My own opinion has always been that the SciFi mystery or the SciFi noir is overdone, a lazy shortcut to creating an original Science Fiction novel or story by patterning its plot along a detective’s investigation. KOP by Warren Hammond isn’t entirely out of that category but it tells the story well enough that you wind up ignoring the lack of the Science Fiction in KOP.
KOP is set on a kind of Latin American planet formerly run by plantation owners and now economically depressed and reduced to 20th century technology and a dependency on Offworlders and their tourist trade and economic promise. Essentially KOP is a story set in Latin America with some science fictional elements in the background that kick in a little more toward the end. This hasn’t however prevented TOR from slapping a cover on featuring two Caucasian characters standing in front of a dystopian skyscraper ity, despite the fact that the main characters are BlackHispanic and the city is basically a collection of shacks with a few more prosperous buildings in a shantytown.
The story begins with the usual murder investigation that of course leads to more and winds up unraveling a terrible secret and a conspiracy. There’s even the veteran cop nearing retirement forced to break in a new rookie partner. But what sets up KOP apart is that it does less posing and its commitment to telling a dark story of corruption and abuse of power that kills all idealism remains intact right down to the grim yet somewhat redemptive ending that asks questions about the price people are willing to pay for the greater good.
KOP isn’t a great Science Fiction novel mainly because it really isn’t a Science Fiction novel and doesn’t spend that much time pretending to be. It’s a Latin American crime novel dressed up as Science Fiction, but it still works. And in a marketplace crowded with SciFi Noir, KOP is one of the best of the bunch.