I grew up watching The Matrix and remember how cerebral the movies were. To be honest, my 10-year-old self had a hard time understanding the deep philosophical themes and just enjoyed the excellent martial arts sequences. It wouldn’t be until a few years later when I’d begin to appreciate how the movies put a mirror to our society.
That said, it’s been a long time since the original movies, and I couldn’t be more excited about The Matrix Resurrections. It has given me a solid reason to watch the original trilogy and remember why I love Keanu Reeves so much (not that it takes much). And besides, why shouldn’t an iconic trilogy take advantage of the streaming wars? There are plenty of millennials like myself who need the comfort of the stories we grew up with (I’m also looking at you, Amazon: don’t let me down with Lord of the Rings).
The Matrix brought cyberpunk to the forefront and incorporated martial arts and philosophical themes pertaining to existentialism and self-discovery. Science fiction explores probable realities, meaning that while the worlds are generally futuristic or even alternative, they are still reflections of our own. The Matrix put a mirror in front of its viewers and makes them question their why they want to better themselves, why they fear being controlled, and even why they value decadence.
Although there aren’t really any books that can top the iconic movie series, there are plenty of excellent science fiction books like The Matrix that touch on similar philosophical and scientific themes.
Waste tide by Chen Qiufan, Translated by Ken Liu
Mimi is a member of the lowest caste on Silicon Isle, which is located off of the southeastern coast of China. Silicon Isle is the global hub of electronic waste recycling, and Mimi toils as a “waste girl.” But her hopes and dreams of a better life are dashed when a deadly virus threatens the island, and a civil war breaks out between the haves and have nots.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
If you liked The Matrix, then you’ve probably given Bladerunner a chance as well. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a dystopian science fiction novel that is set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco and is the basis of the movie. Earth has been devastated by nuclear war, leaving most life either endangered or extinct. The story follows a bounty hunter names Rick Deckard who must “retire” six androids who’ve escaped.
Sword Art Online: Aincrad by Reki Kawahara
Many of the action scenes in The Matrix were influenced by anime action sequences, so it’s just right that I include an action-packed manga here. Sword Art Online takes place in 2022 (yes, I know) and is centered around VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). The tech is top notch, but when it goes live, players are horrified to realize that there’s no “log off” button.
Warcross by Marie Lu
Yet another book with a virtual realty game in the middle, Warcross isn’t just any game but (of course) a way of life. Its fan base is global, and Emika works as a bounty hunter for players who bet on the game illegally. Emika needs some quick cash, but a hack gone awry leaves her in Warcross during the Championships, making her an overnight sensation.
Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix (Smart Pop) Edited by Glenn Yeffeth
If you’re interested in nerding out about all the philosophy and science featured in The Matrix, then this book is for you. Taking the Red Pill presents all the technology, religion, and philosophy woven throughout the film and contains essays from scientists to social commentators. The essays attempt to answer everything from whether Cypher was right to whether we are in fact living in the Matrix.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Altered Carbon takes place four centuries from now, when humans are living in interstellar space on colonies linked by the voyaging ships and data-casting. Human consciousness is digitally sent between colonies and downloaded into physical bodies. But when Takeshi’s consciousness and skills are downloaded into the body of an ex-thug, he’s offered a deal that draws him into an interstellar conspiracy. The Matrix explores the nature of human conscious, and there’s some similar themes explored in Altered Carbon.
The Immortality Game by Ted Cross
This story will take you to Moscow in the year 2138 in a world that’s barely recovering from a complete collapse of society. It is here that Zoya is busy prepping corpses for funerals while dreaming to get enough funds to have a child. But everything changes after her brother demands that she bring him a package. Before she can make the delivery, he is murdered by mobsters. Zoya realizes that the package contains two data cards holding the key to immortality and promptly goes on the run.
Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie
Aisha is desperate when her brother gets the plague and knows that her salary won’t cover his treatment. With no other options, she volunteers to be a Scela, a mechanically enhanced solider who protects the governing body of the Fleet. Key has also decided to become a Scela, but can’t remember why she volunteered. Both Aisha and Key discover that there are dark secrets lurking under the Fleet and must fight for their way of life.
Cyber Mage by Saad Hossain
Cyber Mage will bring you to Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2089. The city is infamous for its population density but has found a way to thrive amid a global climate apocalypse: pumping biological nanotech into the environment to create a self-sustaining microclimate. However, the tech forces people to remain in place, because their body temperatures are used as part of the regulation. Everyone is getting understandably restless. In this environment, the mercenary Djibrel is being tracked by Murzak, a Cyber Mage. The two will eventually have to join forces when they discover a new type of AI in the abandoned Kingdom of Bahrain that could change everything.
Nexus (Nexus #1) by Ramez Naam
An experimental nano-drug named (you guessed it) Nexus can link the minds of humans to one another. Of course, there are those who want to improve the drug, others who want it destroyed, and those who want to exploit it. When a researcher is caught trying to improve Nexus, he’s thrown into an international conspiracy with impossibly high stakes.
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