Grimdark Magazine has long supported indie authors and their eternal attempts to get noticed among the countless other books released by both traditional publishers and the increasingly saturated indie market. We are also huge fans of the cyberpunk genre that we feel did NOT end in the Nineties but has become increasingly relevant every day (or maybe just true).
Whether my own Agent G or the amazing Neon Leviathan book published by our magazine, Grimdark Magazine sees a rainy neon-soaked cyborg-filled future as one of the best ways to explore dark gritty dystopian fiction.
Therefore, we’ve decided to share eight of our favorite indie cyberpunk novels that might otherwise have slipped under your radar.
Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher
Synopsis: You can create AI by burning out human brains to make them so there’s a billion dollar industry for making scans. This includes children trafficked by futuristic cartels. Our protagonists want to kill these guys and with very good reason. However, can our antiheroes affect something that is essential to the functioning of the world’s economy?
Recommendation: Michael R. Fletcher is one of the best indie grimdark authors on the market today and manages to create snappy intense books that just about everyone should check out. This noir story about human trafficking, insane child soldiers in cyborg bodies, and more is fantastic from beginning to end. I really wish he’d get to work on a sequel because this is a world I’d like to visit again.
The Immorality Clause by Brian Parker
Synopsis: The Big Easy in the future is a place where you can indulge in every cyber-delight possible, ranging from gorgeous bioroids to designer mental drugs. The protagonist is a cop who has managed to stay clean and avoid becoming swept up in the system until today. Now he’s broken the Immorality Clause of his contract and become involved with a machine. But is she just a toy or something else entirely?
Analysis: Detective fiction and noir with science fiction elements is the heart of cyberpunk the same way that Westerns and samurai films are the heart of Star Wars. Brian Parker gets that and his Chandler-esque books follow a Detective who would be at home in True Detective if not for the fact he has to deal with robot hookers as well as AI.
Drones by Rob J. Hayes
Synopsis: Memories and emotions can be harvested for sale in the future but the process leaves the donors a numb shell of their former self. For some people, especially those unable to function in normal society, it’s a blessing than a curse. Legalization of the process threatens to affect billions of people, though, and the companies involved have hidden the horrifying side effects.
Analysis: Rob J. Hayes is one of the best grimdark writers currently out there. Where Loyalties Lie is one of my all time favorite novels. Drones is outside his usual genre but no less awesome. While we already have emotion-inducing devices (they’re called drugs), I found this a fascinating Johnny Mnemonic-esque tale.
Tropical Punch by S.C. Jensen
Synopsis: Holo City is a cyberpunk dystopia with neon, Tron Lines, cyborgs, and a decaying corrupt government that Bubbles Marlowe refuses to serve anymore. Now working as a private detective, she finds herself caught up in a murder when she screws up a job. As the back cover says, “Strippers, drugs, and headless corpses.”
Analysis: A fun engaging cyberpunk novel that is perfect for an afternoon’s read. Reusing 1920s slang and updating it to the retro future world of 80s cyberpunk makes for an engaging experience. S.C. Jensen’s take on cyberpunk heroines also feels different than most writers and adds a skeptical irreverent look to many hardboiled detective tropes.
Mercury’s Son by Luke Hindmarsh
Synopsis: In the future, the environment has completely collapsed, and a bunch of religious fanatic Luddites have taken over the world. Like all hypocrites, though, they employ technology to keep control over humanity’s surviving cities. One of them is a cyborg from before the war who now has to investigate the murder of one of their own. But are the answers one that he would be allowed to share even if he finds the truth?
Analysis: I was really surprised by this book, which is a first time novel and yet creates a fully realized world. The environmentally devastated Earth is a a fascinating place with the arcologies, hellish wilderness, blasted slums, and beautiful temples.
The Finder of the Lucky Devil by Megan Mackie
Synopsis: Another fantasy and cyberpunk combination. In the future, the supernatural exists among the megacorporations as well as nanotechnology cyborgs. Rune is possessed of a magical ability to find things and after inheriting a bar is sucked into a complicated magical-economic conspiracy.
Analysis: Megan Mackie’s combination of urban fantasy and cyberpunk is a nice alternative to the usual incarnations of both. Rune is a likable character with a bad history she’s running away from and I liked her romance with cyborg mercenary Saint Benedict. It’s still very much urban fantasy but I think fans of cyberpunk will also like it.
To Beat the Devil by M.K. Gibson
Synopsis: This is more Shadowrun than Cyberpunk 2020 where the apocalypse happened and God didn’t bother to show up. Demons now rule the blasted technologically advanced remains of Earth. The protagonist is a mercenary who plies the black markets between the various feuding city-states with his nano-technology enhancements giving him an ability to fight the supernatural head on. But now someone wants him to fight the corrupt overlords and their armies of criminals. Can you trust the Devil, though?
Analysis: This is a bit off-kilter, being a snark-filled science fiction fantasy, but I love the work anyway. Protagonist, Salem, is a guy who wants to just run packages and rob people but gets pulled into saving the world. There’s a lot of darkness in this literal demon-ruled dystopia but also a lot of fun.
Behind Blue Eyes by Anna Mocikat
Synopsis: The Blue Eyes are a secret cybernetically augmented group of killers working for the mysterious Metatron. Named for angels, Nephilim has always been the odd woman out and becomes more so when she starts to doubt her purpose. But there’s no way to leave the Blue Eyes alive.
Analysis: I encountered this book by accident and really enjoyed it. I’m a huge fan of characters learning to be more human and this definitely provides that in spades. The world the author envisions is brutal, corrupt, and hypocritical but also wealthy for its evils. How much is your soul worth?