The Gumshoes of Science Fiction Storm the Screen

The haggard gumshoe detective / investigator has a long tradition in the annals of science fiction: both sci-fi and mystery found a fanbase through pulp and serial magazines. The titles I’ve collected have gained new life through feature films and streaming series. In them, the distant future presents perhaps the greatest mystery, so bridging that great unknowable with a hardened yet familiar inspector seems only natural.

 

Altered Carbon, by Richard K Morgan

The Netflix series of the same name has garnered praise for its futuristic production value and criticism for its over-the-top violence. The lead investigator in this innovative narrative, former UN envoy Takeshi Kovacs, is brought back to life by an ultra-rich oligarch determined to know who murdered him before he could back up his consciousness, thus losing 48 hours of his previous life. The trail leads in many directions, since lives never really end in this nightmarish future.

 

The Caves of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

Perhaps the first appearance of the gumshoe in the science fiction genre; Asimov himself has declared his novel of a skeptical detective paired with an android as a murder mystery set in the future. The feature film, I, Robot, based on that novel and other Asimovian ideas, focused more on action, with Will Smith as a detective charged with locating a robot that violated robot protocol by committing murder.

 

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

The classic science fiction film go-to when talking about the perceivable future is arguably Ridley Scott’s adaptation, Blade Runner. [The 1982 version, not this new claptrap!—Crotchety Ed.] Rick Dekkard in the titular role presents a throwback to the hard-drinking, hard-living investigators of the 1940s reluctantly completing one last job—this time, to capture rogue androids running amok among humans. Much of Philip K. Dick’s oeuvre could fall into this subset of science fiction noir.

 

Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey

Though this debut novel in Corey’s The Expanse series has been described as a space opera, the action in both the book and the SyFy channel’s hit series starts as a missing persons investigation headed by a dogged-yet-asteroid-belt-weary police detective, Josephus “Joe” Miller, who codifies the trope with a signature, much maligned fedora.

 

 

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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