Cyberpunk as a genre arguably hit its heyday during the Eighties as a cultural force with Neuromancer and reached its zentih in social acceptance in the Nineties with The Matrix movies. After that, it slowly tapered off and ceased to be something fans got hyped over barring a few high profile video games. This is due to my suspicion that cyberpunk slowly became reality, or at least so similar to our current era of big corporations and hacker criminals that it stopped becoming genre fiction.
There have been a few major successes since then, literature-speaking, though as well as some genuine artistic achievements. Altered Carbon is one fo the strongest entries into this series due to Richard K. Morgan reinventing the darkness and anger of the original works for the Twenty FIrst Century. However, there’s not nearly as many peers to it as there should be and the big corporate produced cyberpunk novels are not what I’m here to discuss.
No, I’m here to discuss indie produced cyberpunk novels that have caught my eye over the past decade and ones that I think are worth reccommending. As a cyberpunk author myself with the Agent G and Cyber Dragons trilogies, I thought I’d share ten novels that I really enjoyed set in the cyberpunk genre.
What is cyberpunk? For the purposes of this list, I’m going to define it as gritty near-future science fiction with an anti-authoritarian bent. For me, you can’t claim the title of “punk” unless you have the latter, which is why The Matrix qualifies even if it’s in the far future. You’re welcome to disagree with the definition but that should let you know what I’m recommending down here.
You Can Be a Cyborg When You're Older
by Richard Roberts
I’m already shooting myself in the foot by making this my first entry but this is a Young Adult novel cyberpunk parody by the author of the Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain series. Vanity Rose is a fourteen year old with dreams of being a street criminal in an orphanage of children being raised by a malfunctioning robot. It’s a wild and bizarre world where a good chunk of the population has joined a transhumanist cult where you spend all your money transforming yourself into World of Warcraft characters.
About You Can Be a Cyborg When You're Older
In the bleak future of West Angel City, Vanity Rose is having a great time. She has a loving robot caretaker, a fake elf for a sister, and she roams the walls of West Angel’s endless skyscrapers every night, thanks to her precious gravity shoes.
What Vanity doesn’t have are money and adventure, but she has a plan to get both. She’s going to walk the dark side, joining the thieves and mercenaries who get paid to do all the little jobs that make a corrupt city go around. She’ll only have to deal with killer robots, vengeance-crazed and not very bright computer programs, cyborg vampires, telepathic capybaras, mean girl mech pilots, and have every homemade weapon in the city pointed at her.
Fourteen is old enough for that, right?
by A.W. Wang
Ten Sigma is an interesting story with the premise of a dying woman signing her consciousness over to the US government to be horrifically brutalized and reprogrammed into becoming a killing machine they will unleash after the imminent collapse of society. This is a fascinating story because it almost entirely takes place in a virtual battlefield and is all about the dehumanizing effect of the training as well as the goal to eliminate every bit of humanity from the woman inside. You know, fun stuff like that. I liked it but it’s a harsh read and the opposite of 10.
About Ten Sigma
In future America, the downloaded people in the Ten Sigma Program fight endless battles. The struggles span all possibilities: face-offs with knives and clubs, skirmishes as Roman legionaries, pitched WW1 trench warfare, duels with ultra-modern hypersonic weapons, and everything in between. The combatants who live are rewarded with another battle until they reach the unreachable score of ten sigmas. Those who die are expunged from the system, gone forever. The methods, so harsh they go beyond anything possible in the real world, are necessary for the end goal: violent evolution to produce the greatest warriors in all of human history.
Who would choose such a fate?
Those with no hope.
On a wintry night, a government representative presents Mary, who is dying of incurable cancer, with the offer: a second chance at life and for those completing the requirements, a return to the real world in a fresh, healthy body. To save her family from bankrupting medical bills, she accepts.
After her consciousness is transferred into the virtual universe of the program, her essence is ripped apart and her memories shattered. She’s reassembled as the perfect killer.
As the life-and-death contests begin, she discovers the true nature of what lies ahead. But, she won’t surrender to the impossible and grimly embarks on the journey to return to her family while trying to save her soul.
Mature readers only: intense combat, graphic violence, horror elements, some sex, some language.
The Blind Spot
by Michael Robertson
In the future, the majority of humanity has relocated to city-states in the middle of large wastelands and farms. One city is divided into the corporate-run have’s while the have-nots actually have done pretty well for themselves by keeping a monopoly on vice as well as transhumanist technologies. However, the careful truce between the two sides is disrupted when someone starts framing the latter for terrorist activities against the former. Unless it’s not a frame job at all. Our badass cyber-heroine and a very bland corporate douche must find out.
About The Blind Spot
Would you betray everyone you cared about to prevent a war?
Marcie Hugo isn’t a typical sixteen-year-old. She’s been cybernetically enhanced to have superhuman strength, speed, and judgement. For what it’s worth.
She’s lived her entire life in the Blind Spot; a garish neon rat run of debauchery. Since her mum’s murder several years ago, her dad’s method for keeping her safe has been to imprison her in her own home. But with her sixteenth birthday looming, she’s going to start making her own life choices. She’ll finally move away to the neighbouring Scala City with the boy she loves.
But when a terrorist attack raises the temperate of the cold war between the Blind Spot and the city, her vision of her planned future begins to fade. If she’s to put her bad memories and the home she hates behind her, she has to act.
With time running out and tensions rising, Marcie finds herself as the only person who can prevent the conflict. But it comes at a cost. Does she betray everyone she cares about and sacrifice her chances with her one true love, or does she let thousands die in a preventable war?
Join Marcie as she tears through dystopian cityscapes and neon flooded alleyways in an attempt to put all the pieces into place to prevent a war that could kill everyone.
The Blind Spot is a cyberpunk novel and the first book in the Neon Horizon series.
The Machine Killer
by D.L. Young
A former hacker turned corporate shill works with a professional bodyguard for one last job to clear their debts with a famous computer corporation. No points for guessing that it goes completely sideways. The Machine Killer is a fun and entertaining book with a lighter side of cyberpunk criminal activity as well as likable protagonists. AIs, cybernetic cults, and more. It feels like a very well-written video game.
About The Machine Killer
For fans of Altered Carbon, Neuromancer, and Snow Crash.
Former data thief Maddox thinks his life of cybercrime is behind him. He couldn’t be more wrong.
Forced by a powerful executive to steal a priceless dataset, Maddox uncovers the shocking truth of a secret war between AIs, raging inside the digital universe known as virtual space. Plunged headlong into the deadly conflict, he’ll have to use every trick he’s ever learned—and a few he’s never tried before—if he wants to survive.
Sprawling megacities, rogue AIs, black market tech, modded mercenaries, and a pulse-pounding story filled with unexpected twists. If you love gritty, hardcore cyberpunk, you won’t want to miss this series!
by Luke Hindmarsh
The world’s environment has been destroyed by a combination of war as well as mismanagement. Unfortunately, this has led to the rise of a brutal eco-friendly anti-technology theocracy that uses slave labor to clean up the environment while living in the cities under their control. Because they’re enormous hypocrites, they also employ a cyborg investigator and scientists to keep themselves in power. I very much enjoyed this very interesting one-shot novel about a well-developed dystopian world.
About Mercury's Son
Valko can see the last moments of a victim’s life.
It comes at a price – a scrap of flesh cut from his brain and replaced with an implant. Bound to a drug that lets him use his insight but brings with it the pain of synthetic emotion, he’s at war with himself.
Now a killer has found a way to hide from him and two people are dead. Someone wants to keep their secrets buried. The trail leads out into the wasteland where death flies on the wind as nanotech dust.
Manipulated and betrayed, Valko must get to the truth before his time runs out.
If he only knew who to trust maybe he’d have a chance, but a man with an artificial soul can’t even trust himself…
To Beat the Devil
by MK Gibson
Cyberpunk and fantasy have been two things combined since Shadow Run. It’s something that can work very well if done right and very poorly if done wrong. MK Gibson does it the right way with his oddball premise of the Biblical Armageddon happening and God not showing up. Demons now rule the Earth with humans having only one advantage: technology. Salem is a nanotech cyborg courier who gets caught up in the setting’s bizarre politics.
About To Beat the Devil
An alternate cover for this ASIN can be found here.
175 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.
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 recluse immortal, who has lived and fought through the last two centuries, but his biggest battle is just beginning.
To Beat The Devil: A technomancer Novel 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.
Ghosts of Tomorrow
by Michael R. Fletcher
Ghost of Tomorrow is one of my all time favorite cyberpunk novels and is my favorite Michael R. Fletcher novel. In the future, scans are the most important commodity in the world but the only way to make them destroys the brain they’re taken from. This has led to a horrific trade in children and other people that our heroes are trying to shut down. There’s also a cyborg ninja-cowboy that is hunting them. It is fun, dark, comedic, and weird. I can’t wait for the sequel.
About Ghosts of Tomorrow
The children are the future.
And someone is turning them into highly trained killing machines.
Straight out of school, Griffin, a junior Investigations agent for the North American Trade Union, is put on the case: Find and close the illegal crèches. No one expects him to succeed, Griffin least of all. Installed in a combat chassis Abdul, a depressed seventeen year old killed during the Secession Wars in Old Montreal, is assigned as Griffin’s Heavy Weapons support. Nadia, a state-sanctioned investigative reporter working the stolen children story, pushes Griffin ever deeper into the nightmare of the black market brain trade.
Deep in the La Carpio slums of Costa Rica, the scanned mind of an autistic girl runs the South American Mafia’s business interests. But she wants more. She wants freedom. And she has come to see humanity as a threat. She has an answer: Archaeidae. At fourteen, he is the deadliest assassin alive. Two children against the world.
The world is going to need some help
The Immorality Clause
by Brian Parker
The Immorality Clause is a genre throwback that works exceptionally well. There’s plenty of private detective cyberpunk novels out there but few that are actually done well. Here, Zach Forrest is a cop in New Orleans circa 2066. Easytown is what they call the cybernetic Red Light District with its perfectly like-like sex dolls and virtual reality fantasies. A murder gets Zach drawn in but he soon finds himself involved with a machine that is too human to be real. I really enjoyed it and read the entire series in one go.
About The Immorality Clause
Easytown’s robotic pleasure clubs are a serial killer’s playground.
The futuristic slum in eastern New Orleans is a violent place where any vice can be satisfied–for a price. As long as the taxes are paid and tourists continue to flock to the city, businesses are allowed to operate as they see fit. Easytown has given rise to the robotic sex trade; where the robots are nearly human and always better than the real thing.
Homicide detective, Zach Forrest, has never trusted the machines. When a string of grisly murders rocks the city, he must hunt down the killer responsible. With no witnesses, and no evidence, Forrest embarks on an investigation that will challenge the very scope of reality. Will Forrest find the killer before he becomes the next victim?
Bubbles in Space: Tropical Punch
by S.C. Jensen
As mentioned, there’s a lot of cyberpunk detective novels. However, are there many cyberpunk detective novels where the protagonist is objectively terrible at her job and has an AI sobriety pig named Hammett? Bubbles in Paradise is a ridiculous affectionate parody of cyberpunk tropes that, nevertheless, works as a serious story. Tropical Punch is a great introduction to Bubbles Marlowe and she’s an amazing character with a great combination of the ridiculous with the surprisingly poignant (as she’s a recovering alcoholic trying to get her life back together).
About Bubbles in Space: Tropical Punch
Strippers, Drugs, and Headless Corpses…
All in a day’s work for Bubbles Marlowe, HoloCity’s only cyborg detective.
What do an anti-tech cult, a deadly new street drug, and the corrupt Chief of Police have in common?
It’s a question Bubbles can’t afford to ask. Last time she got curious it cost her job, a limb, and almost her life.
She vows to stay out of police business. But with a newly minted cybernetic enhancement, a semi-legal P.I. license, and a knack for asking the wrong kind of questions… Vows are made to be broken, right?
When a seemingly straightforward contract takes a dark turn, heads literally roll. Unless she wants to take the fall for the murders Bubbles needs to cut town on the double. Too bad she’s flat broke.
And now, she’s being hunted.
In a world where dreams can be made real for the right kind of dough, nothing is as it seems. One thing is clear, though. The dream is becoming a nightmare.
As the body count stacks up, Bubbles realizes she’s made a terrible mistake.
Can she figure out who is behind the murders before she loses her head?
Warning: Don’t read this book if you hate fun, glitter, sassy robotic pigs, or hard-boiled badassery. Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett are rolling in their graves, but this is all their fault.
Get Punched! Buy it now!
Behind Blue Eyes
by Anna Mocikat
Behind Blue Eyes is one of the best cyberpunk action thrillers I’ve ever read. Nephilim is a cybernetically enhanced assassin who has a job to execute any person who leaves the Olympias Corporations arcologies. She and her fellow Guardian Angels are all brainwashed but an EMP results in her getting back her free will–but how long can she keep it? And does she really want it when all the choices lead to nothing but death? Really well-written and I’m continuing to follow the story.
Honorable Mentions: The Finder at the Lucky Devil by Megan Mackie (urban fantasy cyberpunk), Neon Leviathan by T.R. Napper (cyberpunk anthology), Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Story by Jim Bernehimer, and Psychodrome by Simon Hawke (reprinted formerly traditionally published cyberpunk)
About Behind Blue Eyes
They are the perfect hybrid between human and machine. They are the next step in the evolution of mankind. And when they come after you, nothing in the world will save you…
Welcome to the year 2095.
Society has overcome everything that made human life miserable. It has become perfect — so perfect that it needs killer cyborgs to hunt down anyone who disagrees with it.
Nephilim isn’t just any elite death squad member, she is the best. Genetically and cybernetically enhanced, she and others like her strike terror wherever they go. Knowing nothing besides this lifestyle, Nephilim believes that she’s part of a righteous cause.
But everything changes for her after a hostile EMP attack.
She suffers a severe system glitch. Disconnected from the grid, for the first time in her life, she begins doubting the system.
Shortly after the attack, she meets Jake, a 100% biological human, and she falls in love with him. Jake helps her discover that everything she had believed in was a lie.
But there is no walking away from the system. And soon, Nephilim finds herself hunted by members of her own death squad.
In an era of deception, who can she trust? And in this brave new world, is there a place for love between a human and a cyborg?
Behind Blue Eyes is a fast-paced, cinematic action story in a dystopian setting. It’s a modern-day version of 1984 – on steroids.