Another Eight Indie Cyberpunk Novel Recommendations

Arvekt by Craig Lea Gordon

Cyberpunk as a genre arguably hit its heyday during the Eighties as a cultural force with Neuromancer and reached its zentih in social acceptance in the Nineties with The Matrix movies. After that, it slowly tapered off and ceased to be something fans got hyped over barring a few high profile video games. This is due to my suspicion that cyberpunk slowly became reality, or at least so similar to our current era of big corporations and hacker criminals that it stopped becoming genre fiction. 

There have been a few major successes since then, literature-speaking, though as well as some genuine artistic achievements. Altered Carbon is one of the strongest entries into this series due to Richard K. Morgan reinventing the darkness and anger of the original works for the Twenty First Century. However, there’s not nearly as many peers to it as there should be and the big corporate produced cyberpunk novels are not what I’m here to discuss.

No, I’m here to discuss indie produced cyberpunk novels that have caught my eye over the past decade and ones that I think are worth recommending. As a cyberpunk author myself with the Agent G and Cyber Dragons trilogies, I thought I’d share eight novels that I really enjoyed set in the cyberpunk genre. 

What is cyberpunk? For the purposes of this list, I’m going to define it as gritty near-future science fiction with an anti-authoritarian bent. For me, you can’t claim the title of “punk” unless you have the latter, which is why The Matrix qualifies even if it’s in the far future. You’re welcome to disagree with the definition but that should let you know what I’m recommending down here. 

You can find my previous indie cyberpunk recommendations here.

You Can Be a Cyborg When You’re Older by Richard Roberts

Cover for You Can Be a Cyborg When You're Older

Synopsis: In the bleak future of West Angel City, Vanity Rose is having a great time. She has a loving robot caretaker, a fake elf for a sister, and she roams the walls of West Angel’s endless skyscrapers every night, thanks to her precious gravity shoes.

What Vanity doesn’t have are money and adventure, but she has a plan to get both. She’s going to walk the dark side, joining the thieves and mercenaries who get paid to do all the little jobs that make a corrupt city go around. She’ll only have to deal with killer robots, vengeance-crazed and not very bright computer programs, cyborg vampires, telepathic capybaras, mean girl mech pilots, and have every homemade weapon in the city pointed at her. Fourteen is old enough for that, right?

Recommendation: I’m already shooting myself in the foot by making  this my first entry but this is a Young Adult novel cyberpunk parody by the author of the Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain series. It’s a wild and bizarre world where a good chunk of the population has joined a transhumanist cult where you spend all your money transforming yourself into World of Warcraft characters.

Read You Can Be a Cyborg When You’re Older by Richard Roberts

Ten Sigma by A.W. Wang

Cover for Ten Sigma by A.W. WangSynopsis: In future America, the downloaded people in the Ten Sigma Program fight endless battles. The struggles span all possibilities: face-offs with knives and clubs, skirmishes as Roman legionaries, pitched WW1 trench warfare, duels with ultra-modern hypersonic weapons, and everything in between. The combatants who live are rewarded with another battle until they reach the unreachable score of ten sigmas. Those who die are expunged from the system, gone forever. The methods, so harsh they go beyond anything possible in the real world, are necessary for the end goal: violent evolution to produce the greatest warriors in all of human history.

Who would choose such a fate? Those with no hope. On a wintry night, a government representative presents Mary, who is dying of incurable cancer, with the offer: a second chance at life and for those completing the requirements, a return to the real world in a fresh, healthy body. To save her family from bankrupting medical bills, she accepts. After her consciousness is transferred into the virtual universe of the program, her essence is ripped apart and her memories shattered. She’s reassembled as the perfect killer.

As the life-and-death contests begin, she discovers the true nature of what lies ahead. But, she won’t surrender to the impossible and grimly embarks on the journey to return to her family while trying to save her soul.

Recommendation: Ten Sigma is an interesting story with the premise of a dying woman signing her consciousness over to the US government to be horrifically brutalized and reprogrammed into becoming a killing machine they will unleash after the imminent collapse of society. This is a fascinating story because it almost entirely takes place in a virtual battlefield and is all about the dehumanizing effect of the training as well as the goal to eliminate every bit of humanity from the woman inside. You know, fun stuff like that. I liked it but it’s a harsh read.

Read Ten Sigma by A.W. Wang

Psychodrome by Simon Hawke

Cover for Psychodrome by Simon HawkeSynopsis: Fresh out of the service, Arkady O’Toole decides to celebrate with a gambling spree on the Ginza Strip of Tokyo. He winds up in a game of high stakes poker with some heavy duty players and makes one very big mistake — he wins. The man he takes down for a bundle turns out to be a warlord of the Yakuza and Hakim Saqqara doesn’t like to lose.

Trying to escape Saqqara’s vengeance, O’Toole enters Psychodrome, the ultimate reality game show, where the audience can link up and access the thoughts and feelings of the players as they compete in an intergalactic scavenger hut where reality blurs with computer simulation and winning could make a player rich … or it could make him dead.

And as if that wasn’t challenging enough, O’Toole discovers that Saqqara’s ninja assassins have followed him into the game ….

Recommendation: This may be cheating but Psychodrome is a fantastic cyberpunk novel that has moved from traditional publishing to independent. It’s a great story of a Running Man-esque reality TV show that our protagonist finds himself on. 

Read Psychodrome by Simon Hawke

The Blind Spot by Michael Robertson

Cover for The Blind Spot by Michael RobertsonSynopsis:  Would you betray everyone you cared about to prevent a war? 

Marcie Hugo isn’t a typical sixteen-year-old. She’s been cybernetically enhanced to have superhuman strength, speed, and judgement. For what it’s worth.  She’s lived her entire life in the Blind Spot; a garish neon rat run of debauchery. Since her mum’s murder several years ago, her dad’s method for keeping her safe has been to imprison her in her own home. But with her sixteenth birthday looming, she’s going to start making her own life choices. She’ll finally move away to the neighbouring Scala City with the boy she loves.

But when a terrorist attack raises the temperate of the cold war between the Blind Spot and the city, her vision of her planned future begins to fade. If she’s to put her bad memories and the home she hates behind her, she has to act.

With time running out and tensions rising, Marcie finds herself as the only person who can prevent the conflict. But it comes at a cost. Does she betray everyone she cares about and sacrifice her chances with her one true love, or does she let thousands die in a preventable war? Join Marcie as she tears through dystopian cityscapes and neon flooded alleyways in an attempt to put all the pieces into place to prevent a war that could kill everyone.

Recommendation: In the future, the majority of humanity has relocated to city-states in the middle of large wastelands and farms. One city is divided into the corporate-run have’s while the have-nots actually have done pretty well for themselves by keeping a monopoly on vice as well as transhumanist technologies. However, the careful truce between the two sides is disrupted when someone starts framing the latter for terrorist activities against the former. Unless it’s not a frame job at all. Our badass cyber-heroine and a very bland corporate douche must find out.

Read The Blind Spot by Michael Robertson

The Machine Killer by D.L. Young

Cover for The Machine Killer by D.L. YoungSynopsis: A notorious data thief thinks his life of cybercrime is behind him. He couldn’t be more wrong. Forced by a powerful executive to steal a priceless dataset, Blackburn Maddox uncovers the shocking truth of a secret war between AIs, raging inside the digital universe known as virtual space. Plunged headlong into the deadly conflict, he’ll have to use every trick he’s ever learned—and a few he’s never tried before—if he wants to survive. If you love gritty, near-future scifi, you won’t want to miss this series!

Recommendation: Blackburn Maddox is a hacker with a decent job at a legitimate corporation. He should have known it was too good to be true. It turns out his employers hired an ex-con in hopes of getting him to do a heist for them and he’ll lose his awesome new job if he doesn’t cooperate. Hooking up with an annoying kid, a treacherous fence, and a beautiful combat cyborg–the heist is just the beginning. I like The Machine Killer because it’s a more PG-13 adventure novel take on cyberpunk. It’s full of fun nods to other cyberpunk fiction and the start of a very entertaining series that I binged in a week.

Read The Machine Killer by D.L. Young

Arvekt by Craig Lea Gordon

Cover for Arvekt by Craig Lea GordonSynopsis: Will the battle for humanity be fought in reality? Or in her mind? Tannis Ord is a black-ops cyborg assassin. A highly-trained human-weapon, dedicated to hunting down the last of the brain hacking syndicates. There’s just one problem…

Her mind was broken from a psychotic episode. Neural programming erased her trauma, gave her a fresh start. But when an old brain hacker cult resurfaces, and a sentient AI is set to govern the entire human population, she starts seeing things. Horrors that can’t possibly be real… that make no sense… that only she can see. Ix, their AI Guardian, is abducting innocent citizens from the streets in broad daylight. And it’s using the Augmented Reality it has thrown over the world as cover. Is the AI hellbent on humanities destruction? Or is her mind tearing itself apart again?

ARvekt is an explosive story, fusing action and intrigue into a journey full of twists and turns where you won’t know what’s real and what isn’t. If you enjoy books with amazing plots and characters, set in a stunning futuristic world, then input ARvekt into your brain now.

Recommendation: Arvekt is a great example of classic 1980s cyberpunk. If you like ninja cyborgs working for all-powerful super computers with questions of augmented reality. I really enjoyed this book, which had a kind of hyper-kinetic and fascinating characters that charge head on into the reader. I love Tannis and her relationship with Ix as she struggles to figure out whether she’s insane or the only one seeing things clearly. The ending feels like it precludes any sequels but I understand there’s a prequel already out.

Read Arvekt by Craig Lea Gordon

The Tronic by Rosie Record

Cover for The Tronick by Rosie RecordSynopsis: “This is one of the best dystopian novels I’ve read—a great balance of suspenseful action and compelling reflection on how much we are all controlled by our circumstances.”

This gritty cyberpunk novel introduces readers to a world devastated by systemic corruption, religious extremism, and two opposing forces vying for control of California-Annex. Come dive into the dystopia of tomorrow and follow this anti-hero’s journey to a cliff’s edge.

Too tall to see beyond and impossible to breach, the iconic wall encompassing California-Annex is nothing more than a forgettable reality for generation PW1.6. But while the general populace is addicted to Shine and manipulated by the incessant n-sub messaging, Fiona Tronick is different. She’s seen as a grungy dealer, but she’s really a street operative for The Agency- and she’s always been loyal to her employer. But as civil unrest simmers throughout the Annex, Tronick is confronted with information that makes her question The Agency’s agenda and loyalty. She starts to see the lies go deeper and wider than she could have ever imagined. From Topside Stacks to the underbelly of the Trenches, everything is connected. Connected to her.

Follow Tronick as she rubs shoulders with political leaders in coastal mansions, confronts religious zealots in flooded San Diego, reconnects with her outlaw brother, and taps into the Annex’s gritty underworld in this dystopian-cyberpunk adventure.

Recommendation: A dark and dystopian California separated from the rest of the country by an enormous wall. Rosie Record creates a great protagonist in Fiona Tronik. She is loud, brash, and very entertaining but sadly has one of the most horrifying backstories in fiction. This includes such triggering topics as child abuse, sexual violence, and more. Rosie Record handles the subjects with maturity as well as tact, though, while also delving into multiple other issues like information control as well as philosophy. It is perhaps the most hardcore and punk of the cyberpunk series listed here and all the stronger for it.

Read The Tronic by Rosie Record

Bubbles in Space: Tropical Punch by SC Jensen

Cover for Strippers, drugs, and headless corpses? All in a day’s work for Bubbles Marlowe, HoloCity’s only cyborg detective. Does she like her job? No. Is she good at it? Also no. She can’t afford to be too good. The last time she got curious it cost her a job, a limb, and almost her life. But when a seemingly simple case takes a gruesome turn, and Bubbles discovers a disturbing connection to the cold-case death of an old friend, she is driven to dig deeper. And deeper. Until what she uncovers can never be buried again…

Recommendation: As mentioned, there’s a lot of cyberpunk detective novels. However, are there many cyberpunk detective novels where the protagonist is objectively terrible at her job and has an AI sobriety pig named Hammett? Bubbles in Paradise is a ridiculous affectionate parody of cyberpunk tropes that, nevertheless, works as a serious story. Tropical Punch is a great introduction to Bubbles Marlowe and she’s an amazing character with a great combination of the ridiculous with the surprisingly poignant (as she’s a recovering alcoholic trying to get her life back together).

Read Bubbles in Space: Tropical Punch by SC Jensen

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CT Phipps

CT Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He's the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga. He is also a frequent contributor to Grimdark Magazine.