What to Read After You’ve Been Let Down by Cyberpunk 2077
So, you’re here because you’ve recently bought one of the most anticipated video games in recent memory, Cyberpunk 2077. Then, you loaded it up on your PS4 only to have it behave like a PS2 game in the worst of moments. And now, utterly destroyed that you’ve spent $60 on a game you can’t play, you’re seeking a tech-heavy fix to make it all okay again. If that sounds like you, then boy have I got you covered.
If you’re just here for some recommendations and have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to video games, that’s cool, too! Feel free to also check out our beginner’s guide to the genre here. Now, let’s dive into these cyberpunk worlds glitch-free (unless they’re the kind that affects our roguish anti-hero characters) and forget all about the travesty of Cyberpunk 2077. There, there.
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
This January 2021 release showcases what award-winning author Okorafor does best: painting realistic and enchanting futures. This is not your typical cyberpunk world. This is Africanfuturist Ghana, where a young girl named Fatima seeks to find a place to belong after mysterious circumstances shun her from all others. This slow, meditative experiment on childhood and loneliness has the trappings of a folktale with the setting of a cyber-dependent world.
Repo Virtual by Corey J. White
Self-described as a “cyberpunk heist story,” this debut novel drops you into the intriguing city of Neo Songdo. There, augmented and virtual reality take precedent, a facade covering a corrupt corporate underbelly. Talk about cyberpunk tropes! But White reinvigorates these archetypes of the genre anew, juxtaposing an endlessly fun heist job with searing social commentary. Plus, the main character’s name is Julius Dax. It really can’t get any better (and more cyberpunk) than that.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
Here’s a book for those of you more interested in the political ramifications of a tech-heavy new world. In this novel’s near future, a search engine monopoly called Information reigns supreme. After developing a system called micro-democracy, the entire globe is split into tiny city-states of around 100,000 people, each with their own governments. Of course, while that might sound great on paper, these micro-democracies fall prey to a giant majority set on keeping its power, no matter the cost.
Company Town by Madeleine Ashby
Company Town follows Hwa, one of the last people in her community who decided not to modify her body biologically. That doesn’t mean she’s not a powerhouse, though, and an influential family hires her to train the youngest member of their clan. Moreover, a killer seems to be on the loose, who could possibly be from another timeline? Ashby crafts a fun setting here and spends valuable time on character growth and relationship building as well.
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
Above all, this novel is just cool. First, the protagonist is a future pharmaceutical Robin Hood pirate who gives medicine to those who can’t afford it. Second, she’s being chased by an emotionally stunted agent and a robot (who might be falling in love?). And thirdly, she travels in her own submarine. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
This is another story that blurs the lines between folklore and science fiction. In dystopian Toronto, young single mother Ti-Jeanne just wants to take care of her child and ignore the various dramas around her. But the local gang has it out for the father of her child, and somehow, ancient gods spark contact with Ti-Jeanne, pulling her into a journey she never asked for. This is a perfect example of how religion and science fiction can combine in a novel, and Hopkinson’s depiction of this near-future world is breathtaking.
Nexus by Ramez Naam
Last but certainly not least on our list is the start to a thrilling trilogy. Its title comes from the name of a “nano-drug” which can link together human minds. Of course, that very cool scientific innovation comes with a few problems. Some seek to better the drug for the future, while others aim to manipulate its powers for evil. So, your standard “this is why we can’t have nice things” kind of story. Nexus tells a truly global story, switching from Shanghai to San Francisco to Bangkok with ease. If you’ve enjoyed books like Michael Crichton’s in the past, be sure to pick this one up.
I hope these stand-ins for Cyberpunk 2077 ease the pain of the letdown just a little. And be hopeful, knowing that as technology accelerates exponentially in our everyday lives, the cyberpunk genre isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.