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Alien Crimes
Edited by Mike Resnick
Cover Artist: Donato Giancola
Review by Steve Sawicki
Science Fiction Book Club  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781582882239
Date: 06 April 2007 / Show Official Info /

Crime and science fiction go way back, most likely because at the time both genres were being born you couldn't make a living writing either one so writers diversified and found they could actually reach poverty level by producing huge amounts of work in multiple genres.

Mike Resnick just might be this century's Martin Greenberg, the man with an anthology for every occasion. In this case it's crime, but not just any kind of crime, crimes that involved mysteries, crimes that will require much thought before the solving. And, since we're talking about science fiction, many of the crimes will involve aliens.

There's something about crossing genres that lays bare the framework upon which the writer is building the story. In the wrong hands we end up looking at nothing more than a skeletal construction. In the right hands we are treated not only to the construction but to the finished product. This is very clear in Resnick's own "A Locked Planet Mystery" which involves a detective being brought in to an offworld crime scene in order to figure out who done it among a group of extraterrestrials. If the writer is playing fair, the reader is presented with the same set of clues that the protagonist gets and essentially at the same time. This lets you figure it out, or try to, as the story builds. Needless to say you should not be able to figure it out until you get to the end, and such is the case with this story.

Pat Cadigan has the lead off story "Nothing Personal" about a female detective who is trying to figure out if the nagging feeling in her gut is pushing her toward retirement or toward something else. She ends up involved in a cross alternate universe where people search the alterverse for lines where tragedy has not struck them. It's a fairly convoluted story but Cadigan pulls it off with great skill. If you thought Harry Turtledove only did alternate history then you are in for a surprise as he delivers "Hoxbomb" a story about a shared planet where humans co-exist uneasily with an alien race. The Hoxbomb of the title is a genetic weapon developed by said aliens that scrambles the DNA of babies so that they come out in rather interesting shapes. If the detectives involved in this, one human and one alien, can't find the answer they may have a planet wide problem on their hands. There are also stories here by Gregory Benford, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Walter Jon Williams. I say stories but in truth these are novella length works so there's plenty to sink your teeth into.

Each of the stories in this anthology is well constructed and delves into a world where mystery and science fiction co-exist. If you are a fan of both then you are in for a treat. If not then this might be a good introduction that could lead you both forward and backward. Of course many science fiction novels involve mysteries, it's just that most of them don't have a protagonist who is trained in solving them. A fun read in a fat book that would be great at the beach.

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