Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Feature: The Speculative Detectives

Every Wednesday, I have an essay or feature article on any topic that catches my fancy!

While elements of mystery creeping into your science fiction or fantasy isn't anything new, there's lately been a trend where books are influenced by both the noir/mystery genre and speculative fiction. You'd think they'd be derivatives but several of the titles are very distinct. Here's are a couple that I'd like to highlight:

The Last Book by Zoran Živković (PS Publishing) - The Last Book is fiction that works on multiple levels, treading metafictional ground, referencing Umberto Eco, and alluding to the mystery genre in general. Combine this with Živković's simple yet elegant language and you end up with a very unique title.

Last Days by Brian Evenson (Underland Press) - There's something immediately bizarre when you dive into Last Days, especially when you're dealing with antagonists that call themselves The Brotherhood of Mutilation (pay close attention to the book cover). Much like The Last Book, this novel is also layered as Evenson tackles philosophical quandaries and the division of the book suits this form.

The City in These Pages by John Grant (PS Publishing) - This is Grant's tribute to the Ed McBain novels and for most of the book, he succeeds in writing a compelling and believable police procedural. Since The City in These Pages is in this list, however, there's more to the story than what it originally seems...

The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay (Holt) - While admittedly neither fantasy nor science fiction per se, The Little Sleep contains genre sensibilities (just read the first chapter). What makes this a unique P.I. novel is that the main character is narcoleptic, and that can be quite a detriment when you're investing a mystery. Readers should also keep an eye out for its sequel, No Sleep till Wonderland.

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (Penguin) - Aside from the conceit of being an actual manual of detection, Berry creates an elaborate setting and backstory for this novel which includes detective agencies and a rogue's gallery of sorts (and if that isn't noir, I don't know what is). The simplistic tone of the novel can be misleading as The Manual of Detection has its own share of intrigue.

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press) - Clearly fantastical from the get-go, VanderMeer inserts the noir genre into his Ambergris setting as a sense of mystery, paranoia, and vulnerability pervades the narrative.


Lawrence Person said...

I'm surprised you omitted China Mieville's The City & The City.

Charles said...

Lawrence: Ooops. I remembered it when I was starting the blog entry but apparently forgot about it by the time I reached the end.

Charles said...

But popular enough that I don't need to highlight Mieville. :)

banzai cat said...

i don't think it's fantastical enough but jack o'connell's word made flesh seems to fit in the same weird noir mold: