Solving crime in a science-fiction universe is a heck of a headache, as any one of these eight unlucky protagonists could tell you. Between parallel universes, marauding androids, and neverending darkness, solving the crime of the future has plenty of unique challenges.
Chris Shane from Head On by John Scalzi
In John Scalzi’s near-future novel Head On, a small percentage of the population is locked into non-functional bodies. They interact with the world through “threeps”, expensive robots that walk and talk like regular people–and have the added bonus of being less delicate than human bodies. That’s a lucky fact for Chris, an FBI Agent who seems to end up in a lot of situations that destroy threeps: fires, car crashes, defenestrations…let’s just say Chris, or more specifically Chris’s threeps, are having a very bad week in Scalzi’s latest.
Jon Phillips from Dayfall by Michael David Ares
Manhattan has been shrouded in darkness for years thanks to a nuclear winter, cut off from the world by a seawall keeping out the rising water. Crime thrives, and a corrupt and apathetic police force can’t keep pace. Then, just as the sun starts to return, a serial killer appears.
Flown in to help, Jon Phillips is a small-town cop who’s collared a serial killer before. Out of his depth in the big city, Jon doesn’t just have to stop a killer, but also stay alive in an unfamiliar city where he can’t trust anyone. Easy as pie.
Takeshi Lev Kovacs from Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
It’s the twenty-fifth century, and people are now able to transfer their consciousness between bodies. Takeshi Kovacs is an ex-soldier turned private investigator, hired to investigate the possible murder of a wealthy man – living again in a new body, but with no memories of the two days before his death. Kovacs himself is fresh off his own traumatic death, re-embodied and thrown in the deep end of a far-reaching, vicious, conspiracy.
Elijah Baley from The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov’s novel is a classic of the sci-fi detective genre, and the first in a series. Elijah Baley, a New York detective, isn’t very fond of the wealthy Spacers who left Earth behind. When one is murdered, however, Elijah is sent into space to solve the crime and assigned a partner – who turns out to be an android with the face of the murder victim and the ability to detect human emotions. It’s not exactly the easiest working conditions for Baley.
Marid Audrian from When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger
In the cyberpunk future of this novel, people can modify their brains using chips that provide anything from basic skills to full personalities. Marîd Audran has avoided enhancing himself, priding himself on his independence, but after being hired by the shadowy overlord of the city where Audrian lives, that independence is at risk. Then there’s the killer he’s hired to catch, who seems to be modifying himself to embody figures like a murderous James Bond or infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.
Tyador Borlú from The City & the City by China Miéville
The cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma occupy the same geographic space, but they’re perceived as two separate cities, separated largely by the will of their citizens. Tyador Borlú’s investigation into a seemingly routine murder of a student uncovers a nationalist plot that aims to destroy the balance between the two cities, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Mack Megaton from The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
Mack Megaton was designed to be a machine of war, but he’s finished with all that, and just trying to make a living as a detective. All he wants to do is demonstrate that he’s not just good for crushing tanks, but things just aren’t that easy. They only get harder when Mack’s neighbors are kidnapped, sending him deep into the underbelly of Empire City and into the path of a conspiracy that runs all the way to the top.
Rick Deckard from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick
The book that inspired Blade Runner follows the bounty hunter Rick Deckard
as he attempts to find and “retire” rogue androids that look and act just like ordinary human beings. All he wants is enough money to replace his imitation electric sheep with a real, live, animal. The trouble is: how do you distinguish an extremely advanced robot from a human being? And the further Deckard goes, the more he has to wonder how much of a difference there really is – an existential question that makes his job a lot more difficult.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.