) that horror novels and crime novels are close cousins. But they do require different sorts of storytelling skills, and they appeal to different audiences. That sort of flexibility takes skill.

Agatha Christie, of course, is renowned for her mysteries. She wrote all sorts of plays, short stories and novels featuring crime and its investigation. And if you’re kind enough to read this blog with any kind of regularity, then you know what a fan I personally am of her crime fiction. But she also wrote novels that explore characters and trace their lives. Under the name of Mary Westmacott, she wrote stories such as Giant’s Bread and A Daughter’s a Daughter, that explore love in its different forms, and provide interesting character studies. In those novels, the focus is on psychology and relationships, rather than on crime. And she’s by no means the only one to write both romance and crime fiction (Am I right, fans of Georgette Heyer?)

More recently, Paddy Richardson has written both well-regarded literary fiction (such as The Company of a Daughter) and well-regarded crime fiction (such as Hunting Blind and Swimming in the Dark). And she’s not only one who’s made that ‘literary crossover.’ Many other literary writers have also written crime fiction.

Some of them have been poets. For instance, Cecil Day-Lewis was the UK’s Poet Laureate. His collections are extremely highly regarded. Under his own name, he also wrote some literary novels. As fans will know, he also wrote a series of crime novels under the name of Nicholas Blake. His sleuth in those stories is Nigel Strangeways, who is, like his creator, a poet. And that’s an interesting example of the ways in which one’s writing in one genre/type of book can influence one’s writing in another.

Isaac Asimov gained a worldwide reputation as a scientist and an author of science textbooks. He was also a skilled writer of science fiction, such as the Foundation series. With his name made, as the saying goes, in that field, Asimov also created a short series of crime novels featuring Elijah ‘Lije’ Baley. Baley is a homicide detective in a futuristic New York, which bears all the hallmarks of Asimov’s background in science fiction. But the stories (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, and the short story Mirror Image) are distinctly crime fiction.

There’s also Ausma Zehanat Khan, whose novels The Unquiet Dead and The Language of Secrets are crime novels featuring detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty. They take place in contemporary Ontario, and focus on crimes and their investigations. Khan is also writing a fantasy series (at the moment, it’s scheduled as a quadrilogy). The first in this series, Bloodprint, is due to be published in 2017.

Elizabeth Spann Craig has written three mystery series. Under her own name, she writes the Myrtle Clover series; under the name of Riley Adams, she writes the Memphis Barbecue series. She also writes the Southern Quilting Mysteries. Recently, Craig has also ‘branched out’ and written a post-apocalyptic novel that includes zombies. It’s a big change from cosy mysteries to post-apocalypse, but Craig has made it successfully.

Of course, there are plenty of other authors, too, who have used their skills in more than one genre or type of writing. J.K. Rowling, Sara Paretsky, and before them, Charles Dickens, are just some examples. I know that you’ll have lots more in mind to share.

Have you read the same author in two different genres? What have you thought? Can authors do that effectively, so that you, as a reader, enjoy their work? If you’re a writer, have you experimented in different genres, or with a literary-to-genre move (or vice versa). What was it like for you?

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Utada Hikaru’s Crossover Interlude.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Alan Orloff, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Cecil Day-Lewis, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Isaac Asimov, J.K. Rowling, Mary Westmacott, Nicholas Blake, Paddy Richardson, Riley Adams, Sara Paretsky, Zak Allen

Very Strange*

Odd ThingsPeople tend to like things to make sense. When something is in a very odd place or doesn’t look as it normally does, we want to know why. And sometimes that feeling of ‘That’s funny, what’s that doing there?’ can get our curiosity roused. In fact, here’s what Isaac Asimov had to say on the subject:
 
‘The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny…”
 

It’s just as true in criminal investigation as it is in science, really. When something just doesn’t make sense or fit in, that’s often an important clue that something is going on. And in crime fiction, that often means a murder. Those odd things that just don’t make sense can also be important leads, too, so sleuths learn to pay attention to them.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, for instance, Commissioner Peterson breaks up a scuffle between a couple of local thugs and their would-be victim. The man they were targeting runs off, dropping a hat and a goose as he goes. Peterson picks up the goose and hat and goes on his way. He gives the goose to his wife, but when she starts to prepare it for cooking, she sees that there’s a jewel stuck in its craw. That’s, of course, a very odd place for a jewel to end up, and Peterson can’t make sense of it. So he takes it and the hat to Sherlock Holmes. Holmes makes quite a few deductions from the hat, and eventually, traces the gem back to its original source. The case isn’t quite as complicated as it sounds, but it all starts with one of those ‘That’s funny!’ moments.

Agatha Christie made use of those moments in several of her stories. In fact, Hercule Poirot often mentions how important it is that any theory of a crime account for every piece of the puzzle, however small. In Evil Under the Sun, for instance, notorious actress Arlena Stuart Marshall is strangled during a holiday she and her husband Kenneth are having at the Jolly Roger Hotel. For several reasons, Kenneth Marshall is an obvious suspect at first. But it’s proven that he couldn’t have committed the crime. So Poirot and the police have to look elsewhere. One of the important clues to the murder comes from something simple, but odd: a mid-morning bath. Anyone might take a bath, but oddly enough, no-one admits to it this time. It’s one of those funny things that don’t make sense. But it does once the puzzle is solved.

In Catherine Aird’s The Religious Body, we are introduced to the residents of the Convent of St. Anselm. One morning, Sister Mary Saint Anne seems to be missing from her bed at wake-up call. A search is made, and her body is soon discovered on the floor of the basement. At first it looks as though she had a tragic fall down the stairs. Soon enough, though, it becomes clear that she was murdered. Berebury Inspector C.D. Sloan and his assistant, Constable William Crosby, begin the investigation. One of the funny things they discover is that the victim’s spectacles are missing. She wouldn’t likely have left her room, let alone go around the convent, without them. They aren’t anywhere near the body, and they aren’t among her possessions. Nor does anyone else at the convent have them. The question of where they are points the detectives into a very interesting direction…

Fans of Fred Vargas’ Commissaire Adamsberg series will know that all sorts of funny things happen in those novels. Just to give one example, in The Chalk Circle Man, Adamsberg and his team have a very odd case on their hands. Someone has been using blue chalk to draw circles on the pavement in different parts of Paris. What are those circles doing there? And why are such odd things found in some of them? It seems like the work of some mentally ill person. But then one day, a new circle is found – with a body in it. Now what seems like something just a little weird is a case of murder. As Adamsberg and his team work to find out who the killer is, there are two more murders. And it all starts with a funny circle of blue chalk.

Sometimes it’s just a very small thing that rouses curiosity. That’s what happens in Robert Rotenberg’s Old City Hall.  Early one morning, Gurdial Singh is making his morning rounds, delivering copies of the Globe and Mail to his customers in Market Place Tower, one of Toronto’s exclusive addresses. One of his ‘regulars’ is popular radio host Kevin Brace. When Singh gets to Brace’s condominium, he notices something odd right away: the door is partway open. Curious, he knocks on the door. When Brace comes to the door, he says,
 
‘I killed her, Mr. Singh…I killed her.’
 

And he says nothing else. Singh goes in and, as he later tells police, he discovers the body of Brace’s common-law wife Katherine Torn in one of the bathtubs. The ensuing investigation turns out to be complicated and difficult, but Detective Ari Greene and his team eventually get to the truth. And it all really starts because of Singh’s sense of ‘That’s funny’ when he sees the door partly open.

Those moments really do get people curious, and sometimes it’s impossible to resist trying to find out why something is in an odd place, or something that ought to be there isn’t. It’s in our nature to want those odd things to make sense. And those little oddities can add much to a crime novel.

ps. The ‘photo is of a scarf I saw on a walk the other day. What was it doing there? How did it get there? There are, of course, a number of different possible explanations. But still…that’s funny.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from The Beatles’ Penny Lane.

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Catherine Aird, Fred Vargas, Isaac Asimov, Robert Rotenberg

Science Fiction Double Feature*

Science Fiction and Crime FIctionSome of the most interesting novels and stories are those with cross-genre appeal. It takes skill to blend the elements of more than one genre and come up with a result that’s a cohesive, strong story with a solid plot and characters. But it can happen. For instance, you might not think of science fiction and crime fiction as having much in common. But if you consider it, crime can happen at any time, anywhere, including the science-fictional world. And the best characters in science fiction stories tell us something about ourselves. And whether we like it or not, crime is a part of the human condition.

It’s not easy to weave a story together that integrates elements of science fiction with elements of crime fiction. But there are plenty of examples of authors who’ve done just that. Here are just a few.

Most people think of Isaac Asimov as a scientist (he wrote several textbooks, actually) or as an author of science fiction. But he also had an interest in crime fiction. His Elijah ‘Lije’ Baley series, for instance, is a science fiction series. It takes place in a futuristic New York, and includes many scientific and technological developments that, at least at the time the novels were written, didn’t exist. Perhaps the most important of these developments was the positronic robot. And in the best tradition of science fiction, Asimov used this futuristic setting and high technology to explore very human questions. But this is a crime fiction series. Baley and his partner R. Daneel Olivaw are homicide detectives. They investigate murders and find killers. And people kill in this context just as they do in the ones that we know. Asimov also wrote several short stories that I would argue ‘count’ as crime fiction. One is The Dying Night, in which a scientist is murdered the night before he’s supposed to deliver a presentation at an important astronomy conference. It’s up to another scientist, Dr. Wendell Urth, to use his expertise to work out who the murderer is.

Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is another example of the blend of science fiction and crime fiction (and wit, too, actually). Adams’ PI sleuth Gently gets involved in a case of multiple murder when a friend of his breaks into his girlfriend’s apartment. It turns out that the time, he was under the influence of the ghost of an engineer who belonged to a people called the Salaxalans  The engineer’s slipshod ways caused the destruction of a large spaceship and the deaths of all aboard. Now the engineer is forced to remain a ghost until he can correct his mistake. The novel involves a time-travel machine, a spaceship, and other technology. It’s science fiction. But at the same time, it’s crime fiction. Gently investigates two murders caused by the malevolent ghost’s influence; other crimes take place, too. You could also argue that this has elements of the fantasy novel about it, too. It’s another clear example of the way a crime novel can also ‘count’ as science fiction.

In Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan explores the nature of what really counts as human consciousness. This novel takes place in the 25th Century, by which time a method has been discovered to store a person’s consciousness. That way, when the body is killed, that consciousness can be placed in a new body – a new ‘sleeve’ – and life can go on again. Takeshi Kovacs, who used to work for the U.N., has been killed before. His most recent death experience was especially painful, and now he’s been sent to Bay City (San Francisco many hundreds of years in the future) to be placed in a new ‘sleeve.’ The person responsible for ‘re-sleeving’ him, Laurens Bancroft, has Kovacs placed in a cop’s body, so that he can investigate Bancroft’s first death. Like other science fiction novels, this one explores the human condition through technology, as you might say. Morgan opens up questions about what ‘counts’ as being human, what the value is of one or another person, and what the impact is of wealth and power on the whole equation. But it’s also very much a crime novel, in which a sleuth goes after a very dangerous killer.

And then there’s Charles Stross’ Rule 34, which features Edinburgh Inspector Liz Kavanaugh, who heads the Innovative Crime Investigation Unit. She and her team are responsible for patrolling the Internet and separating out harmless fantasy from dangerous crime. That’s how they learn of the murder of former prisoner and spammer Michael Blair. They’re working on that case when Kavanaugh learns of other former prisoners who are killed in similarly brutal ways. Her story intersects with the story of former identity thief Anwar, who’s become a sort of consul for a Central Asian state, and of The Toymaker, an enforcer for a criminal group called the Organization. This novel is a crime novel, and features the murders and their investigation. But it’s also science fiction. It takes place in the near future, and in an alternate sort of reality that includes different technology. It’s speculative, too, as a lot of science fiction is.

There are also authors such as Michael Crichton, whose novels are often called thrillers, but arguably count as science fiction too. In Prey, for instance, we meet Jack Forman and his wife Julia. Both are successful technology experts, until Jack loses his job. Then, Julia, who’s been working overtime at Xymos Technology, begins behaving oddly. She and Jack begin to clash over matters that had never been a big problem before, and at one point, Jack even wonders whether she’s having an affair. The reality turns out to be quite different. Xymos has been working on developing nanoparticles that are self-sustaining and self-reproducing. This experiment has gone horribly wrong, and if Jack doesn’t find out what’s been going on and how to stop it, a lot of lives will be lost.

Cat Connor’s novels feature Gabrielle ‘Ellie’ Conway, an ex-pat New Zealander who now works as an FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA). This series takes place in the present day. But it frequently makes use of the kind of technological wizardry and speculation that are often present in science fiction novels. And it is definitely a crime series.

And that’s the thing about this blend between crime fiction and science fiction. The best examples feature elements of both genres. They also feature solid characters and plots, of course, as well as speculation. As my husband, who loves science fiction a highly-regarded science fiction expert whom I consulted has told me, science fiction gives the context. Crime fiction gives the plot. I think that makes sense.

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Richard O’Brien.

 

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Filed under Cat Connor, Charles Stross, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Michael Crichton, Richard K. Morgan