Cyberpunk is a genre that hit its peak in the Eighties but has still carried on like the little Replicant that could ever since. Really, it’s now split between present-day cyberpunk (Watch_Dogs, Mr. Robot, Hackers) and far future experiences (The Expanse, Altered Carbon). However, I think the best place to find cyberpunk novels these days is the indie writing scene.
There’s something decidedly cyberpunk about going to writers not affiliated with the big corporations to get your fix about cybernetically enhanced humans, transhumanist themes, social satire, and street samurai action. Cyberpunk comes in many forms and just because we’re living in a world where everyone has a computer monitored by sinister corporate forces trying to sell us stuff doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it still.
As the author of Agent G and Daughter of the Cyber Dragons, here are my latest picks:
Mixing fantasy and cyberpunk is always a potentially volatile cocktail but sometimes it yields gangbuster results. The Technomancer series is up with Shadow Run for the latter. The Biblical apocalypse has happened, and God didn’t show up. As a result, demons now rule the world and humanity must live in their glittering technologically dominated dystopia. Salem is a courier trying to stay under the radar but ends up being recruited to be part of the resistance, whether he wants to be or not.
What is it About?
One hundred and seventy-five years have passed since god quit on mankind. Without his blessing, Hell itself, along with the ancient power of The Deep, were unleashed upon the world. Two world wars and oceans of blood later, a balance was reached. Demonkind took its place as the ruling aristocracy. Mankind, thanks to its ability to create, fell to the position of working proletariat. Alive, but not living. Lucky us. Welcome to New Golgotha, the east coast supercity. In it you will find sins and cyborgs, magic and mystery, vices without virtue, and hell without the hope of heaven. In the middle of it all is Salem, smuggler extraordinaire and immortal recluse, who has lived and fought through the last two centuries, but his biggest battle is just beginning. To Beat the Devil is an incredible adventure full of cyborgs and demons, gods, magic, guns, puns, and whiskey, humor, and heart. Follow Salem as he embarks to discover the meaning of the very nature of what mankind is: our souls. And who is trying to steal them.
Anna Mocikat is someone that I truly love the cyberpunk works of but was wary of her diving into Lit-RPG. It’s just not a genre I jive with. However, I was pleased to see this fascinating story of a normal schlub getting recruited to be a virtual reality bug tester in the near future. It’s just that the bugs can kill you because the system is that realistic. Kai is determined to escape his life of grinding mediocrity and impress the girl of his dreams even if it gets him killed.
What is it About?
Kai thought he had the best job in the world. Playing VR games for a living. Not if the games are trying to kill you. The Net is the last great frontier, a wilderness of data filled with mysteries beyond imagination. Bugs, a harmless annoyance in earlier decades, have become a deadly menace in times when gamers connect their brains directly to VR.
The Cyber Squad has been created to hunt them down. What used to be game QA in earlier times has become an elite, special force of the future, risking their lives to keep users safe. At first, joining the Cyber Squad seems like a dream job to Kai. He is paid well to be part of the coolest troop the gaming world has ever seen. But soon he discovers that the Net is a way scarier place than anyone would have suspected, and bugs are the smallest problem he and his team will have to face.
What if you had Jack Reacher in space? Jack Burner is a drifter who just wants to stay off the grid and out of the way of the military he used to serve. However, the world’s most incompetent terrorists recruit him forcibly during a dentist’s appointment gone wrong and send him on a mission to assassinate an admiral. It is a low-level crime drama in a corrupt dystopian society, it is more cyberpunk adjacent than cyberpunk, but I really enjoyed it. I also loved the sequels that have him do his best to dismantle a human trafficking operation with his oddball collection of fellow mercs,
What is it About?
Deadland Drifter, book one
When a dental appointment goes sideways, former Union operative Jack Burner wakes to find himself drugged and imprisoned, and he’s given a choice: assassinate an admiral or be killed himself.
With no other option, Jack reluctantly accepts the mission, only to find himself being trailed by a mysterious blonde woman who may or may not want him dead. As if dealing with a terrorist group wasn’t enough.
With the fate of the admiral and thousands of lives hanging in the balance, Jack stands in the middle of an event that could ignite a war on the edge of the Deadlands and Union Space. Despite his exceptional abilities, training, and tenacity, even Jack has little to no chance of preventing this particular powder keg from exploding. He’s going to need a miracle.
Deadland Wanderer, book two
A mysterious message beckons Jack to a clandestine “meet”, but something is off. The code is identical to one his team used back in his Union days.
When no one shows, he and Sara find themselves drawn into an investigation to uncover who sent the message…and why.
It isn’t long before they find a trafficking ring that snatches women from shelters and wipes their memories, all with the hope of selling them to the rich and powerful as “wives”. But this is bigger than just a gang of criminals. There’s an organization that stretches across both sides of the law with connections to elected officials at the very top.
4. Dames for Hire by S.C. Jensen
The Bubbles in Space series is one I recommended earlier on this list but rapidly became an adventure series rather than one that stuck to dealing with noir style crimes in the future. The HoloCity Files series, which this is the first example of, is a detective series that remains focused on organized crime in the neon rain-soaked streets of HoloCity. I really enjoy these novellas because they are homages to the classic detective novels of the genre. Bubbles may be a terrible detective but there’s plenty of stupid criminals in the cyberpunk world she inhabits, so it all evens out.
What is it About?
Dirty jobs call for dirty dames. But this is a bit much…
After a suspicious accident costs her a career, an arm, and nearly her life, Bubbles Marlowe needs all the help she can get.
When a friend asks her to do a little dirty work on the side, Bubbles isn’t prepared for just how dirty it’s going to get. An arrogant scientist, a young heiress, a gambling king pin, and a few too many hired guns…
Can Bubbles finish the case before it finishes her?
HoloCity’s femme fatales are out in full force in this cybernoir detective thriller. And these dames don’t mess around.
**Dames for Hire is the first stand alone mystery novella in the HoloCity Case Files series, a companion collection to the Bubbles in Space series. This is sci-fi noir for fans of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, dark and gritty, with a healthy dose of acerbic humor.**
Blade Runner meets The Fifth Element in this eccentric cyber-noir thriller series about a bleak world ravaged by corrupt leaders, mega-corporations, and crime lords… and the washed-up detective who might be the only one crazy enough to take them on.
Bubbles in Space is a darkly funny mashup for fans of space opera, cyberpunk, and hard-boiled noir thrillers. Delve into the secrets of this gritty future world, and buckle up for an adventure full of unusual characters, dark humour, and non-stop action.
Another cyberpunk novel that is more cyberpunk adjacent than a pure example of the genre but stll it has all the grime as well as humor from a dystopian crime-ridden space station in a galaxy far-far away. Hank is a local thug in Belvaille, the absolute ass-end of the universe. He has no interests but eating and breaking heads but is probably smarter than the majority of criminals. He is also the absolute worst person you could recruit in a crisis but, unfortunately, he’s the only one they can recruit when the station becomes the center of a galactic crisis.
What is it About?
Hank is a thug. He knows he’s a thug. He has no problem with that realization. In his view the galaxy has given him a gift: a mutation that allows him to withstand great deals of physical trauma. He puts his abilities to the best use possible and that isn’t by being a scientist. Besides, the space station Belvaille doesn’t need scientists. It is not, generally, a thinking person’s locale. It is the remotest habitation in the entire Colmarian Confederation. There is literally no reason to be there. Unless you are a criminal. Because of its location, Belvaille is populated with nothing but crooks. Every day is a series of power struggles between the crime bosses. Hank is an intrinsic part of this community as a premier gang negotiator. Not because he is eloquent or brilliant or an expert combatant, but because if you shoot him in the face he keeps on talking. Hank believes he has it pretty good until a beautiful and mysterious blue woman enters his life with a compelling job offer. Hank and Belvaille, so long out of public scrutiny, suddenly find themselves at the epicenter of the galaxy with a lot of very unwelcome attention.