Amongst the classical genres of novel writing, we find the familiar murder mystery. The genre’s grand masters include Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ramond Chandler. We also find science fiction, a la Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Kim Stanley Robinson. Today, new genres blend the old. I’ve been experimenting with a genre that has surfaced in the last half century: the cosmic murder mystery, a hybrid of hard science fiction and who-dunnit. It’s a fun blend. Come along and have a look at a couple of my novels, and a few of my favorite related books by talented fellow authors!
(Pssst! Already read these and want the Inside Scoop on how these two novels were created? Click here for the behind the scenes stories. To avoid spoilers, continue reading below)
On the Shores of Titan’s Farthest Sea by Michael Carroll
The views from Titan's Mayda Outpost are spectacular, but all is not well at the moon's remote science base. On the shore of a methane sea beneath glowering skies, atmospherics researcher Abigail Marco finds herself in the middle of murder, piracy and colleagues who seem to be seeing sea monsters and dead people from the past. On the Shores of Titan's Farthest Sea provides thrills, excitement and mystery - couched in the latest science - on one of the Solar System's most bizarre worlds, Saturn's huge moon Titan.
Alan Bean, Apollo 12 Astronaut “Carroll's knowledge of planetary science combines with a great little adventure on Saturn's biggest moon. His descriptions of oily seas and methane monsoons put you in that alien world, front and center. The technology is convincing; I can imagine future astronauts doing exactly the kinds of things Mike describes. I wish I could be one of them.”
Ralph Lorenz, Titan expert, Huygens probe engineer: “It's a fun read! Really makes Titan come alive, literally...”
Jani Radebaugh, Professor of Planetary Sciences, Titan dune expert, BYU "This riveting story, set against a plausibly well integrated interplanetary space, carries us along with its bright and interesting characters. We feel absolutely transported to a hauntingly beautiful and alien Titan through Carroll's masterful weaving of art and science."
Marianne Dyson, National Space Society “While learning more about connections between characters and events, the reader is taken for a tour of a realistic future where the worlds of the solar system are actively being studied, mined, terraformed, and settled. …I’ve only “visited” the exotic environment of Titan once that I can remember (in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312), and never “lived” there before. Riding along with the characters, I also got to experience the painful consequences of high g maneuvers, the difficulty of fixing nuclear reactors in remote locations, and the thrill of piloting a submarine on Titan. Having part of the habitat carved out of Titan’s granite-hard ice was a neat idea to explore and it was interesting to see some of the hobbies that people might indulge in (like growing roses) on the space frontier. The author added a nice dose of humor via some speculation about mass hallucination in an isolated environment that might be exacerbated by various forms of contamination. … Carroll’s long and successful career as a space illustrator shows in his vivid descriptions and imaginative extrapolations of what is currently known about Titan and other worlds visited in the story.”
Europa’s Lost Expedition by Michael Carroll
This classically styled, chilling murder mystery profiles an expedition under the ice of Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa, backed up by the latest scientific findings on this icy satellite. Now that the most recent world war has concluded on Earth, human explorers are returning to exploration, carrying out a full-court press to journey into the alien abyss using tele-operated biorobotics and human-tended submersibles. Nine scientists head out to Jupiter’s icy ocean-moon. But at Europa’s most remote outpost, one by one, the team members who shared the cruise out begin to die under suspicious circumstances. All is well until humans begin diving into Europa’s subsurface ocean. The deaths have all the symptoms of some sort of plague, despite Europa’s seemingly sterile environment. But when a pattern appears, expedition leader Hadley Nobile knows the cause can be only one thing: murder!
Brian Enke, National Space Society: "This reviewer recommends Europa’s Lost Expedition to readers of all ages, especially those who enjoy Agatha Christie mysteries. Michael Carroll turns Europa into a real place, filled with real issues and opportunities. ...the reader gains [an] understanding and appreciation for the deep, primal drives that push us ever forward and outward."
Brian Clegg, Popular Science: "It has got far more going for it than just a 'humans versus the landscape' story. I genuinely did want to read on and find out what was going to happen, and exactly what was the meaning of these hints from the past."
David A. Hardy: “...not only are his story and characters believable and exciting, but his descriptions of the landscapes are vivid and the scientific details are correct according to current knowledge. Recommended!”
Aldo Spadoni: “I love a good mystery, especially when it’s also hard science fiction! ... In Europa’s Lost Expedition, Michael Carroll had done an outstanding job of blending science, technology, and mystery.”
A Few of My Personal Favorites . . .
Time Lapse by Lynne Kennedy
We follow Lynne’s beloved character, photographer Maggie Thornhill, as she pursues a modern-day murderer. In the process, she stumbles on to new evidence that might, once and for all, solve the classic case of Jack the Ripper. Lynne’s books just keep getting better (and I didn’t think they could)!
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Stan is a master of the new generation of hard science fiction, offering us spectacularly drawn natural vistas and believable characters who inhabit them. Aurora is a generation ship sent to the “Earthlike” planets orbiting nearby star system Tau Ceti. A wonderful exploration of not only distant worlds but also of the deep moral questions facing such explorations.
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
I’ve always been a sucker for time travel novels, but this one goes far beyond what one might expect. Palma’s characters interact with a host of famous and infamous historical characters as they work their way through a twisted, always surprising Victorian/steam punk/historical voyage of masterful fiction. One of the most beautifully written pieces I’ve ever read.