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When crafted well, the blending of sci-fi and mystery can make for some of the most compulsively readable books in the literary canon. These hybrid books take us to different worlds while still maintaining the crucial whodunit aspect of a true page-turner.
Over the decades, there have been many terrific sci-fi mystery books, but what are the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s? Full of advanced artificial intelligence and time traveling, the best of these books also add a little element of hardboiled noir. Some take the classic route of a cop tracking the murderer down into an alternate universe, while others flip the burnt-out detective trope on its head. No matter the author's take on the genre, the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s will have you flipping pages at the speed of light.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
The Yiddish Policemen's Union is an inventive detective yarn spun by one of the 21s centuries greatest writers, Michael Chabon. The novel rests on this premise: On the eve of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt suggested that European Jewish refugees be resettled in the Alaskan territory.
Years later it has become a sprawling metropolis with its own rules and regulations. It's an alternate history sci-fi novel centered around an alcoholic homicide detective investigating a murder that took place in his own building — it plays out like an old school detective noir from there. It's one of the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s and won a host of science fiction awards, including the prestigious Nebula, Locus, and Hugo.
The Telling by Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most celebrated writers of her generation, and it's no shock that she produced one of the best sci-fi mystery novels of the 00s. She's won countless awards, including the Nebula, Hugo, and National Book Award.
Set in her fictional universe of Hainish Cycle, The Telling is the story of Sutty, and her experiences in political and religious conflicts between a corporatist government and the indigenous resistance. The often puzzling book won the Locus Award for best science fiction novel of 2001.
The City & The City by China Mieville
The city is Beszel, a rundown and dying metropolis on the eastern edge of Europe. The other city is Ul Qoma, a modern Eastern European town that is thriving. A cop in Beszel whose investigation of the murder of a young foreign woman takes him back and forth across the highly policed border threatens to bring the two cities into conflict.
Told in a classic hardboiled detective voice, The City & The City is one of the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s. As the detective uncovers the murdered woman’s secrets, he comes to grips with something so powerful it could devour both cities. It's a fresh take on the police procedural format.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Altered Carbon is a terrific blending of the genres, and one of the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s. When a very rich man kills himself, his backup copy is animated, so he hires detective Takeshi Kovacs to find out why. It's a gritty noir story in the same vein as a Phillip Marlowe novel.
The story takes place in the 25th century, and humankind has spread throughout the galaxy, monitored by the watchful eye of the U.N. Advancements in artificial intelligence have made death more of a hiccup than a tragedy, and that's only the book's jumping off point.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
In the year 2045, the world has become a grim place. Wade Watts escapes his bleak surroundings by spending hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be at any given time. Wade has devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital realm, based on the creator's pop culture obsession decades before. The puzzles promise power and fortune to whoever can solve them.
When Wade gets the first clue, he finds himself hunted by other players who will kill him to get their hands on it. From there, we are taken on a journey through a virtual reality that is easily one of the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road is a post apocalyptic road novel that I firmly believe is one of the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s. While there isn't much hard science, the world is slightly different from our own. A father and his son walk alone through a burned America. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them when they get there.
Whatever you decide to call it, The Road is an understated masterpiece, and for that it took home the Pulitzer Prize.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
On November 22nd, 1963, President Kennedy was killed in Dallas. But, what if you could change that? The novel centers around a high school teacher who travels back in time in an attempt to prevent the Kennedy assassination. It's so gripping, that 11/22/63 was recently turned into a mini-series by Hulu.
After stepping through a time portal, Jake Epping finds himself back in 1963. Epping must now track down troubled Lee Harvey Oswald in an attempt to get answers. This is one of the best sci-fi mystery novels of the 00s by one of the 20th century's truest masters.
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
In a Tokyo suburb, a young man searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon, he finds himself looking for his wife, as well, in a seedy underworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and the digging up of buried secrets from WW II. The long and strange story has elements of detective noir and time traveling science fiction. Although a bit complicated, Murakami has written one of the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s.
Under the Dome by Stephen King
On a normal day in a small Maine town, suddenly and mysteriously the townsfolk are sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it, and the town is divided into those stuck in it and those trapped outside. Nobody knows where it came from or if it'll ever go away, and "the dome" is capable of blocking off solar systems.
An Iraq vet teams up with some brave citizens to try and get some answers. Up against a corrupt mayor who will stop at nothing to hold onto his power, citizens of the small town are short on time and must find answers in one of the most satisfying sci-fi mystery books of the 00s.
Glasshouse by Charles Stross
In the 27th century, accelerated technology determines the memories and personalities of people. After most of his memories are deleted, our protagonist enters "the glasshouse," an experimental place where somebody is trying to kill him.
He is on the run, desperately trying to find out his potential killer and to recover some of his memories, hoping to shed new light on his current dilemma. It's one of the best sci-fi mystery books of the 00s, due to its ability to seamlessly blend difficult genres.