If you are a lover of cyberpunk reads like me, it is likely that you have already read a few of these books. For others, just warming up to this thrilling genre, this list of the top 10 cyberpunk books can be a great starting point to build your library. Happy Reading!
1. Neuromancer by William Gibson
Considered to be the progenitor for the very genre of cyberpunk, Neuromancer is a must read for anyone who loves the genre. Involving sentient machine life, this book envisaged the net as we know it before it came into being – and many other concepts that we now take for granted. A gripping storyline, detailed characterization and brilliant writing style, Neuromancer is also simply a very good book, apart from being cyberpunk. A must read.
2. Mirrorshades by Bruce Sterling
A very well selected anthology of cyberpunk short stories compiled by Sterling with a clear intention to define the genre and expose readers to its rich body of stories. Featuring authors like Gibson, Sterling himself and James Patrick Kelly, this is an anthology that cyberpunk lovers will cherish.
3. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick
From the author of the story that spawned the famous ‘Blade Runner’ film, this is Philip Dick’s trademark work. Set in post-apocalyptic San Francisco, where radiation poisoning has ravaged the planet, this is a work of doom and gloom. Featuring bounty hunters and intelligent androids, this novel also promises a thrilling ride to the end.
4. Akira by Katushimo Otomo
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What list of the top 10 cyberpunk books would be complete without a Japanese author or two?
Neo-Tokyo in 2019 is a city rising out of the ashes of World War III. Follow six volumes of delightful graphic detail, action and mindboggling plot as Otomo weaves this graphic novel, scattering it with color and explosions. Involves turf wars, ESP-based action and epic characterization.
5. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
A recurring author, and with reason – Dick is one of the most famous names in sci-fi and cyberpunk. This book takes us down the dark road of drug abuse, addiction and subsequent rehabilitation, all through the eyes of narcotics double-agents. Set in an age of invasive and highly effective surveillance technology, the book makes for a brilliant read.
6. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
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Named after what Stephenson saw when an early Macintosh machine crashed, Snow Crash is also a futuristic drug that causes detrimental effects in both the virtual and real worlds. When the protagonist Hiro (a pun on the obvious) decides to uncover the reasons for these effects, we embark on a cyber-adventure, complete with intricate sequences and alternative histories for our world as we know it. A fascinating read.
7. Virtual Light by William Gibson
Another returnee to our list, Gibson strikes hard with the first book of his second trilogy -‘Bridge’. Virtual light follows Chevette Washington, who unfortunately steals a pair of hi-tech glasses from a man at a random party. The result is a high thrill chase through the book – complete with bounty hunters, the police and other cyberpunk delights. The delight gets multiplied when we realize that the glasses contain a plan to rebuild San Francisco through nanotechnology.
8. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
A time when the world is ruled by bio-engineering companies and calorie based energy, we see a dystopian future depicted in this gem of a book. Complete with economic hitmen, human destitution through slavery and other such concepts that make the cyberpunk genre of books thrilling like no other , The Windup Girl makes for very interesting reading.
9. When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger
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Portraying the new superpowers to rise out of the middle-east, this book presents a rich alternative future. A futuristic murder mystery lies at the heart of this plot – complete with cyborgs, androids and a very engaging protagonist with a fierce sense of independence.
10 Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Lastly, a very interesting addition to this list. Ready Player One is a book about the perils of virtual reality-based gaming, and delves into the gaming universe depicted by an invention termed ‘OASIS’. When the protagonist finds a key that promises to lead players to the Easter Egg* in the game, at the end of which is a multibillion dollar award promised by the creator, the world goes stir crazy. Read for insights into a world rarely explored in fiction.
- *Note: Easter Eggs are signatures left behind by the programmers of the game – most notably in the form of secret levels or other such traces.