May 1, 2015 Booklist 7 www.booklistonline.com May 1, 2015 Booklist 7 #mysterymonth
seasoned by soupçons of Gaimanian romanticism and Koont-zian sentiment.
Storm Front. By Jim Butcher. 2000. Roc, $8.99
This is the first in Butcher’s wildly popular Dresden Files, the
story of “consulting wizard” Harry Dresden, a Chicago investigator who handles cases in both the human and wizard worlds.
Bad guys come in multiple forms—human, vampire, werewolf,
faerie, et al.—and Dresden, like a wizarding Philip Marlowe,
walks the mean and magical streets with true hard-boiled style.
The first volumes in the series lean toward the detective side of
the blend, the later ones more to the magical, but this series is
clearly the gold standard for urban fantasy as seen through the
conventions of the private-eye genre.
Dystopian fiction comes in all forms and genres (before I finish
this sentence, a dystopian musical will likely open on Broadway).
Here, however, we’re focused on dystopian novels in which crime
and crime-solving are central to the action.
Chasm City. By Alastair Reynolds. 2001. Penguin, $8.99
A man desperate to avenge a woman’s death tracks a dangerous posthuman to Chasm City, a once-opulent metropolis in a
galaxy far, far way, now devastated by a nanotech plague that has
plunged it into chaos. There is something of Blade Runner (see
below) in this stylish melding of hard-boiled convention and sf
adventure. Interestingly, that nanovirus wiping out the world
is called the “Melding Plague.” Was Reynolds issuing an early
warning about the power of genre-blending run amok?
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick.
1968. Del Rey, $15 (9780345404473).
Well, do they? I’m not sure the titular question was ever quite
answered, either in Dick’s novel or in the iconic movie adaptation Blade Runner. But we do know this: the postapocalyptic
world Dick created in Androids and that Ridley Scott brought
to stunning life in Blade Runner has become a kind of reference
point for all succeeding crime fiction–based genre blends: a
hard-boiled, melancholy Chandlerian hero, who cruises between
L.A. skyscrapers in a car that flies, tracking “replicants” targeted
for “retirement.” Throw in a little ambiguity (there are “good”
replicants and “bad” replicants) and a fight scene that would do
Philip Marlowe proud, and you have, well, the perfect marriage
of detective story and science fiction.
Shovel Ready. By Adam Sternbergh. 2014. Crown, $24
Times Square has been hit by a dirty bomb, and Manhattan’s
wealthy have taken to their beds—but not just any beds: these
special contraptions connect their inhabitants to the “
lim-nosphere,” a super Internet that allows its users to construct
their own virtual world and live there permanently. That world
collides with the real one when a garbageman turned contract
killer, Spademan, chases a bent televangelist from one world to
another. Sternbergh brilliantly combines narrative sleight-of-hand with an ability to create flesh-and-blood characters who
bring humor and a resilient humanity to their torn-asunder
world. Dystopian sf and urban noir served with a Palahniuk