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Best Cyberpunk Books

The Best 25 Cyberpunk Books Ever Written, From Classics to Modern

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.

A novel of startling ideas that influenced a generation of writers and pop culture. Some of the best cyberpunk science fiction out there. Fans of dystopian fiction and cyberpunk will love this one especially those who adore the setting present in Blade Runner - a dilapidated futuristic Asian metropolis with little law and even less order. The writing is sharp, the wit sharper, and the sarcasm even more so. Stephenson brings you into HIS world, a world where society has been redefined and the rules of living are vastly changed. It's a distant future that's somewhat familiar while also alien.  There's a lot of ideas in Snow Crash and complex ones at that. Stephenson looks at the not-too distant future; it's a dismal place with no laws, private corporations controlling everything, and the Mob having their hands in the rest – including Pizza Delivery services. Key part of this future is the Metaverse, Stephenson's futuristic version of the Internet where people "log on" via virtual goggles. Everything is conducted through the Metaverse, from business to dating. Stephenson not only presents us with a very realistic look at what could be, but there are some subtle social observations about the way things are different and the same. Stephenson frames the modern social constructs intruding into this cyberworld; ones' social wealth is judged by the look of the avatar they use to interact with the Metaverse, with the wealthy being able to afford custom while the "poor" use off the shelf. This book has it all, from hacker heroes who wield Samurai sword destruction by night in the Metaverse and deliver pizza by day for the Mob, governments and police controlled by private corporations, and a conspiracy that might the world needs some saving from. And like the protagonist takes the win for most awesome name ever: Hiro Protagonist. I feel The Diamond Age, Stephenson's other big Cyberpunk work is actually a better novel with more grand concepts and better social critiques, one that shows Stephenson's maturity as a writer. But Snow Crash is what made it happen and was a highly influential novel on the genre, so it gets my recommendation as "The Must Read".

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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.

If you want to know the most influential science fiction novel of the last thirty-odd years, look no further than William Gibson's Neuromancer. The novel didn't invent cyberpunk; two films that came out a couple of years earlier, Tron and Blade Runner, had already introduced some of the themes of cyberpunk. And the term itself was invented by Gardner Dozois talking about a novel by Bruce Bethke. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that without Neuromancer, there would have been no cyberpunk. Neuromancer wasn't the first science fiction novel set among the low life and street people of the near future, but Gibson inhabited the Sprawl with utter conviction, inventing a street slang that caught on in the real world. In this underground, Case is a washed-up hacker whose been treated with drugs to stop him accessing the Matrix ever again, while Molly is a street samurai who offers case a cure in exchange for his services.Through a violent world of double-dealing corporations and government cover-ups, Case and Molly risk their lives in the bright and threatening landscape of cyberspace, following a trail that eventually leads them to Wintermute, a powerful AI at a time when machine intelligence is banned.A heady mixture of computer know-how and grimy film noir action, Neuromanceris like no novel before it, a totally original and absolutely gripping take on the near future. Why It's On the ListNeuromancer was the first novel ever to win the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards. It also set the tone for cyberpunk and made Gibson one of the most acclaimed of modern writers. Neuromancer didn't just catch the zeitgeist, it created it, giving us terms like "cyberspace" and "ICE", and being instrumental in the way the World Wide Web developed.Alternative ChoiceMake sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre for MORE cyberpunk book recommendations.And the novel that is our Alternative Choice for the Top 25 is:Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.  In a balkanised Los Angeles, where everything is privatised and the economy is breaking down, a new computer virus appears that affects the users as much as their computers. A key part of this future is the Metaverse, Stephenson's futuristic version of the Internet where people "log on" via virtual goggles. Everything is conducted through the Metaverse, from business to dating. Stephenson not only presents us with a very realistic look at what could be, but there are some subtle social observations about the way things are different and the same.Stephenson frames the modern social constructs intruding into this cyberworld; ones' social wealth is judged by the look of the avatar they use to interact with the Metaverse, with the wealthy being able to afford custom while the "poor" use off the shelf.This book has it all, from hacker heroes who wield Samurai sword destruction by night in the Metaverse and deliver pizza by day for the Mob, governments and police controlled by private corporations, and a conspiracy that might the world needs some saving from.

Books in Childe Cycle Series (24)

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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

Set in a post-Nuclear War society, the future is pretty bleak. People are being encouraged to leave the planet for parts unknown and are being given an incentive, their own personal android, to get out of here. Some of these androids escape, return to earth, and assume the identities of their former owners. Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who chases down these androids, who are presumed not to be able to feel human emotions. His story is contrasted with that of a human irreparably damaged by the war who cannot leave Earth and decides to help the androids escape. Why It Made the List The book is best known as the film Blade Runner, which was a huge hit that starred Harrison Ford. Yet the film didn’t use much of the material from the book. Ironically Dick never saw the movie. A science-fiction author who has enjoyed a personal renaissance in recent years with other movies made from other novels. Dick is also known for his other works which were made into Total Recall and The Minority Report. He’s definitely an under-appreciated author these days. Read It If You Like post-apocalyptic societies, robots, police procedurals

Books in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Series (0)

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Kristine Kathryn Rusch,

He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead. Gully Foyle is a shipwrecked sailor abandoned out in space, and when ships pass him by without stopping to pick him up he vows to exact revenge. He manages to repair his ship, and after numerous terrors and adventures he manages to find his way back to civilisation. There he starts to put his plan into action. Famously based on The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (like Spirit: or, the Princess of Bois Dormant by Gwyneth Jones, another amazing space opera that very nearly made it onto this list), this novel is colourful, startling and unfailingly surprising.   William Gibson has said: "I can't recall having met an SF writer whose opinion I respected who failed to share my enthusiasm for Alfred Bester's work" and The Stars My Destination (also known as Tiger! Tiger!)is regularly and rightly listed as one of the best science fiction novels ever written.

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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/

The concept for the book is rather involved. Peopleâs souls and memories can now be digitized and stored. Once stored, if something happens to you, the soul and memories can be put into a different body, which is now called a sleeve (and explains the title). Not everyone is in favor of eternal life in different bodies. The problem is that much like a computer back-up, the last few hours of data is lost since it has not been backed up as of yet. Thatâs the situation for Laurens Bancroft, whose death is labeled a suicide, but he thinks that someone deliberately killed him. He hires Kovacs who has been trained as a member of an elite military group and now works as a detective. The book is violent, since Kovacs was trained to take a beating, but the bookâs hook is worth the violence. Why It Made the List For starters Netflix announced that this will be a 10 episode series in 2016. It also won the Philip K. Dick Best Novel award when it was released. Read It If You Likecyberpunk, dystopian societies.

Books in Takeshi Kovacs Series (2)

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I would suggest the works of Philip K. Dick, since this book won the award named after him. Dick had numerous dystopian societies.

Bobby Newmark, the self-styled 'Count Zero' is just getting started as a hacker, and is still an amateur. There comes a day when he is asked to test some new tech for some of his shadier connections. The tech nearly kills him, and he only survives due to the appearance of a shining girl who unhooks him from the net before his heart stops beating... Turner is a corporate mercenary, and he has been hired to help Mitchell leave his current employ in a most illegal fashion. Unfortunately Turner misses his mark, and ends up with the old guy's daughter, Angie instead. Seems Angie is not all she appears to be, though . . . Marly Krushkova Was a gallery owner until she tried to sell a counterfeit. Now she is infamous, and her infamy brings her to Josef Virek, industrialist and art patron, who seeks the author of several futuristic Joseph Cornell type artworks - much like the one that cost her a job. But Virek is after more than just art, and he means to find what he seeks, regardless of cost, or care... The second of the 'Sprawl' trilogy, and the second of William Gibson's books on this list, this counts as a classic of the genre. The world is rich and colourful - sometimes a bit too much so, in that it leaves you a bit confused now and then as to why that particular part of the background scenery is so important, or how this dystopian vision of a scene actually relates to our characters. We see the return (sort of) of Wintermute and Neuromancer - disguised as voodoo gods, but otherwise a new cast of characters. More points of view from which to examine the weirdly wonderful world Mr Gibson has created...

Books in The Sprawl Series (1)

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You'd think that Artificial Reality couldn't kill you, since legally speaking, everything is a lie in AR anyway. But that seems to be just exactly what happened - in a sealed booth. And he died the same way in the real world as he did in AR - a slashed throat. Dore Konstantin is a hard-boiled cop who must now find the murderer responsible for doing the impossible - killing from inside AR, and to do so she must enter the brutal, sadomasochistic and sexually perverse world of AR. Yuki is looking for her lover, who may be dead, and who was one of Joyz Boyz - and when she meets Joy Flower she is taken on as her personal assistant. Neither Yuki nor Dore are aware of how deadly the danger that surrounds them, or of how dark the world into which they have stepped. And of course it is much more complicated than just a few impossible murders. Japan is gone - the catastrophe that took it undefined. In fact it seems the entire generation that remembers it is also gone. The world - the real world - that Pat envisions here is overcrowded and dreary, and the Artificial Reality is bright and popular. People live there as much as they can because the alternative is, well, dreary, and overcrowded. Also one is legally entitled to do whatever the hell it you feel like in AR, including murder, rape, whatever, because it is not real, and cannot affect your life. So die tonight, and come back tomorrow night rarin' to go. And then the ills of AR start to spill over into the real world. There are some very disturbing echoes of our world today in this work. I mean if we look at how many people spend their every spare moment on the internet... Gritty, fun, disturbing, thought provoking - well worth the money you'll spend on it.

Books in Artificial Reality Division Series (2)

Zeke Wilkes is a son out looking to regain his name. his Pa went and lost it when the drilling machine he invented tore up half of Seattle, and released a gas that turned half the area's inhabitants into zombies. So Zeke goes hunting inside the walled off section of Seattle - fifteen years later - hunting for evidence that might prove his Pa wasn't the devil they all said he was. Things get complicated quickly - and Briar Wilkes, Zeke's mother, follows him to the walled city, trying to save the son who's trying to save a name, all the while harbouring secrets of her own... She's trying for an opus of the Steampunk sub-genre, and getting it right, too. The vision is sweeping, and the characters engaging. The addition of zombies gets her extra points too - Steampunk sits well on the undead. Alternate history - we got to the 1800's before getting side tracked - in this case by the American Civil War, which a dastardly England has prolonged (through interference) far beyond it's time, thus spawning a whole other technology with its feet ankle deep in 1861.

Books in The Clockwork Century Series (5)

Alex Sharkey is looking for the queen of the elves. Well - that's not quite true, but she's really not quite human. Thing is he thinks he loves her - though it might actually be a face full of nanobots, and not love. Maybe she's more than human, or human plus, or whatever you want to call it. Still, it becomes quite the quest for this overweight psychotropic virus engineer, and while there don't appear to be any dragons breathing fire down his neck, there are still some pretty big government and criminal organizations who would prefer it if Alex never gets as far as finding his new amour, which really amounts to the same thing, really. Conceptually, Paul McCauley has managed to create a story that does not actually need the fizz-bang technology that pervades it to be good. It would be good if the tech involved a stick and some semi-solid mud. The characters are real, they breathe, and you can almost smell the sweat from their overactive imaginations. They grow, and change a little, and you can see the little changes that show as much. He's also got this flow to his writing - it's a bit like dream sex - all smooth and warm and effortless, which is a nice contrast to the storyline, which is edgy, dark, and filled with foreboding. He gets a bit tied up towards the end - there's a late character introduction or two that I thought were unnecessary, but, quite frankly, this is such a good ride that I don't mind that little bump there the least.

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Allie Haas likes to get high. Her dealer likes to get her high. One day he convinces her to try a new, stolen madcap' - very illegal. The experience nearly kills her, and as an extra kick in the teeth gets her criminalised. She is offered the chance - loathsome as it may be - to become a Mindplayer instead of going to prison... What follows would probably make a good initial screenplay for a series along the lines of - say - Fringe. Allie's life takes us on a journey - in episodes, by way of her patients - from addiction to a form of sanity. Allie grows from a two-dimensional non-person into someone with real depth, and she has a way of echoing round your head after you've put the book down. Pat Cadigan explores a whole host of mental conditions, and her look at the inside landscape of the mind is enthralling. Mesmerising. This was a formidable first novel, which came after a bunch of equally edgy and well-formed short stories.
Imagine the world as an alternate 1985, where Whitney Houston's ubiquitous voice, those eyeball-raping neon colors, leg warmers, Kirk Cameron's ubiquitous face didn't exist. Actually, anything would have been better than real life 1985. But I'm happy to embrace Jasper Fforde's vision of an alternate 1985, where literary detective Thursday Next (see, even the names are far more awesome than Stacey, Cindy, Brandon, and Zach) follows a criminal through Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. England and Imperial Russia fought the Crimean War for over a century, and England is a plice state run by a weapon production company called the Goliath Corporation. In the novel, Jane Eyre ends with Jane going with her cousin, St John Rivers, to India for missionary work. Literary debates end in gang wards and murder. Thursday Next investigates the theft of a Charles Dickens manuscript by Acheron Hades. Thursday is injured during a steak out to stop Acheron, only saved by a copy of Jane Eyre that stops his bullet. She is helped on the scene by a good Samaritan who leaves a monogrammed handkerchief and a jacket behind. These items are the same ones that Rochester, a character from Jane Eyre. This is the part where it gets even trippier - Thursday knows this, because she entered the book as a child. And just when you tell yourself you're not hallucinating, Thursday's future self instructs her take a job in her hometown, where her uncle has created the "Prose Portal", which allows people to enter works of fiction. Telling any more of the plot would ruin this delightfully surreal, literary journey. Wall Street Journal described it as a mix of Monty Python, Harry Potter, Stephen Hawking, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you enjoy absurd, comedic writers like Lewis Carroll and Douglas Adams, you need to read this novel.
If Xenogenesis explores the emergence of posthumanity through exogamy, Blood Music explores it through infection. A renegade biotechnologist faces having his research shut down, so he injects himself with the “noocytes” he has created. These are biological computers that quickly multiply inside his body, and then become self aware. At first the noocytes improve his health, but in time they don’t just take over the researcher, but everyone else they can infect, until the whole of North America becomes one biosphere. Why it’s on the list: Expanded from an original novelette that won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, Blood Music is both a terrifying and an exhilarating account of how something so small can have such a monumental effect.

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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.

Cowboy used to be a Delta pilot, up till the Soviet Orbital took out his business. Now he is a smuggler ridin' around in a tricked out hovertank that he calls a Panzer - smuggling goods across insane borders on the soil of what used to be the US of A. He has advantages in that he can plug himself directly into his ride, making him one hell of a pilot with anything that he can jack into. During the course of a delivery that goes badly wrong he meets Sarah, a prostitute/assassin who has had some pretty invasive cybernetic surgery to trick her out as the ultimate weapon, and the most desirable creature for her target. Together they find that, perhaps, there is a way to beat the oppressive Soviet Orbital that so cruelly governs their existence. So it's a bit dated these days (at the time we thought the Soviets un-assailable), and occasionally our hero 'Cowboy' doesn't quite hang together consistently as a character, and maybe the main female protagonist is a bit two-dimensional, but despite the flaws Walter Jon managed an interesting offering anyway. Born in the fallout from Neuromancer, the work is somewhat derivative. Something I do quite like (pure nostalgia) is the feel and flavour that pervades the book of those crappy westerns I used to read as a kid, back before I developed taste. There really is this sense of dust and lonesome cowboys riding under an eternally hot plains sky - only their 'horses' mount cannon and they drive them by direct interface. Perhaps we should call this one Cowboypunk, and see if anyone feels like making a real sub-genre with it.
Time-travel tourism? Well, why not? If somebody can make money out of it, they find a way to do it. This story is about Brendan Doyle, a history-professor-turned-tourist-guide, who takes a bunch of rich tourists through the mysterious Anubis Gates to show them around the timescape and attend a lecture by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Doyle is kidnapped and becomes trapped in the 19th century, with predictably complicated consequences. In addition we have werewolves and body-swapping, evil magicians, a miscellany of monsters, intrigues and bloodshed, plus 19th century Egypt thrown in for good measure. And there's a final twist that you'll probably not see coming. What more can anybody ask for? Why it's on the list: Tim Powers is a master at mixing SF tropes with a goodly dash of fantasy. This one is an intensely involving tale that twists and turns so much that it leaves you dizzy and gasping for air. Requires a goodly measure of attention and—dare I say it?—intelligence on the part of the reader. The technology of and basic ontological issues associated with, time-travel take a backseat in this novel, but that doesn't matter. It's good fun anyway.

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By the 1990s, the world was changing more rapidly than ever. The digital age foreseen by the cyberpunks was already becoming more complex as writers began pushing the ideas forward into areas of posthumanity and nanotechnology among others. At the forefront of this advance was Neal Stephenson, whose vision of the world incorporated a vast slew of notions ranging from economics to artificial intelligence to social structure and more. All of these various elements came together in The Diamond Age.In a future that has been radically transformed by nanotechnologies and ever greater advances in computing, tribes or "phyles" have now become the dominant social structure. Phyles are groups of people brought together by shared values, ethnicity or cultural heritage, while old groupings like the nation state are withering away. To be outside a phyle, therefore, is the lowest of the low. That is the fate of Nell, until she acquires a copy of an interactive book, The Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, which was intended for someone else. By following the advice in the book, Nell is able to rise in the world until, by the end, she has founded her own phyle.Following Nell's story gives Stephenson the chance to show us all the various workings of this world, and how different it is both in technological terms and in its assumptions, from our own. If you want a vision of the future that will stop you dead in your tracks, a vision that is so brilliantly interconnected that it is absolutely convincing, then look no further. From hive minds linked by nanotechnology to the limits of artificial intelligence, this is a world that is different from our own at every point, even though we can see how we might get there from here. Why It's on the ListThe Diamond Age won both the Hugo and Locus Awards. But really it glitters like the title, this is a diamond of a novel, filled with incalculable riches. Stephenson has many fantastic and ambitious works, but The Diamond Age is perhaps his best work to date.Alternative ChoiceFor alternative choices, we'll stick with Stephenson's 3 other most regarded works. Each of these could take this spot on the list, and truth be told, your preference will depend on your personal taste as each of these books offers quite a different experience.Make sure you look at our 'Top 25 Best Cyberpunk Books list' and our Guide to the Cyberpunk Genre for MORE cyberpunk book recommendations.Alternative Choice 1: Snow Crash is almost the apotheosis of the cyberpunk novel, the book that took the idea about as far as it could possibly go, then sent it spinning off in an entirely new direction. Set in our near future, and perhaps 100 years before The Diamond Age, this is a story of a computer virus that affects people, because the virus is language itself. This is 'early Stephenson' but of his his works, it's probably his most easily digestible, most action-packed and 'fun' to read. If you want to start reading Stephenson, this is a good book to start with. It's also a seminal work in the Cyberpunk genre. Alternative Choice 2: Cryptonomicon. Is this even science fiction? Who Knows? Who cares? It's big and fat and brilliant. Ranging from code breaking during the Second World War to the establishment of a data haven in the present day, and including an entirely mythical island, it's a novel that's all about the ways that digital information and cryptography insinuate their way into our very lives.Alternative Choice3 : Anathem is set on the world of Arbre, where technology is strictly controlled and knowledge is limited to the inhabitants of highly regimented secular monasteries. But when an alien spaceship appears overhead, a revolution in ideas is precipitated. Okay, the writing is baggy at times and the made-up words can be infuriating and silly, but if you want ideas-driven science fiction, look no further, this is the place. Philosophy, mathematics, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, this is heady stuff. This is his 'best' most recent work. Stephenson recently released in 2015 his Seveness -- an ambitious work but also overly dry. Anathem is a better work in every regard.

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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.

Ever since the computer became a fixture in the ordinary life of every one of us, it has been one of the most potent images in the idea of posthumanity. Whether it is flesh and blood humans interfacing directly with computers, or the essence of our individuality being rendered in digital form, the computer has become the key to posthumanity. And no one has rendered the process that gets us from here to there with as much detail and conviction as Charles Stross does in this extraordinary novel. Through a series of linked stories, the novel takes us from the near future, where everyone is permanently connected to the internet (so much so that when the hero’s memories are stolen he has difficulty finding out who he is), to alien contact aboard a spaceship the size of a Coke can where the crew are stored as digital information, to a point where the planets of the solar system are dismantled to form a vast solar-powered computer to provide a digital home for infinitely more advanced intelligences than humanity. Why it’s on the list: Winner of the Locus Award, this is one of the very best accounts of a digital future.

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Isaac Van Der Grimnebulin and his girlfriend, Lin, live in the city of New Crobuzun. It is a grimy, harsh metropolis - but then aren't all cities grimy, and harsh? Lin gets an offer of work from the Mob Boss Mr Motley - he wants Lin to create a sculpture of himself, being as how he is a Mob Boss, and feels the need to express his status in the world. Isaac, meanwhile, is approached by one of the Warrior-Bird folks, this one named Yagharek - who (due to a terrible crime against his people) had his wings cut off. Now Isaac is an inventor of sorts, and Yagharek wants his wings back. Isaac begins to work, and collects a veritable flock of flying creatures to study - amongst them a brightly hued caterpillar, which feeds only on the drug called 'dreamshit'. But the caterpillar - later a moth - is not quite a normal moth (or ex-caterpillar), and dreamshit is not quite a common, run-of-the-mill drug either... I have got to tell you that reading about Isaac and Lin's sex life is definitely...umm... interesting. This is because Lin is not human. She is humanoid/insectoid being, complete with head scarab, mandibles, and wings. Communicates by way of hand signs. Go figure. There are remades (as in re-made) - with all sorts of extra bits added in/on/over them (imagine a prostitute with extra...ummm...'tools of her trade'), various brands of ambulatory cactus, demonic beings, spontaneous (and contagious) machine intelligences, and a giant spider with human hands. Magic is referred to as 'Thaumaturgy' (and is a definable science), we have the totalitarian rulership in place and the word 'dystopia' is on the tip of everyone's tongue. Because of all these things this must be Steampunk. Right? Maybe a bit of Mythpunk thrown in? And possibly a largish whack of a sort of pseudo-Biopunk. Actually, I don't know quite how to categorise this book, except that it is not precisely cyberpunk - or even exactly science fiction. I read a review the other day that called it fantasy - but it's not that either. I will say that it is truly a great work: China looks deep into our collective psyche, and pulls out some pretty serious stuff for us to look at, and once you realise that he's writing about us, then only do you begin to really appreciate this book. He pokes a finger into the wasp-nest of human consciousness and swirls it around good and proper, so the wasps are all pissed-off when they come charging out to see who dares disturb their dark, quiet rest. Themes involve compulsion - both good and bad, artistic and perverse; consequence; sexuality - and sexual depravity, and the flaws inherent in being 'people'. What makes our heroes heroic is that they acknowledge their failings, and in owning them, discover some true inner horrors. A worthy read by any standard. You don't have to like it - but if you don't respect it you're either an idiot, or a Mills & Boon fan.

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After a whole string of stories about global warming, biotechnology, gene hacking and other ways we can threaten our global food supply, which together virtually defined the new subgenre of biopunk, Paolo Bacigalupi then took the ideas another stage further with this stunning novel.It's two centuries from now, the sea levels have risen, fossil fuels are exhausted, and biotechnology has created as plagues and pests that have devastated world food supplies. So any genetically pure stock of seeds is a precious resource. Thailand may have just such a stock, and the AgriGen agent in Bangkok will do anything to get his hands on it.This is the setting for a story that involves a sexually-exploited humanoid "Windup Girl", a rogue GM elephant, a deadly new plague, smuggling, extortion, murder, embezzlement, and a coup.It's a vivid, vicious, terrifying and utterly convincing portrait of the future. You'll keep reading because there's so much going on you just have to know what happens next, but every time you put the book down you shiver and think that's exactly what the world is going to be like. The Windup Girlwon the Nebula Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and tied for the Hugo Award with China Miéville'sThe City and the City. It's a fabulous novel that will keep you up nights.

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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 â the only one that really matters â 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.

Nobody wants to live on Earth. The place is a hole, and a lethal one at that. Cass, Moll, and Dosh are working on getting off-world and never coming back. Cass is a high tech burglar, Moll is a metal Sculptor, and Dosh is an actor - when he's not a prostitute, that is. Dosh is savagely beaten by a trick, and the three begin to realise that what they are doing will get them nowhere. Enter Coelacanth Studios with a job offer. The Aris - the wealthy elite - are in search of stimulation for their jaded palettes, and they want reality. And of course these days you can plug into the emotions of the actors. So they take the job, and are told that filming will start soon. Enter the paternally abused Mallore, whom they rescue from her erstwhile pimp, and whom Cass suspects as being more than she seems to be... Life is dirty and cheap, death swift. Very Gibsonesque. Moll and Dosh are stupid, but then they need to be for the plot to hang together, and I thought that a little transparent. That said: the potential future was believable, and the style quite straight-forward, ala Cadigan, or Brust, which is no bad thing.

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Maya Andreyeva is a camera in a world that has become ever more wired, and everywhere is a third world country - except for Africa, where you need to have a blood test before you can immigrate. America fell long ago, and only Africa is still hyper-technological. To be a Camera is to be wired for vid and sound, and to share your perceptions with an audience.Camera's need screeners, who experience the full gamut of the Camera's sensory output in order to filter out the extraneous background crap that interferes with whatever the Camera is filming - and Maya has a new one, who is troublesome. Worse, Maya's Screener is also female, and that is not How Things Are Done. She also only appears to her on the net - another oddity. Soon, however, there is a political coverup, incarceration, and love to look out for... So the idea of a human camera is not exactly new - Gibson's done it, so has Stephenson - but there's something special about this quirky tale. It may be Mr Carter's prose, which is cool, distinctive, self-assured and wry. It might be the inventive and clever sociological insight, or maybe his take on love, or perhaps his believable rendition of Africa as the Top Of The Pile for a change (he refers to America as a place where the highest technological experience most people have is the use of a pitchfork). I think that's brilliant! Almost everyone assumes America and the European Union will be there till the very bitter end - standing strong against the death of Empires. I'm sure everyone felt the same about the Roman Empire back in Julius' days, and I've seen nothing to separate Washington from Rome, except a few years and some space, which two count for little in the human psyche. It's a worthy read, and he's an author worth keeping an eye on.
Almost as important as Greg Egan’s work in describing posthumanity is Bruce Sterling’s sequence of Mechanist and Shaper stories in which posthumanity is divided between those who use mechanical means to augment the human body and those who use biology to shape the body. And that sequence reaches a glorious climax in this novel. The novel follows two one-time friends who become bitter enemies in the on-going battle between the Mechanist and Shaper factions to control the Solar System. In a novel filled with betrayals, assassinations, battles, alien encounters and much more, the central story concerns the constant reimagining of what it is to be human and still cope with the wildly varying conditions of life throughout the universe. Why it’s on the list: To some extent, all four of the routes to posthumanity come into play in this novel, which is a vast, panoramic vision of what humanity may become in space.

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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.

Alternative Choice
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.

Were you one of those hardboiled sci-fi nerds who lamented the travesty that was the Matrix trilogy? If so, you will be mightily pleased that we have placed City of Golden Shadow in number 4 on our list for its amazing story telling and the world of epic virtual reality and artificial intelligence that Tad Williams creates. That aside, this novel will have you questioning whether you were accidentally slipped some LSD in your coffee, with its Alice in Wonderland type hallucination imagery. Don't fear, it's not a crappy fantasy novel - the technology side comes up soon enough in the 21st century portion of the novel, where technological change has been huge and VR interfaces are easily accessible. City of Golden Shadow is a science fiction, cyber punk novel that dives into the near-future, where a virtual network created by "The Grail Brotherhood", a group of rich, powerful, and nefarious men (Felix the oldest man in the world, Jiun "the terror of Asia" and Robert the owner of the world's biggest telecommunications company) threatens the safety of the Earth. Otherland, a universe where anyone's fantasies can become a reality, may take over the world. The reader follows the story of a group of everyday people who try and stop them. And where is the AI, you ask? The AI in this story is quite unique when compared to the other science fiction novels on this list - the intelligence is stolen from the consciousness of a ten year old boy and implanted into a computer, like a hybrid human-computer intelligence. When Rennie discovers what has happened to her ten year old brother after a visit to a VR club, putting him into a coma, she begins investigating and finds many other children in similar situations. Trying to help her brother, Rennie is subjected to violence and terrorism, but she is determined to save her brother.

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Chasm City is the story of what happens when utopia is hit by an epidemic. The story is told through the eyes of Tanner Mirabel, who decides to travel to the city, to avenge the death of a clientâs wife. It seems like an easy job, since he knows who killed her. The murderer is a âpostmortal,â someone who has extended their life through technology. However, when Mirabel arrives in Chasm City, he finds chaos and destruction, hardly the hallmarks of utopia. He soon learns that a virus has struck both humans and machines and brought the city to its knees. Of course, he too is struck by the virus, and Tanner begins having hallucinations about the hero of his own society, which reveal some of the terrible things this man did to build up Tannerâs own society. Why It Made the List It won the British Science Fiction Association award in 2002. Itâs one of the few non-American books on the list. So if you want something more international, this might be the book for you. Read It If You Likeforeign civilizations, revenge plots, mysterious illnesses

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Robin Cook does catastrophic illnesses better than any writer out there. Peter F. Hamilton, James SA Corey.

Wow, what a ride from beginning to end. True to a Neal Stephenson tradition, it ties a number of completely different ideas and themes together into a (somehow) working thread. Stephenson returns to the science fiction genre after nearly 13 years and manages to reinvent the old wheel, but improve on it in many ways.I know Stephenson has been mentioned on this list already with Snow Crash and there are a LOT of classics that could take this place; but Anathem was one of the best recent science fiction releases and because of that is on this list.Science Fiction is not interested with extrapolation, but variation on existing ideas. Big Object hurtling towards earth. Parallel universes. Artificial Intelligence. That's not to say contemporary science fiction hasn't produced some outstanding works that explore these ideas more fully than the pioneers of the genre did, but the fact remains that very few "new" concepts are being explored.Stephenson bucks the current trend by not borrowing from overused science fiction tropes but instead goes back to drawing board and re-invents them pretty much from scratch. Stephenson incorporates work from a variety of sources â physics, mathematics, philosophy, and even literary theory to meld together a big book about everything.It's a strange intoxicating mix that feels both literary and scientific. It's as if you know you are reading a non-fiction book about real ideas and hard science but also fiction. To me it hearkens back to the science fiction days of the 40's and 50's of grand ideas yet with the modern sensibilities of the 2000's. It's a strange mix that just works.Cutting edge quantum physics, parallel universes, alien menace, monks, and more bleed from the pages of this story. Yet all that aside, it's also a coming of age story of a young man full of angst in a strange world that's just as familiar as it is different from our own. Funky, crazy, epic, and intensely personal come to mind when reading Anathem. It really is one hell of a ride. For something different yet familiar, read this work.Rumor is there may be a sequel novel. And that my friends is damn good news.
Feathers come in many colours, and each colour a different thing. There's. Black - painful, gentle; and Pink - for porno, your every eroticism fulfilled. Blues are legal, for dreaming well, and Silver for the techies who make other colours. But the Yellows are something else entirely - dangerous, exciting, a world beyond normal ken. And it is a Yellow that takes Desdemona from Scribble (her brother, her lover), one day, leaving an amorphous alien in her place. Now Scribble must find the same yellow feather - the rarest of rare, Curious Yellow - to get her back. But there's shadowcops and robos and rock and roll dogmen between him and his Feather, and the price may be more than he can bear... Stylistically similar to William Gibson's 'Neuromancer', and often compared to Anthony Burgess' 'A Clockwork Orange', Jeff Noon has made one of the oddest 'future history' worlds ever. His world is a kaleidoscopic, weird, seriously drugged-up, and somewhat incestuous hell-hole, where addiction is traded for a form of enlightenment. The science is improbable, but fun, and never defined enough to become a hindrance to the story. This is not quite Cyberpunk, but has enough similarities to feel fairly comfortable in the company of quite a few of the sub-genres. Gotta say I hope we as a species never end up living in a world like this one . . .

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