Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that was born in the 1980s during the rise of the punk lifestyle and the digital revolution. Despite barely being 40 years old, cyberpunk has been widely popular. There’s even a popular video game and tabletop roleplaying game called Cyberpunk. The core of the genre is the idea that the world has fallen apart, but we have cool technology. The heroes are usually hackers, fighters, and rebels just trying to survive in a cruel world. Post-cyberpunk books and media, on the other hand, are a more recent development.
Where cyberpunk has a post-apocalyptic setting, post-cyberpunk is set far in the future where everything has continued on. While the core of the genre is similar to cyberpunk, instead of feeling like the world is ending, there’s a little bit of hope. Plus, we get to keep the cool technology.
While this genre is still new and developing, there are a few key things to keep an eye out for. Post-cyberpunk shares a lot with other futuristic genres, but usually, there will be some sort of body and machine augmentation, distrust of government and corporations, and of course, hyper-advanced technology. These things aren’t required for a post-cyberpunk book, but they do show up often.
There are a lot of incredible works joining the growing ranks of post-cyberpunk books, so below are a few to help you dip your toe into this exciting new genre.
Machinehood by SB Divya
Welga Ramirez is about to retire from her job as a bodyguard when her client is killed in front of her. Her client was a wealthy pill manufacturer, creating the pills that keep people alive and gives them an edge against the A.I. workforce. But a terrorist group called the Machinehood has been targeting pill funders and issued an ultimatum: Stop creating the pills in one week. Welga finds herself swept up in a world of cyborgs and terrorist plots, trying to figure out who the Machinehood are and what their ultimate goal actually is.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Hiro Protagonist is a force to be reckoned with — in the metaverse, at least. In real life, he works delivering pizzas for his uncle’s pizza shop. However, when a strange virus is taking down hackers everywhere, Hiro takes to the metaverse to find and defeat those who threaten to bring about the infocalypse and destroy the only place where Hiro can be who he is on the inside.
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
400 years in the future, humanity has spread out among the stars. In order to combat the long distance, people are able to ship their consciousness across the stars and into new bodies. However, when Takeshi Kovacs has his consciousness downloaded into the body of an ex-thug, he finds himself in a catch-22. Hired by a billionaire to track down the murderer of his last body, Takeshi is ready to do what it takes, even as he becomes embroiled in the world of murderous high society.
Nexus by Ramez Naam
The miracle drug Nexus has allowed humans to link their minds together. Soon, arguments over the capability of the drug thrust a young scientist experimenting on the drug into a world of danger. As factions, businesses, and researchers all over the world work to control, abuse, or improve the drug, there is more at stake than any of them can see. Nexus is the first in a series that will have you at the edge of your seat.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow
At not quite 100 years old, Jules is really just a kid. He might have lived to see the cure for death discovered, but he’s got a long life ahead of him. With all the time on his hands, he’s decided to realize his childhood dream of moving to Disney World. However, all is not well in the Magic Kingdom. A new group is destroying the sanctity of the park, and what’s worse, they killed Jules. Now he’s back from his fourth revival ready for vengeance.
Infomocracy by Malka Older
Twenty years ago the search engine Information united the world into a global micro-democracy. With political parties rising in the last two decades, the Heritage Party has won both all elections since Information took over. Ken is a member of the Policy1st Party and wants to see his party in charge. Domaine wants to prevent Pax Democratica from taking power. And Mishma, an Information Operative, just wants to keep it all together. The three of them find themselves in a world of politics and corruption they never saw lurking beneath the surface.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
Computer programs, or Daemons, are what keep the world running. With technology run by these programs in everything from front doors to emails, Daemons handle an immense amount of information every day. When Matthew Sobol, a revolutionary programmer, dies suddenly, Daemons the world over starts acting up. Humans are no longer in control of their orderly interconnected world, and it’s only going to get worse. Soon, an unlikely alliance develops that just might be humanity’s last hope.
Memories with Maya by Clyde D’Souza
Dan’s work in Augmented Reality Solutions isn’t going well, so he turns to his friend Kirsh who researches artificial intelligence to see if they can create the next big thing in A.R. Entertainment. It’s a risky combination, but what’s the worst that could happen? In the meantime, Dan’s girlfriend, Maya, has to return home to care for her sick father. They are able to continue their relationship through digital surrogates, and it’s going well. However, Dan and Krish’s experiment fails, and they find themselves in chaos.
This hopeful version of cyberpunk is great for those interested in high-tech science fiction without the dystopian setting. There’s no telling where the genre might go next, and I for one can’t wait to see!
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