Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Cyberpunk

~posted by Meranda T.

There are many people who claim to be the inventors of Cyberpunk but the true inventor is highly debated. Cyberpunk is essentially about technology, specifically the Internet. It’s social decay wrapped in high technology; the ability to directly connect to the internet and interface with it in a virtual fashion; or just vastly superior technology to ours that may have developed a personality of its own.

Cover of the book Trouble and Her FriendsMy first experience with cyberpunk was a series called Shadowrun, which combined a destroyed future, magic, and advanced technology. Out of all the books I’ve read recently,  Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott fit this series the closest. It had the element I appreciated most from Shadowrun, the ability to plug yourself into the internet and see it as if it were real. This book was exciting to read and I’m glad to see the idea of ‘jacking into the net’ being used in another world.

Cover of the book The Windup GirlThis next book is vastly different from Trouble and her Friends. The world is destroyed and humans are trying to survive. Food has been attacked by highbred bugs and constantly changing strains of viruses. People, however, have the ability to manipulate the genetic structure of anything; even food and other people. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi explores this alarming world and adds bits and pieces from the news to give it a bit of realism. Could we end up in this world?

Cover of the book Black GlassBlack Glass by John Shirley spikes out in yet another direction for Cyberpunk. We follow an ex-cop after he gets out of jail and attempts to start a new life and save his brother. However, there are many people who view the ex-cop as dangerous, and who have other plans in mind. One of these ‘people’ is a computer program that has developed a personality and grudge of its own. Just to warn you, this book has a lot of grisly deaths. It is a good read but very graphic.

Cover of the book Pattern RecognitionFor a slightly less depressing book, try Pattern recognition by William Gibson. In this book, footage randomly appears up on the web and this footage has developed a cult following. Our main character takes on the job of finding the creator of the footage, which isn’t as safe or straightforward as you may think. She teams up with a few computer savvy people and, with difficulty, finds the creator.

Cover of the book Cyberabad DaysFinally, Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald takes place in future India. It is a series of short stories that string together. A device known as the lighthoek allows information to be directed right to your brain but throughout the stories this device evolves. I found it to be an interesting combination of Indian culture and futuristic imaginings.

I find Cyberpunk to be a fun genre because of the bizarre hacker culture that drifts beneath all the stories. I hope you’ll find something to like in a Cyberpunk book during your Reading Challenge.

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