Looking for Cyberpunk Novels
November 1, 2006 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Looking for good cyberpunk books. (Authors I like but have already read: Gibson, Stephenson, Miéville, Gaiman, Dick.) Go, Hive mind, go.
posted by govtrust to Writing & Language (43 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Greg Egan has a lot of the elements of Cyberpunk except for a total lack of punk. Axiomatic and Permutation City are both good places to start.
posted by aubilenon at 9:37 PM on November 1, 2006

Richard Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs books (starting with Altered Carbon) are not high art but fun reads.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 9:44 PM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Bruce Sterling - also, there are others mentioned in the Wiki entry that are worth reading as well. Sterling's "Mirrorshades" anthology is a good overview of authors, and I liked "Crystal Express".
posted by Zack_Replica at 9:54 PM on November 1, 2006

I thought Altered Carbon was crap compared to Gibson or almost anyone else. I guess your question depends upon how you define cyberpunk. I have found books that have a sort of noir, gritty feel with lots of historical detail that provides sort of the same experience, especially the cold war stuff by tim powers, who I learned about here. _Declare_ in particular. It's supernatural, but smart and woven through with great historical research, so it feels plausible.
posted by mecran01 at 10:03 PM on November 1, 2006

Hard Wired, by Walter Jon Williams
Voice of the Whirlwind, by Walter Jon Williams
posted by frogan at 10:05 PM on November 1, 2006

Before it was called cyberpunk: the works of John Brunner, particularly Stand on Zanzibar, The Whole Man and The Sheep Look Up.
posted by SPrintF at 10:06 PM on November 1, 2006

If you haven't, read Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man, for some excellent early sci-fi which, decades before there was anything to be cyber, or punk about, established a large number of the tropes which would define the genre in the 80s and 90s: Powerful female characters, body enhancing modifications, low-life, street smart and morally ambiguous anti-heroes, and sharply written and propulsive prose and plots. In my copy of Stars, there's a quote from Gibson which mentions that he looked to Bester for inspiration when writing Neuromancer, and the lineage from one to the other is clear when you've read both.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:10 PM on November 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

Also: Only Forward, Spares and One Of Us by Michael Marshall Smith are somewhat cyberpunk-esque, despite fairly limited use of computer technology. They're more "future noir", I suppose, but they're relatively genre-bending, with as much horror and Douglas Adams-esque comedy thrown in as sci-fi. Worth a shot if you enjoy the humurous aspects of Neal Stephenson.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:17 PM on November 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed Rudy Rucker's Software. He wrote a few sequels as well. I read them all, but they didn't appeal to me as much as the first one. I also enjoyed The Hacker and the Ants, which wasn't quite as weird as Software.

Oh, and since Brunner's been mentioned, also check out The Shockwave Rider. That said, I think Stand on Zanzibar is my favourite from Brunner.
posted by benign at 10:21 PM on November 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the leads. Most excellent!

It's great to see some of the cyberpunk influences listed: everyone knows about Dick and Asimov and suchlike, but I'd never heard of these authors before.

I'm also quite interested in more contemporary authors. I may be mistaken ("Cyberpunk is dead!" keeps coming up in Google searches...), but it seems like a lot of the most interesting growth of the science fiction genre is happening in this area. I've been reading science fiction since I graduated from Hardy Boys and the like, and I'm really weary of the Eddings/Tolkien "quest to find the (thing)" plotline, in all its varieties (if that makes sense).

Many thanks.
posted by govtrust at 10:25 PM on November 1, 2006

Yeah, definitely Bruce Sterling; the 1986 Mirrorshades anthology he edited is must-reading for fans of the subgenre, but I also really liked Distraction (1998), about the 2044 elections in a post-collapse America. It's an idea-filled blast, if a little unfocused towards the end.

Also, she's often overlooked by fans, but I really liked Pat Cadigan's Mindplayers (1987) back in the day - it's right up there with anything else in the first wave, and to a slightly lesser extent, the same goes for Synners (1991). Cadigan wears the cyberpunk label lightly (see here), noting that she wasn't aware of what folks like Sterling and Gibson were doing at the time, was flattered to be included in their company and didn't even have a computer when she wrote Mindplayers. But that just makes her intimate take on virtual mindfucking stand out even more.
posted by mediareport at 10:46 PM on November 1, 2006

Richard Calder's Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things trilogy. More nano-tech than cyber, but certainly punk. Nice fast reads, too.
posted by dong_resin at 10:57 PM on November 1, 2006

George Alec Effinger's Budayeen trilogy.
Jon Courtenay Grimwood's Arabesk trilogy.

Both arabic-flavored cyberpunk noir mystery.
posted by juv3nal at 11:16 PM on November 1, 2006

Seconding most of the recommendations here, esp Walter Jon Williams (really, anything of his except for his earliest stuff is well worth reading, though it's not all cyberpunk) and Pat Cadigan.

Charlie Stross occasionally edges in a cyberpunkish direction, and I like his stuff.

It's a graphic novel, rather than pure text, but Transmetropolitan is good.
posted by hattifattener at 11:54 PM on November 1, 2006

Charles Stross.
Greg Bear.

Jeff Noon (Manchester England in 20 years or so, drugs, sentient dogs, etc).

Alastair Reynolds (hard sf and space opera more than cyberpunk). Century Rain describes a future world with humans split into factions, one called the Slashers (as in /.).

Ken MacLeod (check The Star Fraction, which envisages a world very much like that of Snow Crash, only with more politics (the author was heavily involved in communist politics and also developed an interest in libertarianism, and these themes are explored in interesting ways). (He wrote three sequels, which are worth a look too, but they all stand in their own right).

+1 for Richard Morgan. In contrast to mecran01, I found Altered Carbon engaging, and W Gibson boring (tried to finish Neuromancer twice. No go).
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:19 AM on November 2, 2006

I second everything that's already been said, and add Peter Watts to the recommendations.
posted by Goblindegook at 12:36 AM on November 2, 2006

Brunner & Williams are far & above my favorites but those're already taken so I'll add this one to the list: Trouble & Her Friends by Melissa Scott.
posted by scalefree at 1:10 AM on November 2, 2006

There's also the little-known "Metrophage" by Richard Kadrey which is excellent. I believe it's available either in book form (which I have) or is legally downloadable here.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:12 AM on November 2, 2006

Response by poster: Again, so many great examples!
This thread is becoming a excellent reference.
I was having a lot of trouble finding a serious list online
and had been using an old Stephenson interview on Slashdot as a reading list.

Thanks to everyone who contributes.
posted by govtrust at 1:59 AM on November 2, 2006

Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams is my favorite cyberpunk novel. More action oriented than Gibson, and doesn't take itself as seriously. Not exactly cyberpunk, but the short story True Names by Vernor Vinge is close, and a must read.

I also second the recommendation of Bester, esp. The Stars My Destination even though it is more of an ancestor than an actual member of the genre.
posted by Manjusri at 3:11 AM on November 2, 2006

Yep, I second Michael Marshall Smith. I'm not a big cyberpunk/sci-fi fan, but Smith's books hold up as good novels. Recommended: Spares and One Of Us.
posted by pollystark at 3:43 AM on November 2, 2006

I'll second the Charles Stross. Also, The Jazz by Melissa Scott (And "Night Sky Mine" as well) are very similar to Stephenson and Stross' work, respectively.
posted by SpecialK at 5:37 AM on November 2, 2006

Pynchon is by no means cyberpunk, but the readers who love Gaiman, Dick and Gibson always seem to enjoy Gravity's Rainbow a whole lot. Seriously, GR is always cohabitating the same bookshelf as A Scanner Darkly and Neuromancer.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:04 AM on November 2, 2006

While I've had other people disagree with me, I think that Haruki Murakami has an element of cyberpunk in his writing. Anyway, even if he doesn't, he's an incredible author. Check out Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World or any of his novels. Amazing.
posted by GuyZero at 6:27 AM on November 2, 2006

+1 Jeff Noon... I'd start with either Automated Alice or Vurt and go from there. If you live in the US, some of his books will be very hard to find (Needle In The Groove, Cobralingus) others should be pretty easy to track down (Vurt).
posted by drezdn at 6:46 AM on November 2, 2006

(3rding Stross)

I'm in the midst of reading Accelerando by Charles Stross on my Treo. It seems more cyberpunky to read on a screen than on paper. Free ebook download in multiple formats at accelerando.org.
posted by omnidrew at 6:51 AM on November 2, 2006

I'm surprised at all the recommendations for Walter Jon Williams—I read Hardwired and thought it was hackish crap.

+1 for Greg Bear, especially Queen of Angels and Slant. +1 for Charlie Stross, especially Accelerando, which totally blew my mind. +1 George Alec Effinger. +1 for Bruce Sterling--Holy Fire is his most interesting recent-ish book. A more obscure cyberpunk writer, also formerly of Austin TX is Lewis Shiner--dig up a used copy of Frontera. Rudy Rucker isn't exactly cyberpunk IMO, but his writing is fun stuff, especially Hardware/Software/Wetware. I'm a big fan of Vernor Vinge, though I don't think of him as cyberpunk.

John Brunner's Shockwave Rider is often cited as "proto cyberpunk" (written 1975) and is a good read.
posted by adamrice at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2006

Seeing the Greg Bear recommendation, I want to personally recommend "Blood Music," it's not exactly cyberpunk, but it definitely touches on it.
posted by drezdn at 7:19 AM on November 2, 2006

Hardwired is fairly early Williams; I think his later books are better (particularly Aristoi and Metropolitan, the first being not cyberpunkish at all and the second being cyberpunk-y in feel but not form; Lew Shiner's Slam is similarly a mainstream novel from a kinda-sorta cyberpunk author that has certain sensibilities in common, but it's long out of print; I think it and Deserted Cities of the Heart, basically a Gaiman-ish fantasy novel, are actually more cyberpunk than Frontera). Pat Cadigan's Synners is mentioned upthread; it's about two-thirds of a really great, unread cyberpunk novel, but Cadigan knows even less about computers than Neuromancer-era Gibson. Wilhelmina Baird is the one notable omission I can think of from this list, although her books came after the great Cheap Truth flowering.

James Tiptree's "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" is also worth mentioning.
posted by snarkout at 7:34 AM on November 2, 2006

Another specific Brunner recommendation: The Jagged Orbit. I think Sterling's Zeitgeist and Distraction are his best, plus the stories an A Good Old-Fashioned Future. Definitely Stross' Accelerando. David Marusek's short story "The Wedding Album" (and, most likely, his recent novel, Counting Heads, but I haven't read it yet.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:06 AM on November 2, 2006

+1 for Richard Morgan. In contrast to mecran01, I found Altered Carbon engaging, and W Gibson boring (tried to finish Neuromancer twice. No go).

disclaimer: I teach English and am partial towards more literary stuff. I don't think Neuromancer is as great as I used to think it was, but still, there are times when Gibson's descriptive abilities blow me away. Altered Carbon felt cheap and thin--hard to explain. Like someone writing a bad movie treatment. It had some cool moments, however.
posted by mecran01 at 8:21 AM on November 2, 2006

4th cstross, who is a metafilter member, and also localroger who is a metafilter member.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:31 AM on November 2, 2006

There have been a couple of notable cyberpunk releases in the past year or so. Infoquake by David Louis Edelman is published by Pyr (which is doing some other incredible stuff right now) is fantastic (cyberpunk/finance thriller). River of Gods by Ian McDonald was in the running for the Hugo this year. It should have won (over Spin). It is a cyberpunk meets India. I absolutely loved this one, and will be rushing to buy his upcoming one Brasyl (cyberpunk meets South America) when it's released in 2007.

I also have to recommend Altered Carbon. It might not be a literary success, but it's a hell of a good read. The folllowups with Takeshi Kovacs aren't as great, but they are still a good read. But that first book was pure adrenaline from page one.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 8:37 AM on November 2, 2006

I'm going the 3rd Effinger. The Budayeen trilogy is amazing, and one of my favorite cyberpunk things ever. I also really liked Sterling's Heavy Weather, but others disagree.
posted by griffey at 8:41 AM on November 2, 2006

No cyberpunk collection can be complete without the Stealing the Network series: Stealing the Network: How to Own the Box & Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent. They're not exactly the tightest storytellers but they make up for it with technical depth & accuracy, which is to be expected since they're not sci-fi writers but some of the world's top hackers (one was a member of the L0pht & another wrote nmap). These two books are fictional accounts of some of the wildest hacks each of the authors can think of.
posted by scalefree at 9:57 AM on November 2, 2006

While I've had other people disagree with me, I think that Haruki Murakami has an element of cyberpunk in his writing.

He's a wonderful stylist and writes beautifully about the spiritual vacuum of contemporary market societies. Best of all, he does it with entertaning and often deeply unsettling elements of many different genres (urban fantasy, cyberpunk, etc.)

I love Mieville and Gaiman and Powers and that lot (I think Mieville is the best of that bunch, for what it's worth), but Murakami is a step above in terms of raw ability and polish. His novels are hard to get out of your head.

He does not, however, necessarily deal with cyberpunk in the typical way. I would suggest Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World to the OP, as I think it has the most cyberpunk elements of any of his novels (the nine or so I've read, at any rate). On top of that, I would also venture to say that the culture of surreal introspection that Murakami works within, especially in his earlier sprawing novels (the aforementioned Hard-Boiled, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Dance, Dance, Dance being the three that I immediately thought of), have an effect not at all dissimilar to what I find appealing in cyberpunk. YMMV, of course.
posted by The God Complex at 12:23 PM on November 2, 2006

I meant to say "sprawling", of course
posted by The God Complex at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2006

I have to pile on and also recommend Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I've bought four copies of that book to give to friends. It's superb and definitely has a cyberpunk twang.
posted by donovan at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2006

disclaimer: I teach English and am partial towards more literary stuff. I don't think Neuromancer is as great as I used to think it was, but still, there are times when Gibson's descriptive abilities blow me away.

Yeah, I take your point. I'm going to put Gibson into the category of "authors that I know I should like, but don't" (along with Melville and Austen and Henry James).

Another author who I'm honour-bound to mention here, if we're mentioning Pynchon, is David Foster Wallace. Infinite Jest isn't cyberpunk (though it has sf elements), but it certainly fits in well with works by Pynchon, PK Dick and Stephenson. So it might appeal to those who enjoy those authors.

This has been a great thread to read, I've picked up a huge list of names to check out. Thanks, everybody.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:58 PM on November 2, 2006

Response by poster: zoomorphic:
I am definitely one of those people who shelve Pynchon next to Dick and Stephenson. I would also say since he has not recieved mention here J. G. Ballard is quite good as well.
posted by govtrust at 8:14 PM on November 2, 2006

Coming back to second Melissa Scott's Trouble and Her Friends, though I'm not sure how well it's dated, Greg Bear's Blood Music, Charles Stross (I've only read Singularity Sky but it fits a broad definition of cyberpunk), Richard Kadrey's Metrophage (haven't thought about that one in years, but I remember really enjoying it). I'd also add, from the pulpy hardboiled branch of the cyberpunk tree, the first two books in Richard Paul Russo's near-future San Francisco noir trio. Destroying Angel and Carlucci's Edge are quick, sharp additions to the hardboiled detective tradition that, to me anyway, gave the cyberpunk genre much of its kick.
posted by mediareport at 9:49 PM on November 2, 2006

Response by poster: A final thanks to everyone who contributed.
I certainly have my work cut out for me.
posted by govtrust at 2:16 AM on November 4, 2006

Seconding Ballard.

Just remembered, Philip Kerr has some vaguely cyberpunk stuff too. In particular, A Philosophical Investigation and The Second Angel. I actually prefer his non-sci fi stuff (Berlin Noir trilogy, Dark Matter), but he's worth a look.
posted by juv3nal at 2:10 AM on November 5, 2006

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