10 Cyberpunk Novels for Beginners | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Cyberpunk can be traced back to the New Wave science fiction of the 1960s and ’70s. However, it was popularized in 1984 with William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Different from its transhumanism counterpart, which celebrates an exploration of human-machine interaction, cyberpunk novels offer an interesting glimpse into a future where technology and humanity merge, often in a dehumanized future, with a counter-culture and anti-authoritarian worldview. If you want to explore the genre, here are a few cyberpunk novels for beginners to get you started:

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan is a thrilling science fiction novel that features a world where human consciousness can be digitised and transferred between bodies. The story follows Takeshi Kovacs, a former soldier turned private investigator, who a wealthy man hires to investigate his own murder. Kovacs navigates a world where bodies are expendable, and immortality is a real possibility.

Altered Carbon explores a dystopian future where technology has advanced to the point where consciousness can be digitized and transferred. This concept is essential to examine the relationship between humanity, technology and mortality, making it an excellent starting point for newcomers to the genre.

We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K Dick

We Can Remember It for You Wholesale is a short story that follows the musings of protagonist Douglas Quail, a menial worker who yearns to experience Mars. He reaches out to Rekai Incorporated where he has memories implanted in his mind so he can experience his dream of what it would be like to go to Mars. However, the experience seems to fail and unlocks memories that he’s never had before.

We Can Remember It for You Wholesale explores the themes and concepts that are central to the cyberpunk genre, delving into topics like memory, identity, the blurring of reality and virtual experiences. This short story is perfect for anyone who wants to deep their toes into the well of cyberpunk.

Accelerando by Charles Stross

Accelerando by Charles Stross is widely regarded as a significant work in the cyberpunk genre and is a great choice for new readers. The story explores the concept of the Singularity, a point of technological advancement where artificial intelligence surpasses human intellect. It takes place in a future world characterized by post-humanism where AI has outpaced human capabilities, biotechnological beings have displaced humans and nanotechnology dominates the landscape. Within the setting, we follow the Macx clan as they navigate the challenges of an accelerated world.

Through the Macx clan, this Accelerando dives into its themes and examines the impact of the Singularity on society and the evolution of human consciousness through these changes.

Infomocracy (Centenal Cycle) by Malka Ann Older

Infomocracy is a science fiction novel set in a future world where nation-states have transitioned to a global micro-democracy system. In this world, Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, facilitated the change to this new political system. The corporate coalition party Heritage has recently won two elections, and now another election is approaching, with the Supermajority party in tight contention.

This novel delves into the themes of power, corruption and the challenges associated with maintaining a functioning political system on a global scale. Following three characters with varying degrees of motivations, Infomocracy is worth checking out if you are looking for a political cyberpunk novel.

The Peripheral (Jackpot) by William Gibson

Taking place in two time periods, The Peripheral follows Flynne Fisher and Wilf Netherton. While Fisher tries to help her brother, who is suffering from neurological damage caused by his time in the Marines, while working in a 3D printshop. Wilf leaves several decades into the future where society has experienced a slow-motion apocalypse resulting in a division separating the haves from the have-nots.

The Peripheral combines futuristic technology, virtual reality and the exploration of societal divisions. In this novel, readers can experience a story that showcases how the actions of individuals in one time period can impact the lives of those in another, for good or ill.  

The Sleepless by Victor Manibo

A suspenseful thriller, The Sleepless is centred around journalist Jamie Vega, one of the Sleepless – individuals who do not need to sleep. When Jamie’s boss dies under suspicious circumstances on the verge of a controversial corporate takeover, he becomes sceptical of the official explanation of suicide and begins his own investigation.

The Sleepless combines mystery, corporate intrigue, and ethical dilemmas, as it explores the dark consequences and dangerous secrets. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they follow Jamie’s journey.

The Windup Girl (The Windup Universe) by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl is a highly acclaimed science fiction novel set in a chilling near-future world. The story follows Anderson Lake, a company man working for AgriGen as their Calorie Man in Thailand. Disguised as a factory manager, Anderson scours Bangkok’s street markets in search of extinct foodstuffs, hoping to exploit their lost calories for profit. It is during his exploration in Bangkok that he encounters Emiko.

Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl raises thought-provoking questions about the implications of corporate power, genetic manipulation, and socio-economic inequality. This gripping and immersive exploration will give readers a glimpse into a future that feels both disturbingly possible and eerily relevant to our own world.

Nexus (Nexus) by Ramez Naam

Nexus is an absorbing science fiction novel that takes place in a near-future world where a revolutionary drug called Nexus allows users to connect their minds and share thoughts and abilities. The story revolves around a young scientist, who unknowingly improves the capabilities of Nexus. He finds himself thrown into a dangerous world of international espionage and intrigue. Soon it becomes clear that there is much more at stake than anyone initially realises.

Nexus is a fast-paced look into a cyberpunk world, with suspense and excitement, perfect for newcomers to the genre.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

Autonomous is a thrilling science fiction novel that follows the adventures of Jack, a renegade pharmaceutical pirate. Jack travels the world in a submarine, acting as a self-proclaimed Robin Hood figure, fighting patent laws to make life-saving drugs accessible to the underprivileged. However, her latest creation, a drug that enslaves people to their work, is causing deadly consequences and spreading a dangerous epidemic throughout what was once North America.

Autonomous is a fast-paced novel that paints a picture of a world affected by rampant drug addiction and the pursuit of justice against all odds.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi is a captivating science fiction novel that immerses readers in a post-human universe. Set in a future where people can digitally store and manipulate memories, the story follows master thief Jean le Flambeur as he navigates a complex world of heists, virtual prisons, and conscious battles within the quantum realm.

The Quantum Thief takes readers on a thrilling journey through a future solar system filled with marching cities, advanced technology like shared memory communication, and a race of ultra-evolved humans who originated as a guild in a virtual world.

There we have it! These cyberpunk novels offer a good start for those who are new to the genre. Have you tried any of these books? Do you have any recommendations for newcomers to the cyberpunk genre? Comment below and let us know!

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