SF CORE Best Lists
- Best Modern Science Fiction Books
- Best Science Fiction Series
- Best Stand Alone Science Fiction Books
- Top 25 Underrated Science Fiction Books
- Best Science Fiction by Women
- Best Science Fiction Books for Young Adults
- Best Science Fiction Books for Children
- The Alternative Top 25 Best Science Fiction List
- Top 25 Science Fiction Books
- Top 100 Best Science Fiction Books
- Top 50 Best Science Fiction Movies of All Time
- Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 21st Century
- Best Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time
- Best Science Fiction Graphic Novels
SF ERA Best Lists
- Best Science Fiction Books of 2014
- Best Contemporary Science Fiction Books
- Best New Wave Science Fiction Books
- Best Classic Science Fiction Books
- Best Early Science Fiction Books
- Best Proto-Science Fiction
- Best Modern Science Fiction Classics
SF GENRE Best Lists
- Best Hard Science Fiction Books
- Best Cyberpunk Books
- Best Space Opera Books (OLD AND MERGED WITH NEW)
- Best Dystopian Science Fiction Books
- Best Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction Books
- Best Alternate History Books
- Best Time Travel Science Fiction Books
- Best Robot Science Fiction
- Best Artificial Intelligence Science Fiction
- Top 25 Best Mars Science Fiction Books
- Best Literary Science Fiction Books
- Best Books About Science Fiction
- Best Space Opera Books
- Top 25 Post Human Science Fiction Books
- Top 25 Best Science Fiction Mystery Books
- Top 25 Best Science Fiction Books About the Moon
- Best Non-English Science Fiction Books
- Best Science Fiction Games of All Time
- Best Science Fiction Comic Books
- Best Science Fiction Anime
- Top 25 Military SciFi Books
OTHER Best Lists
Best Cyberpunk Books
So here we have a sub-genre of science fiction that has a cool name, because of which its authors dress in leather jackets and wear mirror shades - at least according to one well known scion of the craft - Neal Stephenson. But what - aside from an excuse to wear cool shades - is Cyberpunk?
Well basically Cyberpunk is all about dystopian, networked, future earth type societies. The technological focus is usually on computing, genetics and artificial or virtual intelligences, primarily. Oh and corporations. Usually big ones. Sub-sub genres (have we all gone mad?) include Steampunk - the same thing with Victorian overtones, and Biopunk - the same thing focused on genetic engineering and such. Additionally, books written after 1993 have a nasty habit of being called Post Cyberpunk.
Cyberpunk Derrivates -- "The Punks"
Post-Cyberpunk - which is cyberpunk, but all grown up, after the teenage hormones and depressions have dissipated some - leaving the genre feeling a little more respectable. Then there's Dieselpunk - sometimes referred to as 'gritty Steampunk'
Decopunk - Dieselpunk made all shiny and modernistic, like the Art Deco art styles of the 1920's to 1950's
Nanopunk - the new kid on the block, still deciding what kind of a creature he's going to be - but focussed on nanotechnology at the expense of biotechnology so far; Stonepunk - sic. The Flintstones (fancy stone age tech)
Clockpunk - concerned with clockwork mechanisms, likes to live in the renaissance period;
Teslapunk - alternate history where we got stuck at electricity, never going so far as to try anything else, and got really good at it (traces family line back to 18th, 19th and early 20th century imaginings of what electricity would do)
Atompunk - which would pretty much be Superman's pre-digital world in DC Comics (think: cold war, Sputnik, Space and arms races, superheroes, Dick Tracy);
Elfpunk - what elves and other folklorish creatures would be like if they managed to survive to inhabit our current or future world
Mythpunk - same as Elfpunk, but rooted in ancient myth (Hercules, the Valkyries - that sort of thing)
Nowpunk - which is a word invented by Bruce Stirling to describe one of his books. I really have no idea why it has stuck around, but you can go look it up for yourself - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowpunk#Nowpunk.
I think it means Cyberpunk set - well - like now. I guess the movie 'hackers' would be an example here. It should be noted (for those new to this) that the term 'Cyberpunk' is derivative of the term 'cyberspace', not 'cyborg'. Cyborgs do occasionally appear in cyberpunk novels, as do other forms of synthetic life, and the synthesis of biological life with technology is a recurring theme, but the focus of cyberpunk is more on information technologies: networks, computers, being able to plug oneself directly into virtual environments by whatever means - that sort of thing. An example would be the 'Tron' movies. Both of them. Most of the action is contained within a virtual environment Another popular example of cyberpunk is the 'Matrix' series of movies. Technically most of the movies took place in cyberspace, not out in the 'real' world. I still think that 'the matrix' establishes a great premise for arguing in favour of existentialism - but that's for another time. Finally: a quote that may help clarify things: "Cyberpunk literature, in general, deals with marginalized people in technologically-enhanced cultural 'systems'. In cyberpunk stories' settings, there is usually a 'system' which dominates the lives of most 'ordinary' people, be it an oppressive government, a group of large, paternalistic corporations, or a fundamentalist religion. These systems are enhanced by certain technologies (today advancing at a rate that is bewildering to most people), particularly 'information technology' (computers, the mass media), making the system better at keeping those within it inside it. Often this technological system extends into its human 'components' as well, via brain implants, prosthetic limbs, cloned or genetically engineered organs, etc. Humans themselves become part of 'the Machine'. This is the 'cyber' aspect of cyberpunk. However, in any cultural system, there are always those who live on its margins, on 'the Edge': criminals, outcasts, visionaries, or those who simply want freedom for its own sake. Cyberpunk literature focuses on these people, and often on how they turn the system's technological tools to their own ends. This is the 'punk' aspect of cyberpunk." Erich Schneider of 'The Cyberpunk Project'. So without further ado: the top 25 best Cyberpunk (and derivative otherpunk) novels - arranged from best to less so.
You can view the crowd-ranked version of this list and vote on the entries at the bottom of this page.
Neuromancer. This is often lauded as THE book that started the cyberpunk genre. It's an oldie but has aged surprisingly well. It's more of a reserved cool, calculated read when you want to really think. Stephenson's Snow Crash is pumped full of energy, a white hot read that keeps you on edge.
Read Stephenson's The Diamond Age, his other great Cyberpunk work. Probably the "closest" you are going to get to Snow Crash.
Altered Carbon, a bit of snow crash, a bit of Neuromancer, and a shipload of action. Awesome on every level.
You might give Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth saga a read. While it is space opera and not cyberpunk, but there's lots of in the words of the Penny Arcade Forum member "locomotiveman" "badasses being badass with the aid of gadgetry, cybernetic and otherwise, while overall being really cool, likable and at times quite funny." An apt description I think. Give it a read if you like reading about heroes who kick ass with the aid of gadgets.
If you like the entertaining dialogue present in Snow Crash, you might want to give Neal Asher's Spatterjay book a read.
Books in Childe Cycle Series (24)
Neuromancer was just the start of the Sprawl trilogy, so you should certainly go on to read Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, not to mention the stories in Burning Chrome, which tell us yet more about this future of jacked-in cyber jockeys and street samurai, simstim and emerging machine intelligence. You simply can't understand cyberpunk, or anything that happened in science fiction afterwards, without these books. Note that while these books take place in the same 'world' they are unique stories and as such you can read Neuromancer (or the other loosely connected books) as stand alones.
Gibson has recently returned to science fiction with a powerful new novel, The Peripheral, in which people riding shotgun on an immersive game in the run-down near future end up witnessing a murder in the more distant future, and get caught in a time-travelling mystery of escalating violence and ever-increasing mystery. It can be hard going at first, but boy is it worth keeping on with the book.
If Neuromancer got the ball rolling with cyberpunk, there were an awful lot of great writers who quickly joined him. So if this sets you on fire, you absolutely must go on to read Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling, the novel and stories set in his Shaper/Mechanist universe, a future in which humanity is divided between those who go in for genetic modification of the body, the Shapers, and those who prefer mechanical augmentation, the Mechanists. This is the point where cyberpunk started to mutate into stories of post-humanity.
Then there's Pat Cadigan, especially Synners and Fools, both of which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, making her the first person to win the award twice. These are dramatic stories of human/machine interface, and the way it affects our awareness of reality.
For more specific CYBERPUNK book recommendations, make sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre.
Books in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Series (0)
Kristine Kathryn Rusch,
Bester's other great novel is The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. It asks the question: how do you get away with murder in a society in which telepathy is so common that the police can know everything going on in your mind? Told in a free and easy manner, with lots of wordplay and typographical tricks, it is another novel that clearly deserves to be recognised as a classic.
If you are fascinated by Bester's adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, you should also check out Spirit: or the Princess of Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones, which also uses the Dumas novel as a model for a story of interstellar adventure. In this case it's also a sequel to her award-winning Aleutian Trilogy.
For another modern space opera with Bester's fingerprints all over it, check out The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War, Abaddon's Gate and Cibola Burn. The co-author, Daniel Abraham, acknowledges Bester as a major influence then goes on to list what elements of the story are owed to The Stars My Destination:http://www.danielabraham.com/2012/01/30/paying-tribute-the-stars-my-destination/
Books in Takeshi Kovacs Series (2)
I would suggest the works of Philip K. Dick, since this book won the award named after him. Dick had numerous dystopian societies.
Books in The Sprawl Series (1)
Books in Artificial Reality Division Series (2)
Books in The Clockwork Century Series (5)
Greg Bear also dealt with nanotechnology in Queen of Angels and its sequel, Slant. In the near future, nanotechnology has been used in psychotherapy so that now the vast majority of people have gone through the technique that ensures they are well-integrated, happy and content. Then a famous writer commits a gruesome murder, the sort of crime that should not exist in this therapied world. At the same time, an AI operating a space probe discovers signs of life around Alpha Centauri and simultaneously achieves artificial intelligence. The two novels together tell a fascinating story in which questions of identity, who we are and how we got there, are always central.
Bear has also written some monumental hard sf, of which the best is probably Eon, in which a mysterious asteroid comes close to earth and is revealed to contain mysterious tunnels and long-abandoned cities, and at the end the corridor opens out way beyond the physical limits of the asteroid, taking us into an extraordinary pocket universe.
Neal Stephenson's novels have got bigger and bigger as his career has gone on. It's like he's trying to squeeze an entire world between the covers of a book. But however much detail you'll find in there, there's always a strong story that just keeps you turning the pages. There are several books that could equally well command a place in our Top 100 list.
Make sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre.
For similar recommendations, you should look at other cyberpunk works that have proved influential.
William Gibson's Neuromancer is the gold standard in cyberpunk and pretty much the founding father of the movement in science fiction.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep -- a highly influential work by PKD that's touched literature and film. The futuristic noir dystopian metropolis setting of the film has inspired generations of sci fi movies and video games. Truth be told, there have been few science fiction books as influential on pop culture as THIS work. As such, you absolutely should read it.
For a modern violent take on the cyberpunk genre, Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. It's brutal, violent, dark, and has a mystery-detective tale that keeps you hooked from start to finish. This is one of the most exciting cyberpunk thrillers in the genre.
Books in New Crobuzon Series (2)
It's worth reading this novel alongside Bacigalupi'sbiopunk stories, which are collected in Pump Six and Other Stories, which won a Locus Award for best Collection, and contains such seminal biopunk stories as "The Calorie Man", "The People of Slag and Sand" and "Yellow Card Man" which serves as a prequel to The Windup Girl.
If you're interested in biopunk, you also need to check out Ribofunk by Paul Di Filippo, a collection of stories in which he argues thatthe next revolution Ã¢ the only one that really matters Ã¢ will be in the field of biology.
Also worth checking out is Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling, in which one of the consequences of climate change is not just the effect on our food supply, but also the effect on our weather. It's a chilling novel in which, in the very near future, the planet is lashed by storms of unprecedented ferocity.
Books in Crashcourse Series (2)
The political nuances that play such an important part in Schismatrix are also there in much of his other work. For instance, Distraction, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, is a subtle account of the different political factions at play in a balkanised future America. While Heavy Weather looks at how climate change leads to extreme storms, and the knock-on political and social effects of this change.
Mirrorshades, which Bruce Sterling edited, is the definitive cyberpunk collection, containing William Gibson's story "The Gernsback Continuum", along with work by key cyberpunk authors including Pat Cadigan, Paul Di Filippo, Lewis Shiner, James Patrick Kelly, Rudy Rucker and others.
The Shaper/Mechanist stories had a profound influence on many of the writers who have emerged in the new century. Perhaps the most significant of these is Accelerando by Charles Stross, which won the Locus Award. A series of linked stories take us from tomorrow's 24-hour online society to a space voyage as digitised information, to the dismantling of the planets to make a vast, solar powered computer.
Books in Otherland Series (3)
Books in Revelation Space Series (4)
Robin Cook does catastrophic illnesses better than any writer out there. Peter F. Hamilton, James SA Corey.