5 Cyberpunk Books You Should Read Before You Disconnect

Though it’s rare to see many new Cyberpunk novels these days, the genre enjoyed a purple patch in the 80s and 90s. Here’s our picks for 5 of the best cyberpunk books to read before you disconnect.

Neuromancer William Gibson

1) Neuromancer | William Gibson

While there are a number of candidates for ‘first’ Cyberpunk book, William Gibson’s Necromancer is often cited as the first Cyberpunk novel.

Released in 1984 it considered a seminal work of the genre and the first to win all three major Science Fiction awards (Philip K Dick Award, Nebula Award and Hugo Award), all the more interesting when you consider this was Gibson’s first novel.

Gibson uses a fairly traditional hook of detective fiction scaled into Cyberpunk world. Case, a washed up hacker living day-to-day in the chaotic urban sprawl of Chiba City is approached by a dubious authority figure to take part in the ultimate hack.

While Gibson pioneered several of the ideas in Neuromancer in his earlier short stories there’s no doubting the importance of this book.

Earlier works: Burning chrome
Sequel: Count Zero

Cyberpunk Books You Should Read

2) Cinderblock | Janine Ellen Young

A rare gem Cinderblock was released in 1997 and is not an easy find. If you can get your hands on this little book it’s definitely worth a read. What starts off as pretty standard cyberpunk fare, a young man with electrical skills and a shotgun wielding revolutionary are targeted by a hidden tyrannical force, with the fast-moving action (and it is fast) switching between Los Angeles and virtual reality so quickly the story setting becomes blurred.

This is where Cinderblock’s uniqueness comes to the fore. Without giving anything away, this is more than just science fiction, and lovers of cyber mysticism and fast-moving plots will find a lot to like in this excellent book.

snow crash

3) Snow Crash | Neal Stephenson

A masterwork of cyberpunk fiction, Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash is a anarchic look at a future which ineffectual government cedes authority to private enterprise creating sovereign gated communities and class based on status within online communities.

Stephenson’s evolved internet is the metaverse, something similar to an MMO game but with a further reach. ‘Snow Crash’ is a virus that affects humans both in and out of the metaverse and it’s up to our hero, Hiro Protagonist, to solve the mystery.

There are plenty of good arguments for and against Snow Crash. Some argue that it’s actually a parody of Cyberpunk, rather than a mainstay of the genre like Neuromancer. Others argue that it lacks the inspiration of most good stories, instead positing that knowledge is more powerful than passion.

Either way, there’s plenty to love for the Science Fiction and Cyberpunk fan. Snowcrash was released in 1992 and remains one of the genre’s most popular reads.

Earlier work: Zodiac – The Eco Thriller
Sequel: The Diamond Age

Synners Pat Cardigan

4) Synners | Pat Cardigan

Stepping into 1991’s Synners in 2015 requires surprisingly less suspension of disbelief than you might think. Cadigan’s novel bristles with speed and energy, with multiple perspectives and complex character arcs that twist and twine with each other as the blurred line between real and virtual is almost completely erased.

In its own way, Synners predicts the coming internet quite well, although it’s imagined as more of an MTV executive’s wet dream than the combined efforts of computer programming geeks.

Cardigan once made her living writing Hallmark greeting cards. It’s clear she’s a master of brevity and quick cutting action and movement. It’s less clear whether she perfected the perfectly timed cuss word, because Synners is full of them, particularly the f-bomb.

Anyway the plot of Synners revolves around the creation of a head socket by Disversifications Inc that sends music videos and other data directly to the brain.

Visual Mark is the initial guinea pig for this treatment, but once the hardware is world-wide a kind of virus is uploaded to the network, and chaos ensues.

Cardigan specialises in the relationship between reality and perception and Synners is one of the best examples of this, winning the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1992.

Altered Carbon Richard K Morgan

5) Altered Carbon | Richard K Morgan

Taking a more hard-boiled approach to the detective Cyberpunk novel, Richard K Morgan’s Takaeshi Kovacs series introduces us to the ultimate badass cyberpunk investigator.

Set five centuries in the future. The United Nations Protectorate overseas a collection of planets inhabited by humans, but the galactic sprawl of Altered Carbon is more of a backdrop to the real focus, cortical stacks.

Just about everyone in the world of Altered Carbon is equipped with a cortical stack atop their spinal column, a kind of memory card that allows individuals to be re-sleeved into a new body if they die.

While the cortical stack preserves the identity of the individual, very few can afford to get new bodies at a particular age, meaning most only live one or two full lifetimes, as the aging process makes them disinclined to repeat it.

The super wealthy do possess the ability to refresh their body. Known as Meths (After Methusla, not the drug), and it is one such Meth, Laurens Bancroft, who hires Takeshi to solve his own murder.

Winner of the 2003 Hugo Award

Sequel: Broken Angels



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