8 Sci-Noir Books that Blend Genres

Katie Moench is a librarian, runner, and lover of baked goods. A school librarian in the Upper Midwest, Katie lives with her husband and dog and spends her free time drinking coffee, trying new recipes, and adding to her TBR.

Flatiron Books, publisher of The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo9781250884251.jpg OPT9781250884251.jpg OPT

Set in the Spanish Golden Age, during a time of high‑stakes political intrigue and glittering wealth, The Familiar follows Luzia, a servant in the household of an impoverished Spanish nobleman who reveals a talent for little miracles. Her social‑climbing mistress demands Luzia use her gifts to win over Madrid’s most powerful players but what begins as simple amusement takes a dangerous turn. Luzia will need to use every bit of her wit and will to survive—even the help of Guillén Santángel, an immortal familiar whose own secrets could prove deadly for them both. The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo is on sale now.

In the world of reading, science fiction books give us futuristic and/or speculative worlds that ask and answer questions about what we would be like with access to advanced technologies. Noir books, meanwhile, are often found in the mystery genre, where they’re known as a subgenre of crime fiction that features darker themes, often in an urban setting. Books that fall in the “noir” category may be described as “hard-edged” and feature more violence than your average, procedural mystery as well as cynical characters facing difficult circumstances. Combining the two leads to the niche genre of “sci-noir”, known for classics of science fiction such as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the inspiration for Bladerunner) and Leviathan Wakes.

Sci-noir books take the themes of both science fiction and noir novels and combine them into stories that use dark themes and down-on-their-luck characters to probe the farthest reaches of the universe. Because of the lack of hope or bright spots that characterize noir books, sci-noir novels often fall into the realm of dystopias and take place in worlds where the future looks bleak and unpromising. Their main characters may be on the run from their enemies, from the law, or from both, and are often outcasts at the margins of their speculative worlds. Sci-noir shows us the darker side of futuristic worlds and technologies with stories that engage the reader by showing what could happen if humans continue to pursue technological advancements and control of the universe.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? coverDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? cover

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

This novel, which served as the inspiration for the blockbuster film Blade Runner, takes place in a world where the World War has decimated most living animals on Earth, including humans. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard has been sent to track down six escaped androids who are so human-like that only scientific analysis can determine their robot origins. The book follows Deckard’s journey as well as the efforts of the fugitive androids to evade capture.

the lesson by Cadwell Turnbull book coverthe lesson by Cadwell Turnbull book cover

The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull

For the past five years, the occupants of the U.S. Virgin Islands have lived under the rule and watch of the Ynaa, an advanced alien society that is using them as part of an undisclosed research project. A year after the death of a young boy at the hands of a Ynaa, three families are drawn into a complicated web of secrets, deceit, and dangerous experiments that will unravel the fragile peace between the two groups.

The City & The City book coverThe City & The City book cover

The City & The City by China Miéville

When a woman is found murdered, Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad is assigned to the case. To complete the investigation, Borlú must cross from the city of Beszel to Ul Qoma, a vibrant neighboring city whose border is both a psychic and physical barrier between the two. As Borlú works to find the woman’s killer, he is plunged into an underground world of those who seek a frightening future for Beszel and for Borlú.

book cover of Of Us And Thembook cover of Of Us And Them

Of Us And Them by T. L. Coughlin

Evern was born to serve as a vessel for the Leviathans, an alien species spoken about in ancient lore. She’s also the daughter of the leader of the dangerous and futuristic world and the last of the twelve prophesied Paladins, whose survival is key to ensuring the success of a celestial plan. When one of the Paladins is found dead, Evern is forced to confront and track down the murderer in order to fulfill her destiny.

blackouts book coverblackouts book cover

Blackouts by Justin Torres

Winner of the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction, Blackouts is set in the desert where a lone man tends to a dying Juan Gay, who passes along a secret project: Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns, a collection of queer histories by a queer researcher that has been buried and suppressed over time. As Juan and his companion talk, the book becomes an ode to the power of storytelling in a futuristic society.

Book cover of The City We BecameBook cover of The City We Became

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

The City We Became takes that classic noir setting of New York City and pairs it with a science fiction, fantasy story that is sure to become a classic. In this novel, each of the five boroughs is represented by an avatar in the form of a human who must use their gifts to preserve the soul of the city against forces that threaten to tear it apart.

cover of Machinehood by S.B. Divyacover of Machinehood by S.B. Divya

Machinehood by S.B. Divya

Welga Ramirez lives in a gig-economy world where humans take daily pills to help them compete with artificial intelligence. Welga is a bodyguard on the verge of retirement when her client is killed in front of her by a terrorist group called The Machinehood whose aim is to stop all pill production. As global panic ensues and robots are destroyed to keep them from taking over, Welga is contacted by the government which believes she has unique skills that will allow her to defeat the terrorists.

Cover of Far Sector by N.K. JemisinCover of Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin

Far Sector by N. K. Jemisin, illustrated by Jamal Campbell

The graphic novel is set in The City Enduring, a metropolis at the edge of the universe where Rookie Green Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein when the first violent crime in generations leads to a revolt against the leaders of the city. As the only human in her sector, Jo must find the murderer and find a way to lead the city to a better, more peaceful future.

If you’re looking for more genre blends, check out this list of authors who coined their own subgenres. And of course, we have plenty of great science fiction and noir mystery recommendations in our archives for you to discover!

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