Whether you are a fan of the genre or just looking for a good book to read, you can find plenty of cyberpunk books that will interest you. From classic sci-fi novels to modern science fiction works, you’ll find a great selection here.
A Song Called Youth Trilogy by John Shirley 1985
Originally published in 1985, ECLIPSE is the first book in the “A Song Called Youth” trilogy. It is set after the nuclear war and describes the aftermath. It is a futuristic science fiction novel. It has been re-edited and republished by Dover Books. Among its many features are biographical notes by Bruce Sterling and a new introduction by Richard Kadrey.
The trilogy was a cyberpunk classic and predicted some of the biggest trends of the time. For instance, it was able to describe the new world order, the wikileaks scandal, the Koch brothers astroturfing, and a symbiotic relationship between the media and a government that controls the information flow.
The trilogy covers a wide range of subjects and uses intense Cold War colors and technologies. The most intriguing part of the series is the depiction of a near-future dystopia. Using a combination of narrative devices and controlled substances, Shirley is able to depict the eclipse of basic values.
The trilogy is made up of the novels Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. The latter two novels were written under the pseudonym Cutter.
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan 2002
Whether you’re looking for a cyberpunk mystery or a science fiction novel, Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan is a good choice. Set in a world where everyone’s mind is stored in a digitized “cortical stack,” the novel explores how this technology can be used to digitally copy consciousness.
The book’s main character is Takeshi Kovacs, a former United Nations Envoy. After leaving the elite army of interstellar warriors, Kovacs is employed as a private detective. His case involves a murder of a prominent citizen. He soon discovers that the crime was committed by a corrupt police officer.
As Kovacs pursues the murderer, he uncovers a massive web of vengeance and grudges against him. He runs into multiple dangerous dames and gets caught in a slew of hooks.
While the story is somewhat complicated, it does have a noir feel. It’s a cautionary tale of the unfettered use of technology. It also explores issues of wealth and power, and features a femme fatale.
The premise of the novel is that most deaths can be undone by re-sleeving a dead person’s consciousness into a new body. Catholics believe that this practice is sinful.
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi 2009
During the late twentieth century, the world was undergoing an era of environmental change. Many governments introduced environmentally friendly legislation, and businesses responded by embracing green initiatives. Among the major works of fiction published during this time period was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Although the novel is a work of fiction, it covers contemporary issues, such as global warming and biotechnology. The book was a Hugo Award winner and a Nebula Award nominee, and has been featured in many literary publications, including TIME magazine. It was also a finalist for the Locus and Campbell awards.
The Windup Girl is a dystopian novel set in the near future in Thailand. It’s set during a time when carbon fuel sources are becoming depleted, and the oceans are rising. The protagonist, Emiko, is a genetically modified “windup” who was abandoned in Thailand by her wealthy Japanese businessman patron. Designed to be a sex slave, she is left alone to fend for herself.
Although the novel isn’t the first to tell us that carbon fuels are becoming depleted, it’s the first to suggest that this is the end of the world as we know it. The Windup Girl doesn’t conceive of a total collapse, but does give the impression that it would take decades to recover from such a disaster.
Neuromancer by William Gibson 1984
Counted among the most influential cyberpunk novels, Neuromancer by William Gibson is a science fiction masterpiece. It reflects the role of technology in human lives.
In Neuromancer, a computer hacker gets tangled up in a shadowy plot involving artificial intelligence. He logs into cyberspace to find out what is happening. He finds that Linda Lee, his former employer, is dead. Then he is contacted by an organization that is looking for others like him.
The novel was written during a time when personal computers were a bit far-fetched. The story was set in a dystopian society. The world was awash in corruption. The characters battle monopoly capitalism and alienated cultures.
Neuromancer by William Gibson was the first cyberpunk book to be published. It is also the first cyberpunk novel to win a major award. It won the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1984. It was also part of a trilogy called the Sprawl Trilogy.
Gibson’s characters are outlaws and drug addicts, and they undertake insane adventures in cyberspace. Some of them have been known to undergo horrifying plastic surgery.
China 2185 by Liu Cixin 1989
Among Chinese science fiction writers, Cixin Liu is one of the most influential. His debut novel, China 2185 (1989), was not published in book form, but it has been widely translated and circulated on the internet. In fact, this novel is the foundation of a new wave of Chinese SF, which challenged utopianism and dystopian variations in the country’s literary landscape.
In 1989, the disillusionment with communism following the Tiananmen Square protests reshaped the Chinese science fictional imagination. The new paradigm of science fictional imagination began to complicate the utopianism that dominated the intellectual scene during the late nineteenth century. However, it has not completely dismantled the utopianism of the previous age.
In his debut novel, Cixin Liu explores the human condition in a world shaped by technology. He questions the ideals of humanism and the self-centred position of the “self-made” individual. In this novel, a cybernetic Mao’s consciousness sparks a cybernetic uprising that destroys the Republic of Huaxia. The cybernetic Mao’s ego poses a threat to the future Chinese leadership.
Cixin Liu’s novels focus on social inequality and ecological limitation. They also offer hope for social change.
Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow 1989
Originally published as a manga series, Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow is a groundbreaking work that has inspired many subsequent adaptations. In the manga, Shirow addresses themes of the nature of identity, the influence of technology on society, and the sociological implications of a technologically advanced future.
In addition to its manga-based adaptations, the franchise has also been produced as an anime, television show, and motion picture. The series features a cyborg woman, Motoko Kusanagi, who leads the Section 9 special ops police force in Japan. This manga explores the horrors of losing one’s identity to the mass production of artificial intelligence (AI).
The original series consisted of twelve chapters, which were published in Kodansha’s Young Magazine Zoukan Kaizokuban. During the time that the manga was being produced, the American manga boom was at its peak.
The manga is an innovative example of digital art production. While home computers were not yet capable of rendering images in three dimensions, the author used new techniques to create characters and backgrounds. The result is a series of high-quality, expressive figures and fully realized environments.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber 20
Described by some as “a genre-defying masterpiece”, Michel Faber’s “The Book of Strange New Things” is a stunning meditation on faith and love. This slow-burning novel spent more than ten years in the making. It explores a wide range of themes, ranging from the origins of religious faith to the suffering of love.
Peter Leigh, a Christian pastor, is sent to a distant planet called Oasis to bring the word of God to a people who are ripe for his teachings. Upon his arrival, he is immersed in the mysterious environment of the planet. His relationship with his wife Bea is also strained as he struggles to stay in touch with her while he is away.
The idiosyncratic setting reminds readers of Komatsu’s The Japanese Apache. In this book, the main character strikes up a friendship with an intelligent sea anemone-like creature called Borne. The two of them form an emotional bond.
Ultimately, this story is a dystopian fable of biotechnology run amok. It is a powerful text that reminds readers of the unpredictability of life.
Mirrorshades Edited by Bruce Sterling 1986
During the 1980s, Cyberpunk came of age as a cultural form. Its defining characteristics were the defiance of conventional authority, a penchant for surrealism, and the desire for a sense of personal freedom. Early writers included Gregory Benford, Datlow and Dozois, David Hartwell, and Richard Dorsett.
Although Sterling’s Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986) is not exactly a genre-specific volume, it is still a must-read for those who appreciate the neo-noir genre. The collection features a few stories that may be considered cyberpunk-centric, such as “The Gernsback Continuum” and “Bicycle Repairman” by William Gibson. Other notable inclusions include Marc Laidlaw’s “The Artificial Kid” and a nifty title sequence by Greg Bear.
It is a rare treat to come across a multi-author anthology like this, with a plethora of contributors from across the spectrum. The collection is more interesting as an academic exercise than as a genre-centric survey.
In the preface, Sterling is more interested in the big picture: how and why cyberpunk emerged as a form in the first place. He also cites the SF Wiki as a source of inspiration. He divides the better sf writers of the decade into Humanists and Cyberpunks