Cyberpunk 2020 books

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33 Best Cyberpunk Books of All-Time (2021)

In case you haven’t noticed, cyberpunk is huge in 2019. Coming hot off of Netflix’s Altered Carbonadaptation, the Blade Runner 2049 cyberpunk movie, and the Cyberpunk 2077 video game coming soon, cyberpunk’s popularity is at an all-time high.

While we clearly love sci-fi as a whole, cyberpunk is probably our second favorite subgenre – second only to post-apocalyptic books, of course.

Below, discover over 30 of our favorite cyberpunk novels of all-time, including well-known classics and a few obscure titles you probably have never heard of. Here are the best cyberpunk books of all-time:

A Song Called Youth Trilogy by John Shirley (1985)

Genre polymath John Shirley has written songs, screenplays (including The Crow), TV episodes (including peak O’Brien-In-Trouble DS9 episode “Visionaries”), and dozens of novels and collections. He’s even won a Bram Stoker award for his horror stories. But he may be best known for his A Song Called Youth trilogy which began with 1985’s Eclipse.

Shirley uses vibrant Cold War colors to posit a dystopian future dominated by a new Soviet Union, and his characters plant and steal memories, plug the biological equivalent of flash drives into their brains, and attempt to resist both an authoritarian invader and an authoritarian government emboldened by the outside threat. As in other important cyberpunk works, charismatic and manipulative religion plays a big cultural role, as do rapidly adapting working-class people who develop their own social structure far beneath the high-level war games. There’s even a private corporate military and aerial drones that spy on civilians.

Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan (2002)

Richard K. Morgan’s debut novel won the Philip K. Dick Award the same year. The book was adapted into a Netflix series beginning in 2018, but before that, it stood out as a callback to “classic” cyberpunk with the flash, surrealism, and pulp-like action that suggests. The world of Morgan’s hero Takeshi Kovacs is one of modular minds: during people’s lives, their memories and minds are “backed up” to a cartridge that sits inside their spinal column, and that piece can be used to restore their life to another body or “sleeve.”

Kovacs is a detective of sorts within an exploitative and hard-boiled society, and as is the case today, his society has arbitrary limits on the technology that exists. These edge cases are where Kovacs finds his work. Morgan gestures at the future of cloud computing in the way rich people are able to offload storage of their minds to remote facilities they can access anytime. (It’s true: the cloud is just an adaptation of longtime responsible corporate data backup policy.)

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (2009)

One of the best things about cyberpunk is that it adapts to the era in which it’s written—in the Philip K. Dick story that inspired Minority Report, for example, the Tom Cruise character smokes in his spaceship and has a devoted, sitcom-y housewife. Paolo Bacigalupi’s award-winning debut novel The Windup Girl deals with one of the greatest fears many people have in the 21st century: corporations that make genetically engineered crops have strangled the world food economy so that everyone must buy proprietary seeds that live for just one year. (Honestly, this is not even very fictional: many farmers already must buy proprietary seeds each year for annual plants that don’t produce their own seeds.) The isolated country of Thailand is the only resistor, with a fully functional stock of old-fashioned seeds that it keeps under lock and key. A secretive corporate aggressor and an augmented next-generation human are trying to end all that.

It’s one of our favorite modern cyberpunk books of the past 10 years.

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and the Sprawl Trilogy it leads off, may be the single best-known cyberpunk work. Gibson had written successful short stories and was considered a rising star within science fiction, but his work embodied the way cyberpunk was a kind of counterculture movement within larger science fiction. He loved technology but saw that it had huge potential for darkness, especially in the corporate explosion of the 1980s.

If one giant company can make tens of thousands of absorbing arcade games that transmit some kind of grim subliminal instruction, can they then hamstring the whole population? That kind of scenario laid the groundwork for many features that became essential to cyberpunk. Even within a high-tech future, someone must still stand apart and view the situation critically. Gibson’s disgraced hacker Henry Case is recruited by charismatic mercenary Molly Millions, and their boss repairs Case’s body and mind, creating a debt that must be worked off.

China 2185 by Liu Cixin (1989)

Buy it here

Fiction in China has long been a subtle—or, sometimes, very unsubtle—form of commentary on whatever the status quo is at the time. A few hundred years before the largely agreed-upon earliest western novel, the 1605 book Don Quixote, China had two massive classical novels that followed and commented on the lives of historical rulers and legendary figures. In the tumultuous early 20th century, novelists wrote social commentaries about the difficult-cum-impossible lives of working peasants in rapidly modernizing China.

And in 1989, China’s leading science fiction writer, Liu Cixin, released a cyberpunk novel called China 2185. Without the influence of western history and culture, Liu (Cixin is his first name) is free to tell stories based in the ebb and flow of Chinese history, making them a completely different paradigm from anywhere else. In China 2185, Liu begins with a programmer using the surviving remains of Chairman Mao Zedong to build an AI that can govern a virtual country parallel to the China of reality.

Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow (1989)

Ghost in the Shell first appeared as a weekly feature in the same young men’s manga magazine that was still running Akira when Ghost and the Shell started in 1989. Some of the best cyberpunk works use the idea that technology can empower marginalized people, and the heroine of Ghost in the Shell, a public security officer named Motoko Kusanagi, has both a cyborg body and a “cyberbrain” following a terrible childhood accident that would otherwise have killed her—technology is the emergency parachute for her consciousness to endure.

In an interesting parallel to people with transplanted organs or replaced joints today, those in fictional and futuristic Niihama who are augmented or even fully cybernetic are vulnerable to invasive and existentially threatening infections: they’re just software and hardware hackers instead of immune-system rejection. It’s no surprise that this cyberpunk series is named for a philosophical idea, “the ghost in the machine,” which refers to the duality of mind (consciousness) and physical body posited by philosophers for centuries. In fact, a cultural history of dualist belief is what makes many cyberpunk themes resonate so much. How can our bodies better survive in order to amplify our minds and allow them to live? That question only has meaning if you believe your mind is not truly a part of your body.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (2012)

Michel Faber is a Dutch novelist most familiar now for writing the 2000 novel Under the Skin, adapted into a film starring Scarlett Johansson as a seductive, human-hunting extraterrestrial. In The Book of Strange New Things, Faber considers everyday life on an extremely faraway space station, where humans from Earth meet and influence local extraterrestrials with completely, truly foreign customs and culture.

Main character Peter, perhaps a reference to Jesus’s apostle and the first Christian church leader, is a corporate-hired missionary with a profoundly difficult job: translating Scripture and its ideas not just from English into another language but into the language family of a world with a completely new and separate paradigm. In the meantime, Peter’s wife sends time-delayed messages as the Earth disintegrates due to climate change.

Like China Mieville’s 2010 novel Embassytown, Faber uses rapid space travel, language barriers, and almost mystically futuristic technology to recontextualize very human problems.

Mirrorshades (Edited) by Bruce Sterling (1986)

The anthology Mirrorshades, published as a collection in 1986 but made of stories previously published all over, is like the Now That’s What I Call Music of ‘80s cyberpunk, including a duet by dueling legends Bruce Sterling and William Gibson.

This collection became a reliable, all-hits single volume that was easy for both readers and scholars to pick up, and Mirrorshades is cited in nearly 160 (and counting!) items just on JSTOR. Other authors in the book whose work also appears elsewhere in this list include Pat Cadigan, Rudy Rucker, and John Shirley.

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A spiritual sequel, Rewired, is a similarly high-powered anthology of what’s considered postcyberpunk. James Patrick Kelly had a story in Mirrorshades and went on to co-edit Rewired, which includes many of the same authors as Mirrorshades as they continued to work within and through cyberpunk into different themes and modes. Added to the mix are rising stars like Elizabeth Bear and Paolo Bacigalupi.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (2010)

Some of the best science fiction deals in abstraction writ large to the point of surrealism or entire settings made of metaphors—Neal Stephenson considers a world where math is the only true religion, or Ursula K. Le Guin images a species of humans made with blended DNA from corn. Hannu Rajaniemi’s debut novel The Quantum Thief came out when the Finnish mathematician was just 32, and the book swirls together an almost unfathomable number of ideas, winking references, and literary inspirations.

The main character is retired from the theft game following a long sentence in “Dilemma Prison” (!) but is broken out by someone who wants him to take on just one last job. And in the spirit of Moriarty or G.K. Chesterton’s Flambeau—this thief is named Flambeur, a totally unrelated word referring to gambling instead of fire—this charismatic thief must manipulate his surroundings to pursue his own goals. In this case, in outer space in the posthuman far future, that means finding and restoring a full set of memories that he’s hidden in a faraway city.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow (2003)

Content warning for discussion of suicide in this entry. As the name suggests, Cory Doctorow’s 2003 debut novel takes place in the quaintest section of Walt Disney Corporation’s Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Like Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, this book has the feeling of a futuristic It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, with madcap crossing storylines and strong satire of Disney and similar corporations, the ineffectual government, anti-aging technology, and social-media clout, underpinned by very real and heavy implications about the meaning of life after all consequences are removed.

The hero Jules is stuck on a frustrating committee that ends up threatening his life, or trying to; his best friend is a retired techno-missionary who’s fresh out of holdouts to convert and trying to cope with suicidal despair in a society where everyone lives forever. The revenge, backstabbing, and spaghetti-coded friendship dynamics all point to the deep frivolity of this “adhocracy”—selfish, ruthless corporate actors willing to kill over an antique animatronic President.

Synners by Pat Cadigan (1991)

Pat Cadigan’s second novel Synners appeared in 1991 and won the Arthur C. Clarke award for that year. Cadigan herself was an explicit and proud feminist who coined the term “technofeminism” to describe how cyberpunk themes had naturally spun off into a feminist take on the future that informed how people thought about feminism within the real-life status quo.

Which is to say: cyberpunk works often considered the mind to be the only essential part of someone’s personhood. People swap bodies and attach cybernetic limbs and live lives within ungoverned virtual realities. What, then, causes power dynamics between genders? In any case, Cadigan’s novel is canonical cyberpunk and offers characters in a huge variety of non-mainstream (to us, and in 1991) families and relationships who are thriving and even uniquely positioned to take on their world’s problems.

Cadigan’s most recent major award is a Hugo for a 2013 novella, and she’s currently adapting Alita: Battle Angel stories into novels.

MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood (2003)

Some consider Margaret Atwood’s 1987 novel The Handmaid’s Tale cyberpunk, but her MaddAddam trilogy, beginning with the 2003 novel Oryx & Crake, capitalizes on the very cyberpunk idea of a dystopian future built on “lowlife” technology and invasive corporations.

Atwood has distanced herself from the idea that the MaddAddam books count as science fiction, whether because of unwarranted genre stigma or something else — who knows. In the first novel, Oryx & Crake, we follow a mysterious drifter named Snowman who must care for a group of humanoids he calls Crakers. In due course, we learn where the Crakers originated, and what the world is where Snowman lives.

Like many other great cyberpunk books, Atwood’s novels are darkly, almost blackly, funny. The novels comment on the nature of genetic experimentation, use of technology in taboo and extreme areas of culture, and more. And it’s never very clear who’s really the antagonist or not.

Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling (Updated 1996)

Cyberpunk luminary Bruce Sterling created a world he called Shaper/Mechanist, named for the dichotomy between genetic engineers and hardware and machine makers. In tandem with work on Mirrorshades and in other foundational cyberpunk magazines, Sterling wrote a novel-length story within the Shaper/Mechanist universe.

The 1996 version called Schismatrix Plus combines the novel with all the short stories Sterling wrote about the same universe. Sterling’s gift for language and neologisms gives his vision of the future a lot of legitimacy, and within a fully-realized setting, he nimbly tells a complicated story.

Kirkus gave Schismatrix a starred review, and the reviewer noted, quixotically, “Sterling often knows things his readers don’t.” That sense of depth, and depths yet unseen, is what’s anchored Sterling for his decades-long career. It’s telling that the hero of Schismatrix is born to Mechanists and retrains himself as a Shaper, giving him a valuable meta-perspective as he travels the galaxy.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (1992)

Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash just narrowly edged out his 1995 novel The Diamond Age for inclusion here. (Why not read both?) Hiro Protagonist is a biracial hacker and pizza delivery person in a near-future dystopic Los Angeles where most people live much of their lives in a shared online reality. His accomplice is a skateboarding courier named Y.T., and Stephenson has coined a futuristic skateboard wheel that adapts to the terrain in realtime—honestly a similar progression to what happened in real life, from skateboard’s first brittle clay wheels into softer and more flexible polyurethane ones.

Together, Hiro and Y.T. and their extended network of allies must work to stanch the spread and flow of a tech-neurological virus, the titular Snow Crash, named for an existing computer crash that looked like TV static.

Or, if you’ve never seen TV static, the iconic HBO show intro screen. Stephenson’s novel is as funny as it is biting, implicating corporate America, megachurch-style televangelism, the mafia, and more.

The Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan (2013)

Chen Qiufan’s single novel The Waste Tide was published in China in 2013 but appeared in English just this year. Chen (his last name) published a handful of successful short stories before The Waste Tide, and his novel uses the real-life area where Chen was born and raised as the setting for a near-future dystopian plot about technology-induced classism, the question of disposing or recycling massive amounts of futuristic garbage, and who can and should do the worst jobs.

Three competing families of fully organic humans have a nearly dynastic hold over Silicon Isle, with recycling fortunes that are threatened by a sudden change in the social power dynamics. Their employees are powerless cyborgs altered to be durable in the harsh work environment and placid in their subjugation, with poverty and debt that can virtually never be overcome.

Middle management is the kind of violent enforcer gang embodied by the Man with No Eyes from Cool Hand Luke.

Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott (1994)

Prolific novelist Melissa Scott’s 1994 novel Trouble and Her Friends is both a classic cyberpunk work and a rare example that centers not just a woman but a gay woman. India “Trouble” Carless is a hacker who finds she’s being impersonated online and must travel to find the man pretending to be her. As in Snow Crash, the protagonist’s ex plays a big part in the story — Trouble’s is just a woman instead of a man. It’s symbolically interesting that Trouble’s communities of LGBTQ+ hackers form a kind of shadow network whose invisibility allows Trouble to work on finding her impersonator without drawing a lot of attention.

Trouble and Her Friends unfolds like a modern mystery show, where much of the detective work is done online, but in 1994 that was the future, and we’re not using brain implants and other transhumanist augmentations. Or, at least, we’re not yet.

Marid Audran Trilogy by George Alec Effinger (1987)

George Alec Effinger is one of the relatively few cyberpunk writers who has died—in his case, nearly 15 years ago at just 55, after a lifetime of health problems whose astronomical related bills forced him to declare bankruptcy. The novelty in his Marid Audran Trilogy, beginning with 1987’s When Gravity Fails, is that it’s set in a world with a dominant Muslim power after the United States, Europe, and Soviet Union have turned each other into fine-grain gravel in escalating military and political conflicts.

Marid Audran is the protagonist, a scrappy hustler who creates the appearance of being modified the same way other people are by using a lot of stimulants and projecting an air of confidence. As with the other heroes in this same vein, Audran is an outsider by both circumstances and personal philosophy—he could undergo augmentation but is fearful of the danger and the implications for his mind and body.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (1968)

Philip K. Dick’s formative cyberpunk novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? had already been adapted into Ridley Scott’s legendary movie Blade Runner before most “true” cyberpunk classics came out. And not just Blade Runner — dozens of adaptations of Dick’s stories have been made, including the movies Total Recall, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau (oops, they can’t all be winners), and Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly; and the TV series The Man in the High Castle and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

Do Androids Dream is set in futuristic 1992, where humanity has been nearly wiped out and many have subsequently moved off-world to survive. Harrison F — I mean, Richard Deckard is a bounty hunter who finds and destroys androids, which in Dick’s novel are more like human clones than robots: made of organic materials fashioned into true likenesses of human internal organs and appearances, with only minute differences. Who deserves to live, and should an android even count as a “who” instead of a “what”? These questions underpin not just Dick’s novel but all of cyberpunk.

Daemon by Daniel Suarez (2006)

Cory Doctorow’s 2003 novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was released simultaneously in traditional print and online as a Creative Commons work, but Daniel Suarez’s debut novel Daemon was fully self-published—the first and only work on this list to do so.

One thing Suarez does have in common with many others here, though, is that he first worked in technology before beginning to write fiction. Suarez uses the “reading of the will” cold-opening trope, and his dying programmer releases a daemon—an autonomous program that in this case is seen as an infectious and destructive virus. (Keen-eyed adult observers will remember bounce emails from the “mailer-daemon” long ago).

The program begins killing people and creates its own shadow internet for its supporters to coordinate their attacks. The dead programmer is named Sobol, which may be a reference to the Sobol Sequence: a way to distribute particles “randomly” but still evenly covering an area.

Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (2008)

Lauren Beukes’s debut novel Moxyland was published when she was just 32—this seems to be a feature of our list rather than a bug—after ten years of professional reporting and nonfiction writing around the world. One of the best ways cyberpunk and postcyberpunk adapted into the 2000s is by explicitly keeping the social problems of today intact in their posited futures, and Beukes, a white South African, uses a technologically explosive but rigid and controlling future government to pull apart seams that are already bursting today.

Her book explicitly considers racism within a pluralistic society instead of dream casting a diverse group in order to show that the future is unrecognizably ideal and resolved. In this future Cape Town, residents are kept in line by the threat of being disconnected—not allowed online in any sense, like disgraced hackers are in real life. The fear of disconnection is, in fact, a strong unifying force that sets the plot in motion.

True Names by Vernor Vinge (1981)

Vernor Vinge is one of the older writers in this list and published his first work in 1966. For many, many years, he taught computer science at San Diego State University, where he officially retired in 2000. As the popularizer of ideas like cyberspace and the singularity, Vinge borders on being a true futurist more than part of “just” cyberpunk—he’s even part of the loose collective of philosophers, theoreticians, and scientists known as the Edge.

He also has one of the highest numbers of major awards of anyone on this list, and one of the highest batting averages of award-winning works within his bibliography. For about 20 years, True Names was virtually out of print, and even now it can only be purchased as part of a padded anthology that includes a bunch of basically unrelated stuff of varying quality. It’s a shame Penguin’s Great Ideas series never picked this slim volume to reprint.

The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Tiptree, Jr. (1973)

Content warning for discussion of ableism, suicide, and murder in this entry! James Tiptree, Jr. is one of two pen names used by prolific science fiction writer Alice Sheldon, who won six major awards in a relatively brief career — just 20 years of publishing work until her death by suicide in 1987.

Her 1973 novella The Girl Who Was Plugged In is considered a landmark of early or proto-cyberpunk and won the Hugo Award for best novella that year. The story is part Instagram influencer culture and part Cyrano de Bergerac, and not only includes most of what was eventually dubbed “cyberpunk,” but seems to uncannily foreshadow what has become the norm in 2019.

In 1991, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award was established in Sheldon’s honor, but in September 2019, its governing body finally acknowledged the ugly nature of Sheldon’s decision to kill her disabled husband. The award will likely be renamed.

The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology (Edited) by Milton J. Davis (2015)

For as long as there’s been science fiction, there have been Black science fiction writers and the sub- or even completely separate genre of Afrofuturism. Octavia Butler won two Hugos in the 1980s for shorter works, but N.K. Jemisin was the first Black woman to win the Hugo for best novel in 2016.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes the relaunched Black Panther comic—an Afrofuturist icon from the 1960s—whose first issue appeared in early 2016 and was nominated for a Hugo itself in 2017. In the midst of these big steps into the white mainstream, writer Milton Davis floated an idea balloon into the thriving online communities of Black sci-fi writers.

What resulted is 2015’s The City, all stories fitting the term “cyberfunk,” meaning cyberpunk with a strong and distinctive Afrofuturist identity. In fact, for so much of cyberpunk to take place in massive cities that don’t explicitly include Black people feels a little disingenuous.

Transmetropolitan Series by Warren Ellis (1997)

Warren Ellis’s comic series follows Spider Jerusalem, a reluctant and subversive journalist in a far, transhumanist future who’s called back for just one more job. In Jerusalem’s case, the last job is actually two books he must finish in order to conclude a publishing deal. Drawn back to the crowded, dystopian city he attempted to retire to get away from, Jerusalem dedicates himself to exposing at least the lowest-hanging fruit of injustice in his society.

Before writing the Transhumanist series, which was a big seller for DC Comics’s Vertigo imprint especially for a non-superhero title, Ellis worked for Marvel including on the debatably cyberpunk-adjacent Marvel 2099 series. Since Transmetropolitan concluded in 2002, Ellis has been almost literally everywhere within comics, writing for Marvel, DC, and countless smaller imprints and presses.

He’s published novels and written scripts, including for the Netflix Castlevania series. Gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem lives on in our hearts but has never appeared outside the series.

Akira Series by Katsuhiro Otomo (1982)

Many Western fans know Akira only as the iconic 1988 anime film adaptation, but the series began in 1982 as a manga that began in a weekly young men’s magazine and was eventually collected into six standalone volumes. In fact, the manga hadn’t concluded at the time the movie was made and released, instead wrapping up in 1990 and eventually being colorized and released in English to western markets.

Akira tells the story of “Neo Tokyo,” a setting concept reused many times since, where survivors of an apocalyptic event caused by the title character have cobbled together a new life. But the disaster they experienced has shifted social and political dynamics completely, and a handful of people in Neo Tokyo have strong psychic and telekinetic abilities that are attractive to an authoritarian government.

Main characters Kaneda and Tetsuo struggle and grow apart (to put it lightly) after Tetsuo discovers his own superhuman gifts.

Accelerando by Charles Stross (2005)

Like Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross chose to release his only standalone novel to date, Accelerando, as a hard-copy book for sale and an online Creative Commons work at the same time. “Accelerando” is Italian for “accelerating,” used in music but also by science-fiction writers to indicate how rapidly technology is developing. (Think of Moore’s Law, a computer science idea that computing power doubles every two years, meaning it increases exponentially, faster, even at that set interval).

Stross uses a world setting he’s visited in previously published short stories to assemble one narrative here, a kind of pastiche of the sweeping, generational novels of writers like James Michener. Instead of infighting over inherited wealth, Stross’s characters globe- and even planet-trot to avoid the IRS and upload their minds to the stars.

So-called “venture altruist” Manfred Macx hearkens ahead to the current movement against what writer Anand Giridharadas calls “The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”

Interface Dreams by Vlad Hernandez (2013)

Cuban-born novelist Vlad Hernandez moved to Barcelona in 2000, but he grew up, studied, worked, and published his first book all in Cuba. The cyberpunk themes of invasive authoritarian government and class systems exacerbated by access to technology are more real and personal in the context of today’s one-party states like China and Cuba, and Hernandez’s work is uniquely Cuban.

In Interface Dreams, he moves Havana forward into a future where it has once again become a major cultural hub of the Western Hemisphere. Hernandez sees that Cuba is uniquely positioned to naturally overflow with people from all over the world, because it’s already done that for decades.

Like Chen Qiufan’s setting in China’s real-life tech-recycling epicenter, Hernandez’s grounding in Havana gives the setting a very natural feeling. And the rich can still get what they want when they want it, even as “it” gets more and more extreme and illegal.

Dr. Adder Trilogy by K.W. Jeter (1984)

Prolific novelist K.W. Jeter met and became friends with Philip K. Dick through friends in college, and in fact he may be best known for writing three sequels to Blade Runner that were commissioned after the success of the film—and after Jeter’s friend Dick had died in 1982.

Dick even appears as a fictionalized version of himself in Dr. Adder, the first novel in Jeter’s Dr. Adder trilogy. Dick read Jeter’s novel after its completion in 1972, but Jeter couldn’t place the book with a publisher until after Dick’s death. His praise for Jeter’s book appears posthumously.

The book is nasty, brutish, and short: extreme (especially at the time) violence, sexual content, and a general attitude of disrespect that reviewers at the time found distasteful. But extremism belongs in cyberpunk, and limiting it to extreme forms of posthuman body modification and drug use but leaving everything else out seems disingenuous at best.

Indeed, a scene in the adaptation of Dick’s own Minority Report adds a gruesome, visceral sequence when the main character must have his eyes replaced in his city’s seedy underbelly and, while recovering in blindness, takes a big bite from a fetid, rotten sandwich.

Warcross by Marie Lu (2017)

Marie Lu published her first novel, Legend, in 2011, when she was just 27. By 2017’s YA cyberpunk novel Warcross, Lu was a seasoned veteran of 33, and she brought her lived experience in the video-game industry into the immersive title game. Warcross came out amid a number of similar books positing a virtual reality game as a major plot point or setting (um, do you know Jason Segel has co-written two books of a planned trilogy?), but Lu’s story deepens her protagonist’s involvement in the machinations of the financial side of the Warcross scene.

She works collecting bounties on gamblers who bet on Warcross tournaments, and she participates in those tournaments by both paying for powerups and hacking extra ones as a kind of technology-enabled theft.

Good and bad are scrambled, technology is used to invade people’s privacy, and Lu extends the long legacy of books about games that turn out to be a little too real.

Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams (1986)

Walter Jon Williams has written dozens of novels and several collections of stories in a career lasting nearly 40 years, but he’s also written tabletop RPG gamebooks and special settings for other games. Several years after his novel Hardwired came out in 1986, he was approached to write the novel into a module for the popular tabletop RPG Cyberpunk.

Williams’s novel is explicitly dedicated to an older science fiction novel, Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley, in which two outlaws must complete a kind of grimdark Cannonball Run to clear their criminal records and deliver an important medication to the other side of the country. In Hardwired, two fringe mercenaries fight against authoritarian corporate overlords using advanced technology, including main character Cowboy’s direct brain link in order to drive his armored tank.

Much of cyberpunk is set in cities where traveling by typical civilian vehicle is outmoded or at least passé—YT from Snow Crash requires cars in order to skitch behind cars—and Hardwired instead integrates vehicles into the main plot, making it a kind of Mad Max Headroom.

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (2017)

In 1999, Louise Erdrich became the first Native American woman to win a major science fiction & fantasy award for her novel The Antelope Wife, and her 2017 science fiction novel Future Home of the Living God was nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Like P.D. James’s Children of Men or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Future Home places a fertility crisis at the center of her dystopian setting.

Technology is breaking down everywhere but in the most locked-down government facilities, and people must reacquaint themselves with what came before the convenience and comfort of private technology. Mixed into this is main character Cedar’s adoption, from a local Native American community into a white liberal family—her birth family names her Mary, but her adoptive white family renames her Cedar.

Cedar is Catholic, and as in The Book of Strange New Things, the boundary between religion, magic, and technology grows blurrier as technology breaks down and recedes into legend.

Ware Tetralogy by Rudy Rucker (1982)

Rudy Rucker began his career as a math professor and later became a computer science professor. As befits a man descended from massively inscrutable philosopher Georg Hegel (really!), Rucker’s work bends strongly into the philosophical and existential. The Ware Tetralogy begins with 1982’s Software, written years before Rucker’s turn to computer science in 1986.

He posits a society marked by life-lengthening technology and implants that are either unavailable or only sketchily available to anyone who isn’t rich, and populates the Moon with a race of rogue, fully sentient robots who rely on the Moon’s cold temperatures to regulate their processors. Their creator is a retired scientist who lives in poverty, and he can’t say no when the moon robots offer him immortality.

What’s less clear is whether their procedure will continue his life rather than obliterate it while generating a copy, and that depends, really, on the nature of humanity itself.

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Humble Bundle Is Offering $500 Worth Of Cyberpunk 2020 Tabletop Material For Just $15

By Jo Craig


Teaming up with publisher R. Talsorian, Humble Bundle has compiled the ultimate tabletop RPG book bundle for Cyberpunk 2020.

With most of the heavyweight releases already out in the wild, December belongs to CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. To celebrate its anticipated release, retailer Humble Bundle is offering $500 worth of material from the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG for just $15.

Teaming up with publisher R. Talsorian, Humble Bundle has compiled the ultimate tabletop RPG book bundle catering to Cyberpunk 2020. Ebooks up for grabs include Forlorn Hope, Night City, Cyberpunk 2020, and Home of the Brave. Your purchase also supports the AbleGamers Foundation that is focused on improving accessibility to games for people with disabilities. The bundle includes up to 30 other resources for the RPG and is a great pack for beginners. With only 14 days left of the deal, over 11,000 bundles have been sold already.

Related: Cyberpunk Red TTRPG To Release With Cyberpunk 2077

One helpful redditor took the time to suggest the order in which the bundle should be read, if some customers are new to the game. Recipients should start by reading the Cyberpunk 2020 Core Book first, as this was the first system book to be released. The Night City Sourcebook should follow, which gives you a detailed analysis of Night City’s assets. Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads!!!! can be read third as a great reference for the general running of the RPG for game masters. Chromebooks 1-4 can then be looked at, which contain all of the post-launch items, weapons, cyberware, and more. You can then conclude with the class-specific books, including Solo of Fortune, Rockerboy, and NeoTribes.

Cyberpunk 2020 is the second edition of the role-playing game that began in 1988, featuring a universe which CD Projekt Red licensed over a decade ago. Released in 1990, Cyberpunk 2020 exists within Night City also, featuring gang warfare and corporate rivals which players must survive. The second edition includes updated combat rules, Netrunning, character generation, and an altered timeline that had to be adjusted in the wake of the German reunification in 1990. Cyberpunk 2020 also added horror themes to gameplay, introducing vampires and werewolves into the mix.

The game’s fourth edition Cyberpunk Red will be released in tandem with Cyberpunk 2077 next week, after being sent to the printer in October. This edition will bridge the gap between the tabletop and video game narratives, as its original summer release date was changed to match the game’s launch.

Source: Humble Bundle

More: Fan Accidentally Predicted Final Cyberpunk 2077 Release Date Almost Two Years Ago


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List of Cyberpunk 2020 books

Wikimedia list article

This is a list of Cyberpunk 2020 books.

CyberPunk 2013[edit]

R. Talsorian Games[edit]

The core books for the game were published by R. Talsorian Games.

  • Cyberpunk, by Mike Pondsmith (boxed set) (1988) [CP3001] - Includes View from the Edge (core rules booklet), Friday Night Firefight (combat rules booklet), and Welcome to Night City (gameworld sourcebook booklet)
  • Hardwired, by Walter Jon Williams (1989) [CP3201] - Sourcebook about the novel Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams.
  • Near Orbit: Space Supplement for Cyberpunk, by Mike Pondsmith, David Ackerman, Glenn Wildermuth, and Derek Quintanar (1989) [CP3301] - High Orbit sourcebook and space travel rules.
  • Rockerboy, by Colin Fisk, Will Moss, Scott Ruggels, and David Ackerman (1989) [CP3401] - Rockerboycharacter class sourcebook.
  • Solo of Fortune (Journal of the Corporate Mercenary) (1989) [CP3101] - Solocharacter class sourcebook.

CyberPunk 2020[edit]

R. Talsorian Games[edit]


  • Cyberpunk 2020, by Mike Pondsmith, Colin Fisk, Will Moss, and Scott Ruggels. (boxed set) (1990) [CP3002] - Includes Cyberpunk 2020 version 2.0 core rules and Screamsheets booklet.
  • Cyberpunk 2020 version 2.00, Mike Pondsmith, Colin Fisk, Will Moss, Scott Ruggels, Dave Friedland, Mike Blum (1991) [CP3002]
  • Cyberpunk 2020 version 2.01 ("Features New Artwork" written on front cover), Mike Pondsmith, Colin Fisk, Will Moss, Scott Ruggels, Dave Friedland, Mike Blum (1993) [CP3002]
  • Deep Space: The Interplanetary Supplement, by Chris Young and Scott Hedrick (1993) [CP3211]
  • Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads!!!!: The Unexpurgated Cyberpunk Referee's Guide, by Mike Pondsmith (1994) [CP3291] - Referee's Guide.


  • Blackhand's Street Weapons 2020, by Derek Quintanar (1994) [CP3461]
  • Chromebook, by Colin Fisk (1991) [CP3701]
  • Chromebook 2, by Benjamin Wright, Mike Roter, Scott Taylor, Marcus Pregent, Craig Sheeley, Mike MacDonald, Ross Winn, Mike Pondsmith, Colin Tipton, and Michael Todd (1992) [CP3181]
  • Chrome Compilation A: Chromebook 1/2, (2000) [RT3521]- Reprint of Chromebook and Chromebook 2 in one volume.
  • Chromebook 3, (1994) [CP3331]
  • Chromebook 4, by Derek Quintanar (1996) [CP3471]
  • Chrome Compilation A: Chromebook 3/4, () [RT3511] - Reprint of Chromebooks 3 and 4 in one volume.
  • Corporation Report 2020, Vol 1, by William Moss (1991) [CP3111] - Arasaka & International Electric Company.
  • Corporation Report 2020, Vol 2, by William Moss (1992) [CP3151] - Lazarus Group & Militech.
  • Corporation Report 2020, Vol 3, by William Moss (1992) [CP3161] - Petrochem & SovOil.
  • Edgerunners, Inc., (1995) [CP3391] - A graymarket temp agency for the characters. Details companies, NPCs and scenarios.
  • Eurosource, (1991) [CP3901]
  • Eurosource Plus, (1995) [CP3421]
  • Home of the Brave, by Michael MacDonald and Doug Anderson (1992) [CP3221] - Sourcebook detailing America in 2020.
  • Live & Direct, (1996) [CP3431] - Media character class manual.
  • Maximum Metal by Mark Colborn, Craig Sheeley, and Derek Quintanar (1993) [CP3191] - Military vehicles sourcebook. Includes vehicle construction rules.
  • Neo Tribes, by Winn Ross (1994) [CP3371] - Nomad character class manual.
  • Night City Guide, by Colin Fisk (1991) [CP3501] - Night City sourcebook and map.
  • Pacific Rim Sourcebook, (1994) [CP3311] - Sourcebook detailing Korea, Japan, China, Southeast Asia, and Australasia in 2020.
  • Protect & Serve, (1992) [CP3171] - Law Enforcement character class manual.
  • Rache Bartmoss' Brainware Blowout, by David Ackerman-Gray, Edward Bolme, Mike Pondsmith, Craig Sheeley, Chris Williams, Benjamin Wright (1996) [CP3521] - Compendium of Cyberdeck Programs and Netgear (some converted from the Netrunner collectible card game). Has Netrunner CCG to Cyberpunk 2020 conversion rules to incorporate the cards into a gamemaster's campaign.
  • Rache Bartmoss' Guide to the Net, (1993) [CP3241] - An atlas and guide to the Virtual Net in 2020.
  • Rough Guide to the UK: Riding the Edge to 2020s Britain, Nick Gilliott (1994) [CP3281] - Sourcebook detailing the United Kingdom in 2020.
  • Solo Of Fortune 2, (1994) [CP3361]
  • When Gravity Fails, by David Ackerman, Will Moss, Chris Williams, and Chris Hockabout (1992) [CP3601] - Sourcebook about the novel When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger.
  • Wildside, by Benjamin Wright and Michael Roter (1993) [CP3271] - Fixer character class. Includes information about Organized Crime in Cyberpunk 2020.


  • Eurotour, (1993) [CP3131]
  • Firestorm: Stormfront - The Fourth Corporate War, Book 1, (1997) [RT3481]
  • Firestorm: Shockwave - The Fourth Corporate War, Book 2, (1997) [RT3491]
  • Land of the Free (Box Set), (1994) [CP3231] - America in 2020. Contains campaign book, map of America, 25mm-scale cardstock vehicle sheets, and various props and handouts.
  • Tales from the Forlorn Hope, (1992) [CP3121]
  • When the Chips Are Down, (1990) [CP3801] - included in Data Screen - Game Master's screen.


  • Data Screen , (1990) [CP3801] - Game Master's screen + When the Chips Are Down, a 32 pages Cyberpunk 2020 scenario.
  • Cyberpunk Character Sheets, (1993) [CP3321] - 24 two-sided character sheets plus 16 pages of NPC forms.

Atlas Games[edit]

Atlas Games, a game publisher better known for their award-winning fantasy RPG Ars Magica, released several licensed adventures for Cyberpunk in the early 1990s.


  • All Fall Down, by Andrew Borelli (1992) [AG5040] - A heist in New Las Vegas places the characters in the midst of a Corporate civil war.
  • The Arasaka Brainworm, by Thomas M. Kane, (1991) [AG5000] - An unnamed patron hires a discreet fixer to hire the characters for a sensitive job in which they must acquire something to be detailed later.
  • The Bonin Horse, by Eric Heisserer (1993) [AG5050] - Arasaka hires the characters to retrieve "Project 9" from a sunken submarine.
  • Cabin Fever, by Eric Heisserer (1994) [AG5065] - The characters are trapped on a freighter during a toxic spill.
  • Chasing the Dragon, by Michael Sechi (1992) [AG5035] - A very important briefcase has been stolen from the wrong people and the characters are blamed. They have to go deep into the Combat Zone to get it back from the real thief - The Dragon - before he makes his escape (or the case's irate owners catch up with them).
  • The Chrome Berets, by Thomas Kane (1992) [AG5025] - The characters are military advisors for the government fighting in a three-way war in the Malagasy Islands (a fictional island that was formerly part of the Philippines) between a bloc of corporations, a dictatorship, and left wing revolutionaries (that also include right wing nationalists, Chinese workforce refugees and illegal immigrants). Includes mass combat rules for CP2020.
  • Greenwar, by Thomas Kane (1994) [AG5055] - The characters are involved in a hostile takeover bid. They must acquire a company without damaging it or lowering its stock value.
  • Night City Stories, by Scott Mackay, (1992) [AG5005] - Four interconnected adventures set in Night City.
  • Northwest Passage, by Andrew J. Lucas and Jeff Ranger (1995) [AG5070] - The characters are mercenaries involved in a data-theft heist from a floating rig platform off the Alaskan coast.
  • The Osiris Chip, by Thomas Kane (1992) [AG5010] - The characters are invited by a local gang to help them hijack a Humanatech cargo shipment, something called "Project Osiris".
  • Streetfighting, by Andrew Borelli, Woody Elbom, Thomas M. Kane, Brian Perry, and Jonathan Tweet (1993) [AG5020] - Collection of 7 mini-adventures.
  • Thicker than Blood, by Alison Brooks (1993) [AG5045] - Scenario set at a Corporate-sponsored private school for talented and gifted children. A woman from the Sprawl wants the characters to find and return her kidnapped son.

Ianus Games[edit]

The Canadian company Ianus Games, currently known as Dream Pod 9, released several third-party supplements and adventure modules. Noteworthy among them was the sourcebook Night's Edge that took the basic Cyberpunk 2020 setting and blended in horror elements such as werewolves and vampires. Several Ianus Games adventures explored these themes further.

Cyberpunk 2020 Books[edit]

  • King of the Concrete Jungle, by Hans Guevin (1994) [ICP106] - The power elite of Neo-Montreal hold a yearly contest to see who can acquire the most impressive "thing"; the losers each owe the winner a favor. The characters get dragged into this year's contest.
  • Media Junkie I - Take One, by Gilles Bussiere (1993) [ICP107] - The patron wants the characters to retrieve ten old films for their collection. Contains the first four scenarios.
  • Media Junkie II - Final Cut, by Gilles Bussiere (1993) [ICP114] - The patron wants the characters to retrieve ten old films for their collection. Contains the last six scenarios.
  • Premature Burial, by Justin Schmid (1994) [ICP117] - The characters rescue a badly beaten and wounded man who claims to be a powerful Corporate named Julius Romero. He enlists the characters in a plot to get even with his bosses, who tried to kill him. However, they find that Julius Romero isn't missing and someone is killing his rivals. Who is the patron and what is really going on?
  • Remember Me, by Justin Schmid (1994) [ICP118] - A campaign with four linked scenarios concerning the unreliability of memory. The characters are medias who got a copy of a video that can link Arasaka to a brutal massacre. Or...the characters are police who are hunting down a cop killer. Or...the characters are seriously mentally ill patients who need to break out of their asylum. Or...the characters are edgerunners trying to rescue an ally from a cult's compound. The characters are all four...but, which one (if any) are they really?
  • Sub-Attica, by Lucien Soulban (1994) [ICP120] - The characters are sentenced to an underwater prison. Includes 8 scenarios.

Night's Edge Series[edit]

  • Bloodlust, by Stephane Brochu (1995) [ICP108] - Vampire characters in Night's Edge.
  • Crashpoint, by Jeff Boman (1995) [ICP112] - Unusual deaths. Includes Neo-Voodoo rules and details organlegging in Night's Edge.
  • Dark Metropolis, by Justin Schmid (1994) [ICP116] - Sourcebook about The City in Night's Edge. Includes new drug design and equipment malfunction rules.
  • Grimm's Cybertales, by Justin Schmid (1993) [ICP110] - Each chapter covers a different subject. Subjects include A New Order (Stress and Psychosis rules), Apostles of the Edge (Cults in 2020), Neo-Voodoo (Voodoo in Night's Edge), The Boogey-Men of 2020 (Stalkers, Serial Killers, Terrorists, Junkie Burnouts, etc.), Ghosts in the Machine (The Net in Night's Edge), Perchance to Dream (Fatigue, Sleep and Dreaming rules), and Ars Nova (Magic rules and skills in Night's Edge).
  • Home Front, Stephane Brochu (1994) [ICP119] - A brutal home invasion leaves the father dead, the mother in shock, and the teenaged son missing - perhaps kidnapped. Later a string of murders occurs in the same neighborhood, all of them men with families. The characters need to investigate and stop the killings.
  • Necrology I - Of Death, Life and Afterwards..., by Justin Schmid (1992) [ICP102] - Details the Flatlining craze, in which users experience "death" for 2 minutes.
  • Necrology II - And Now I Lay Me Down, by Justin Schmid (1993) [ICP104] - An unkillable serial killer called the Boogey Man stalks The City at night.
  • Necrology III - Immortality, by Justin Schmid (1993) [ICP105] - The characters are kidnapped and brought to a medical research facility.
  • Night's Edge, by Justin Schmid (1992) [ICP101] - An alternate Cyberpunk universe in which psychic powers and the supernatural exist. Includes templates for Vampires, Werewolves, and Vampire Hunters; Psychic rules; and stats for new gear and weapons.
  • Playground, by Lucien Soulban (1994) [ICP115] - Welcome to the Playgrounds, Virtual Reality parks where your dreams come true. But what about your nightmares..?
  • Survival of the Fittest, by Gilles Bussiere (1993) [ICP103] - Rumors are that a serial killer is roaming The City, ritually killing his victims by draining their blood. The characters are hired to find a missing person.

Stratelibri / Giochi Uniti[edit]

An Italian company that takes care of translation and distribution. They also independently produced a third-party setting sourcebook in the early '90s.


The Interface / Prometheus Press Inc.[edit]

Main article: Interface (magazine)

The Interface was "The Magazine for the Cyberpunk Enthusiast" and was published on license from R Talsorian Games.


  • Vol. 1, No. 1 (19??) covering Walking the Beat in Night City, Police profile: The Givers of Pain, Inmate Penal Corps, OTEC: Ocean Technology & Energy Corp.
  • Vol. 1, No. 2 (1990) covering Police Profiles on Ripperdocs, Getting Along; Cool and Empathy in Cyberpunk, Hardware Closeup: The SEV-1, Subordinate/Alternative Character Class.
  • Vol. 1, No. 3 (1991) covering NuTech, Revolution corporation, Artificial Intelligence, Reviews, Nu:programs, Altered States, Nuscience.
  • Vol. 1, No. 4 (1991) covering Nomads, ConAg Corporation, AI's and Rogue Hunters, Reviews, To Bear Arms..., Alternate Character Class.
  • Vol. 2, No. 1 (1992) covering Running the Media Game, Profiles, A Job with an Attitude, Pirate Media in 2020, Facing the Consequences, Reviews.
  • Vol. 2, No. 2 (199?) covering EctoTech, Cults: Hopes and Horrors, A Policy of Pain, Conversion Rules to CoC, Reviews, Transference, Cult Profiles.

Cybergeneration 2027[edit]

R. Talsorian Games[edit]


  • CyberGeneration - The Final Battle for the Future {1st Edition} (1993) [CP3251] - Sourcebook for running campaigns in an alternate future that takes place in 2027. Includes rules for YoGangs (juvenile sub-cultures) and the CyberEvolved (mutants genetically altered by an engineered plague).
  • CyberGeneration - The Time for Change Is Now: Evolve or Die {2nd Edition}, (1995) [RTG3252] - Standalone version of the original CyberGeneration supplement.
  • Eco Front (1993) [RTG3341] - Eco-Terrorism sourcebook. Includes new CyberEvolved (Scout) and new Yo-Gangs (NeoPioneers and Beastieboys).
  • Media Front (1993) [RTG3351] - Propaganda sourcebook. Includes new CyberEvolved (Jammers) and new Yo-Gangs (Lookers and Taggers).
  • Virtual Front (1994) [RTG3441] - Hacking sourcebook. Includes new Yo-Gangs (V-Punks and Networkers) and explains and expands the Wizard CyberEvolved type.


  • Bastille Day, by (1993) [RTG3261] - The characters are given a mission to break into a Bureau of Relocation concentration camp and break hackerette Spider Murphy out of a "re-education" center.

Firestorm Ink[edit]


  • Generation Gap, by David Ackerman-Gray, Edward Bolme, Wade Racine, and Craig Sheeley (2000) [CG2001] - Life and growing up in 2027. Includes rules for integrating Edgerunners into a CyberGeneration campaign.
  • Mile High Dragon, by Jonathan Lavallee and Bryan Schmidt (2009) [CG2002] - Sourcebook detailing the city of Denver in 2027. Includes a new YoGang (Buskers). Only available in PDF file format.
  • Researching Medicine by Jonathan Lavallee and Bryan Schmidt (2003) [CG1001] - MedTechs in CyberGeneration. Includes a new YoGang (MASHers) and a new CyberEvolved type (The Medic).

CyberPunk 203X[edit]

R. Talsorian Games[edit]

Core Books and Utilities[edit]

  • Cyberpunk v3.0, by Michael Pondsmith et al. (2005) [CP4110]
  • C3 Flash Pak (bundle), (2006) [RT4120] - GM's Screen, Mini Rulebook, new character templates, new gear, and random tables for generating adventures, NPCs, and environments.
  • C3 DataPack (bundle), (2006) [RT4130] - Contains 4 combination character sheets / dossier folders, 4 AltCult status sheets, and a coupon for free official C3 dice by Chessex.
  • C3 DataPack (bundle), (2006) [RT4130] - Contains 6 combination character sheets / dossier envelopes and 6 AltCult status sheets.


  • Gangbook, James Carpio (2007) [RT4140] - Details 36 of the worst gangs in Night City. Includes stats for important NPCs and new weapons, gear, and vehicles.
  • AltCult Insider 1: Beyond The Edge, (2008) [RT04160] - Edgerunner AltCult sourcebook. Includes Cybernetics design rules and stats for new weapons, vehicles, gear, and enhanced cybernetics (NuCybe).
  • AltCult Insider 2: Riptide Revolution (Unpublished) - Riptide Confederation AltCult sourcebook.
  • AltCult Insider 3: Deepwater (Unpublished) - Reef AltCult sourcebook.

Interface magazine (Prometheus Press)[edit]

Main article: Interface (magazine)

Interface was a glossy magazine about Cyberpunk published by Prometheus Press in six issues between 1990 and 1992.[1]

Grenadier Models Inc.[edit]

Grenadier made sets of 25mm lead miniatures for Cyberpunk.

  • Cyberpunk Miniatures {box set} [GDR3005] - A set of 10 miniatures.
  • Edgerunner Miniatures {box set} [GDR3006] - A set of 10 miniatures.
  • Cyberpunk {Blister Packs}
    • Cyberpunk [GDR3402] - 3 Solos
    • Cyberpunk [GDR3403] - 3 Rockers
    • Cyberpunk [GDR3404] - 2 Nomads (1 cyberbike with rider & 1 dismounted Nomad on foot)
    • Cyberpunk [GDR3405] - 3 Cops
    • Cyberpunk [GDR3406] - 3 Gangers (VooDoo Boyz)
    • Cyberpunk [GDR3407] - 3 Gangers (The Bozos)


External links[edit]

woman reading cyberpunk books

If you are a sci-fi fan or are trying to figure out where to start reading in the genre, you may already have an inkling of how many niches are included within this huge category. Many subgenres are self-explanatory. Most subgenres include other genres right in the name that are unrelated to sci-fi, making it easy to understand what they are all about. Sci-fi action, sci-fi fantasy, sci-fi romance, or military sci-fi are all categories that most people can easily understand.

Cyberpunk is one science fiction niche that is sometimes more difficult to identify. Cyberpunk books, as a category, only exist in the sci-fi genre; there is not a comparable genre to help you understand what this genre includes. This sometimes makes the category difficult to explain; it is also a big reason these books are so popular.

Merriam-Webster dictionary  – yes, it is even defined in the dictionary! – defines cyberpunk as “science fiction dealing with future urban societies dominated by computer technology.” To expand on that point, good cyberpunk books are all about a dystopian society where there is an incredible amount of technology, set against a dark and gritty backdrop.

Following the list of best cyberpunk books, we will talk more about what defines cyberpunk, explain how cyberpunk became a popular genre, and what to look for in cyberpunk books. Before that though, the best way to understand exactly what these books are all about is to learn about some of the best cyberpunk books out there.


1. Accelerando – Charles Stross – 2005


Accelerando (Singularity)

Accelerando (Singularity)


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Part Number9780441014156
Release Date2006-06-27T00:00:01Z
Number Of Pages415
Publication Date2006-06-27T00:00:01Z

The title of this book is taken from the Italian word used in music meaning to “speed up”. This is how Charles Stross sees the world of technology in this book, speeding towards a concept called technological singularity, where technology surpasses humans in our world. Structurally, the book is somewhat different from a traditional novel. It consists of nine short stories that tell the overarching story of three generations of the same family. The main characters in these three periods – before, during, and after singularity exists, are Manfred Macx, his daughter Amber, and her son Sirhan. It is an interesting and propulsive novel that Stross wrote to show the dangers of capitalism against all else and the possibilities of losing control of technology to the point it would control, and ultimately destroy humankind.


2. Altered Carbon – Richard K. Morgan – 2002


Altered Carbon (Netflix Series Tie-in Edition) (Takeshi Kovacs)

Altered Carbon (Netflix Series Tie-in Edition) (Takeshi Kovacs)


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Part Number50563296
Release Date2018-02-13T00:00:01Z
EditionMedia Tie In
Number Of Pages512
Publication Date2018-02-13T00:00:01Z

This book has seen renewed interest lately thanks to a popular Netflix show based on the book. Aficionados have known this cult classic of the genre for almost two decades now. The novel is set on a planet called Harlan’s World where human consciousness is stored in a stack in the spine. When a body dies, people can “re-sleeve” themselves in another body. There is a cost to this, both mentally and in terms of money so only the rich generally achieve full immortality. It is against this backdrop that author Richard K. Morgan sets this murder-mystery story. Although the characters include Russian spies, corrupt cops, and a shady brothel owner villain, the sci-fi elements are what makes it a great cyberpunk book.


3. Company Town – Madeline Ashby – 2016


Company Town

Company Town


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Release Date2017-07-18T00:00:01Z
Number Of Pages288
Publication Date2017-07-18T00:00:01Z

This most recently written entry to the list comes from Canadian author Madeline Ashby. The novel is set in New Arcadia, an oil rig the size of a large city that is parked just off the coast of Canada. The rig is owned by Lynch Ltd., a company run by the powerful Lynch family. When the Lynchs need protection for their son, they turn to Hwa, the last person on the ship who is still 100% human and hasn’t been genetically engineered. This helps make her the fiercest fighter and bodyguard in the city. Hwa helps the young Lynch scion navigate a city full of violence, murder, and death threats from another timeline–all while someone might be setting her up to take the fall for New Arcadia’s most prolific serial killer.


4. Diaspora – Greg Egan – 1997


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Diaspora: A Novel


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Part Numberunknown
Is Adult Product
Release Date2015-01-06T00:00:01Z
Number Of Pages352
Publication Date2015-01-06T00:00:01Z

This novel straddles the line between cyberpunk and hard science fiction. Written by mathematician Greg Egan, who includes a glossary of sci-fi terms and concepts contained in this book. That should tell you all you need to know about the density of this story. If you like complicated, very specific sci-fi concepts, you will really enjoy this book.  Set in 2975 and the following decades in a post-human world that is populated with human-like “fleshers” as well as multiple types of artificial intelligence. The hardcore science aspect of the novel makes this a cyberpunk book that is not for all cyberpunk fans, but if you want density and hard core sci-fi fare, this is one of the best books of its type.


5. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick – 1968


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: The inspiration for the films Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: The inspiration for the films Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049


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  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep The inspiration for the films Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049

This is THE classic of the genre. The book that inspired Blade Runner, written by the most well-known and respected author of cyberpunk books in history. If you want to know where to start with cyberpunk, this is it. Set in the post-apocalyptic “future” of 1992 – which would be changed to 2021 in later editions of the book – this book is the story of Richard Deckard, a bounty hunter who works for the San Francisco Police Department. In the book, his mission is to hunt down and kill, or “retire” 6 escaped androids that are being aided by a human named John Isidore. The book is a classic example of cyberpunk that has clearly stood the test of time. Philip Dick creates an amazing world and the story is captivating. It is truly the full package.


6. Eclipse – John Shirley – 1985


Eclipse: A Song Called Youth Book One

Eclipse: A Song Called Youth Book One


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Release Date2017-10-18T00:00:01Z
Number Of Pages368
Publication Date2017-10-18T00:00:01Z

John Shirley is an incredibly interesting author who has written for many diverse formats from a Wyatt Earp novel to lyrics for the rock band Blue Oyster Cult to the script for the late Brandon Lee movie, The Crow. He is best known for his cyberpunk novels, though, especially his A Song of Youth trilogy of which Eclipse is the first book. Here, Shirley creates a world where the Soviet Union has become a dominant, colonial power waging war across Europe. America has collapsed and now must deal with a private security company with a fascist agenda that is trying to take over. All this is happening as Earth is colonizing other planets as well. It is up to the New Resistance to fight back for freedom from this oppression and mind control. The book was prescient in many ways and discusses concepts of drone surveillance, geopolitical politics, and media manipulation that were way ahead of their time.


7. Ghost in the Shell – Masamune Shirow – 1989


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The Ghost in the Shell 1 Deluxe Edition


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This incredibly influential Japanese cyberpunk work has inspired an American film starring Scarlett Johansson along with numerous other live-action and animated TV shows, movies, and video games. Set in the fictional Japanese port city of Niihama in the mid-21st century, this world is populated by characters that are only partially human thanks to genetic modification and robotic enhancements. It is a world where the most dangerous criminals are cybercriminals and hackers who can take control of these computerized creations for their criminal benefit. Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg agent in charge of stopping and capturing these criminals. As the Major investigates these criminals, it seems as though there may be more powerful forces behind them than were originally anticipated.


8. Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology – (Edited by) Bruce Sterling – 1988


Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology

Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology


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Release Date1988-06-01T00:00:01Z
Number Of Pages239
Publication Date1988-07-01T00:00:01Z

This is a different book from the others on the list because it is an anthology of short stories, not a novel.  It can be hard to get your hands on it these days, but if you can, as a fan of cyberpunk, it is definitely worth it. The book is a collection from some of the luminary authors of the genre written in the decade that cyberpunk truly exploded as a sci-fi category, the 1980s. The book includes stories from William Gibson, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Greg Bear, and more. If you are a fan of the genre, this book is a “must-own” for your collection and a “must-read” for your inner cyberpunk.


9. Neuromancer – William Gibson – 1984 


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Neuromancer (Penguin Galaxy)


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This award-winning novel is another classic that helped define the cyberpunk genre and even helped inspire the hit film, The Matrix. William Gibson took several of his short stories, and inspiration from other works of the day, and combined them to create this seminal novel. The plot describes the story of Case, a crippled, drug-addled hacker contracted by a mysterious employer to do a dangerous job. With the help of the streetwise and deadly Molly Millions (a character from Gibson’s Johnny Neumonic short story), they venture into the darkest regions of cyberspace. When you read this book, you will see why generations of authors and filmmakers were so inspired by the cyberpunk world that Gibson created almost 40 years ago.


10. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline – 2011 


Ready Player One: A Novel

Ready Player One: A Novel


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This has always been a great book but it was thrust into the spotlight in 2018 when super director Stephen Spielberg released a film adaptation of the book. Even before the movie, readers loved this book’s cyberpunk depiction of a future where the world is a virtual reality video game. In this book, OASIS is a VR video game where most people “live” and spend most of their time. The creator has embedded a number of “Easter eggs” within this world based on 1980s pop culture. When it is discovered that he left an Easter egg that will bestow vast riches and control of OASIS to whoever finds it, the race is on and readers follow Wade Watts, a lower-class teen as he attempts to be the first to reach the prize.


11. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson – 1992

Snow Crash

Other than being a great read, this cyberpunk novel is notable for the fact that it actually inspired a generation of massive number of multiplayer online game (MMO) creators and served as the genesis for real games and platforms such as Second Life, Active Worlds, and even Xbox Live. The book is set in the “Metaverse”, a mashup of virtual reality, augmented reality, and the internet. It follows 2 main characters, Hiro Protagonist, a hacker, and pizza delivery person and Y.T., a young woman who works as a skateboard courier. Together these characters find themselves involved with a futuristic CIA organization known as the CIC as well as the mafia. They then discover a new drug named Snow Crash and get tangled up in its dangerous web.

Buy Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson on Amazon here.


12. Software – Rudy Rucker – 1982

Software – Rudy Rucker

Rudy Rucker’s Software is especially fun to read today because it is set in the year 2020. Here, we find Cobb Anderson, an aging software engineer who was once persecuted for trying to give robots free will through artificial intelligence. He is among an aging population of Baby Boomers, known as pheezer’s, who live in slums in Florida if they cannot afford a new heart. When Anderson and his cab-driving friend Sta-Hi Mooney the are offered a chance to live in robotic bodies forever on the moon, they give it a shot. They encounter several dangers along the way including robots with free will and a gang of serial killers known as the Little Kidders.

Buy Software – Rudy Rucker on Amazon here.


13. Synners – Pat Cadigan – 1992


This novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1992 for best novel and was written by author Pat Cadigan, who is known as the Queen of Cyberpunk. This book, along with much of Cadigan’s work can be polarizing.  Many people think it is a bit long but it is universally regarded as a seminal cyberpunk work and one that helped define the genre. The book has all the classic elements of cyberpunk including humans and technology working together in an uneasy peace and corporations mining this connection for profit. It has crime, dystopian themes, and mystery as well. This book has a firm spot in the foundation of cyberpunk and for that reason alone, it is worth checking out.

Buy Synners – Pat Cadigan on Amazon here.


14. Trouble and Her Friends – Melissa Scott – 1994

Trouble and Her Friends – Melissa Scott

In addition to being a cyberpunk classic, this book is revered for its strong feminist and LGBTQ themes. It is pure cyberpunk with a hint of Western themes in a futuristic package. India Carless, who was formerly known by her hacker name “Trouble” before she retired, is drawn back into the cyber-hacking game when she finds someone using her moniker to commit crimes. To save her good name and stop people from getting hurt, Trouble (and her friends) come back for one last job.

Buy Trouble and Her Friends – Melissa Scott on Amazon here.


15. The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi – 2009

The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl is an award-winning cyberpunk novel set in 23rd century Thailand by author Paolo Bacigalupi. In the book, the world has reached the point where the environment has been ruined to such an extent that corporations had to rescue the population from starvation but not control the entirety of the bioengineered food supply. When Anderson Lake, a calorie hunter for the company AgriGen meets Emiko, a genetically engineered “Windup Girl”, his world changes and he is brought into the dark and seedy underbelly of this bio-engineered world. The novel examines what happens when food becomes currency in a story that seems a little too plausible in 2020.

Buy The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi on Amazon here.


What defines a cyberpunk book?

Although many people may not be familiar with the term cyberpunk or immediately understand what the genre is, it is actually quite easy to recognize books from this very distinct genre. Although cyberpunk books are all very different in their own right, there are a few general themes and backdrops that define most books in this science fiction genre. Here are a few common elements that tend to define good cyberpunk books.

Modern technology

The reason cyberpunk books are considered science fiction is mostly because of the technology that dominates the world in which the story takes place. Whether the book is set in the near future, alternate present, or a far-off year, all cyberpunk books will bring you to a world that is controlled by technology. It can be technologically advanced weapons, artificial intelligence, or a technologically-based economic system keeping people down. There can be high-tech surveillance in place so that the government or corporations can keep track of citizens or even full-fledged virtual worlds that have replaced reality. No matter what form it takes, all cyberpunk books will have the tech piece, hence the word “cyber” in the name.

Universal concerns

Cyberpunk books are all about juxtaposition. This is to say that cyberpunk authors take the inherent modern-ness and high-concept technology of the book and contrast it with the bleak reality of the dystopian world in which the book is set. That is why you will find very normal and pedestrian concerns of characters who end up on the wrong side of the powers that be in these books. Drugs, poverty, cramped or poor living conditions, and less than savory characters dominate the worlds of these sci-fi books. While most times the conditions of these books are much worse than conditions today in order to highlight the dangers of unchecked power and technology, they do show concerns that modern readers will very easily recognize from our own lives.

Urban setting

Cyberpunk novels are not set in countrysides with rolling hills or even in vast, barren deserts. Cyberpunk is a genre that is based in gritty, cramped, urban sprawl. This is another major, defining feature of the genre. In good cyberpunk books, the world in which the characters exist is almost always a large city. It helps set up the main characters as very small pieces in the greater world and shows that whoever is in control has the power to affect millions of people’s lives. The most efficient way to convey this point is in an urban setting. This setting also sets up the availability of drugs, and dive bars, and black-market contraband. It gives the characters the ability to run away and hide or disappear in a crowd, or duck down a maze-like alleyway. It is a plot device that not only defines the genre but also sets up much of the action within it.

Monolithic “bad guys”

While in the end, our protagonists in the best cyberpunk books may come up against a singular “big bad” character, the enemy, especially at the beginning of cyberpunk novels is usually a monolithic organization. These organizations are huge, faceless, and secretive. They exert power and control usually based in some way on their control of technology. The most common villains in these types of books include corporations, governments, or private security or military forces controlled by an elite group or mysterious person. These groups make for great villains because it is very hard to have any sympathy for organizations like this.

How cyberpunk became a popular genre

Cyberpunk’s rise to popularity is interesting because it came a little later than some other science fiction categories. This is mostly due to the fact that issues of the overwhelming march of technology and the impact of such factors as drug use and gang conflicts in urban cities didn’t become incredibly pronounced until the late 1960s. With all due respect to the revolutionary and ahead of its time 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, cyberpunk didn’t really start to become a popular category until the 1980s and 90s. This is when a whole group of good cyberpunk books appeared on the scene, a few of which would become the best cyberpunk books of the genre. These titles include several featured above such as Neuromancer, Snow Crash, Trouble and Her Friends, and Ghost in the Shell.

What really shot this category to prominence, though, is movies. These classic cyberpunk books lend themselves incredibly well to movies. The visuals of bleak, dystopian worlds contrasted with futuristic sci-fi technology and weaponry make the genre a filmmaker’s dream. As the world gets more like cyberpunk in the 21st century – more technology than ever and a bigger disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots” – the stories and parables moviemakers can present by basing a story on these genre books are enticing. Some of the best movies that have been made from good cyberpunk books include films such as Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, and Total Recall. Cyberpunk classics not based on books followed to explode the popularity even further with titles such as Robocop and The Matrix.

In addition to the many books and movies on the subject, the cyberpunk genre became popular in the last half-century simply because it is easier to see the common setting and themes reflected in our real lives. Technology, specifically computer technology, surveillance technology, artificial intelligence, and the internet, have become not just daily factors in our lives but minute-by-minute factors that seem decreasingly avoidable all the time.

The economic and societal conditions we are living in today also can seem more like a dystopian future than ever. As mentioned above, the gap between the rich and the poor is greater than ever, except for the 1980s when crack cocaine systematically destroyed so many inner-city communities. The relationship between the financially less able in today’s society and the power structure such as government and police has seemingly never been more tense or untrusting. These are all concepts and themes that show up in so many cyberpunk novels but are now playing out on the nightly news.

One more reason cyberpunk books are so popular is that with all the grim elements set forth above that make up good cyberpunk books, the formula is perfect for an unlikely hero to emerge, And, of course, who doesn’t love an unlikely hero? The young, desperate, smart hero fighting against a monolithic system designed to keep everyone down is great fodder for a hero narrative. While there are plenty of cyberpunk books that don’t have a happy ending, it is usually easy to find the hero you can root like crazy for and that makes for a great book genre.

What to look for in a cyberpunk book

Now that you know what the cyberpunk genre is all about and what types of things define the category, you are ready to jump into the genre with both feet and start picking out great books to read. In order to pick out the best cyberpunk books and the ones that will be right for you, there are a few things you should look for to help you with your cyberpunk journey.


In the world of cyberpunk, there are two main categories of author, Philip K. Dick, and everyone else. This is not to disparage the greatness of many other authors in this category but the godfather of the genre stands out above everyone else. This is why starting with a Phillip K. Dick novel or two is a great entry point into the genre. In addition to the legendary novel listed above, you could try any number of his most famous works including The Man in High Castle, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, A Maze of Death, or A Scanner Darkly just to name a few. Once you have read some of these novels and understand the genre, you can start branching out and any cyberpunk works by the authors listed above will usually be satisfying reading.


One of the best ways to gather more intel about the theme of a cyberpunk book is to ascertain who is the main villain of the bookfair. This will tell you a fair amount about not only the plot of the book but also about the main themes of the author’s work. As discussed in the “What defines a cyberpunk book?” section above, the bad guys in these books are generally monolithic organizations. What kind of organization they are will tell you a lot. Bad governments mean that the book is probably about “big brother” and the role nanny states play in our lives. These books often involve much surveillance and thought control.

If the book is about corporations taking over and ruling the world, you are in for stories about greed and the dangers of letting profit dictate our lives. You will find themes related to herd mentality and the death of individuality. Books that feature private security or armies tend to show the danger of weaponizing new technology and the power people who harness it first can wield.


This is not always a great way to judge books but the simple fact is, cyberpunk is such a singular category that the best books in the genre usually are turned into pretty good movies. As noted in many of the write-ups above, many of the classics of the cyberpunk movie genre come from these books. Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Ready Player One, and Ghost in the Shell are all great examples of well-known movies that speak to the quality of their source material. So, the bottom line is, if you see or hear about a cool cyberpunk movie that is based on the book, it is almost always worth reading the book. And, just personal preference, but I always recommend reading the book before seeing the movie!


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2020 books cyberpunk

Cyberpunk (role-playing game)

Tabletop science fiction role-playing game

Cyberpunk is a tabletop role-playing game in the dystopianscience fiction genre, written by Mike Pondsmith and first published by R. Talsorian Games in 1988. It is typically referred to by its second or fourth edition names, Cyberpunk 2020 and Cyberpunk Red, in order to distinguish it from the genre after which it is named.


Cyberpunk exists within its own fictional timeline, which splits from the real world in 1990. The timeline has been extended with each major edition of the game, from the first edition set in 2013 to Cyberpunk Red set in 2045.[1]

The backstory begins with the USA becoming embroiled in a major conflict in Central America in the 1980s causing a significant economic collapse ending in a military coup resulting in the European Common Market and Japan as superpowers and the Soviet Union not collapsing. This is coupled with the development of orbital habitats that become independent states and the rise of Megacorporations that fight amongst themselves for dominance. Other disasters have included food blights causing disastrous famines, and by the late 1990s the Middle East is a radioactive desert after a nuclear conflict. Bioengineering, against a backdrop of warfare, has resulted in the rapid development of cybernetic prosthetics and direct human-machine interfaces. With the lack of government and police due to the Central America wars and economic situation, casual violence is endemic. Many also suffer from "technoshock", an inability to cope with a world of synthetic muscle tissue, organic circuits and designer drugs.[2]

The main location for Cyberpunk is the fictional Night City, situated on the west coast of the United States between Los Angeles and San Francisco. With a population of five million people, it presents a stratified society of gang warfare, corporate rivalries and political machinations in which the players have to survive.[3]


The rules of Cyberpunk are built on R. Talsorian's Interlock system.

A core game mechanic is the concept of Difficulty Values, used to gauge whether a player succeeds or fails at any given task. A player takes the value of their most appropriate character attribute, adds the values of any relevant skills or modifiers, and then finally adds the value of a ten-sided die roll. In order to succeed, they must beat the Difficulty Value assigned to the task by the gamemaster. Cyberpunk was one of the first tabletop games to use this concept.[4]

Character creation[edit]

As cyberpunks, the players embrace body modification, cybertech and bioengineering. They live by three tenets:

  1. Style over substance.
  2. Attitude is everything.
  3. Always take it to the Edge.
  4. (Break) the rules.[4]

There are ten key roles, each with their own special abilities. These include charismatic musicians ('rockerboys'), bodyguards and assassins ('solos'), computer hackers ('netrunners'), road warriors ('nomads'), street experts ('fixers'), investigative journalists and reporters ('medias'), mechanics ('techs' or 'techies'), doctors ('medtechs'), corporate executives, and police officers.[5]

A choice of rules are provided for character creation, either by assigning points to purchase skills or by rolling d10s for a more random outcome. A system called Lifepath is provided to develop each character further, by generating goals, motivations, and events from their past. Finally, they gain money, cyberware, weapons and other equipment, including fashion and lifestyle goods.[5][2]

Further character development is skill-based rather than level-based; for successful play, players are awarded points to be spent on improving their characters' skill sets.


The combat system is called Friday Night Firefight (FNFF), and emphasizes lethality. Unlike other role-playing systems where characters amass higher hit points as they progress, allowing them to survive higher amounts of combat damage, the amount of damage a character can sustain in Cyberpunk does not generally increase as the character develops.

Each round, characters are permitted to take one move action and one other action. There are rules governing the use of autofire, armor, and cover, including specific instructions for using people as shields. Alternative ammunition types for weapons are available, for example a shotgun can be fired with buckshot instead of slugs. Character skills can be used to improve both ranged and melee combat.[6]

Additionally, there are rules covering other forms of damage such as drowning and asphyxiation, electrocution, and being set on fire.


There are also rules for cybernetic hacking, called Netrunning. When characters "jack in", they can interpret the NET in several different ways, including as a classic Dungeons & Dragons maze, or perhaps as a star-filled galaxy.

Netrunners engage in the virtual world with interface plugs, cyberdecks, and the Interface special ability. Cyberdecks include slots to contain Programs, selected ahead of time by Netrunners to assist in tasks such as evasion, decryption and detection. Combat and other actions in the NET are fast, taking place second-by-second, as opposed to three second combat rounds in the physical world.[7]

The destruction of the global NET in later editions of Cyberpunk turns the attention of Netrunners to local private networks. The effect on gameplay is that Netrunning is no longer a remote activity; Netrunners are embedded within their team and, with equipment such as virtuality goggles, can alternate their actions between both physical and virtual space. Closer integration with other activities was a game design choice to ensure all characters have a part to play during a hacking scene.[8]

Empathy and cyberpsychosis[edit]

The acquisition of cyberware—cyberweapons, cyberoptics and other implants—carries a Humanity Cost. Every ten points of Humanity Cost causes the loss of an Empathy point, the character attribute that measures how well they relate to other people. An Empathy level of zero represents a complete loss of humanity, a state known as cyberpsychosis; in the case of players, their character becomes a non-player character controlled by the gamemaster.[4]


Cyberpunk was designed by Mike Pondsmith as an attempt to replicate the gritty realism of 1980s cyberpunk science fiction. In particular, Walter Jon Williams' novel Hardwired was an inspiration, and Williams helped playtest the game. Another key influence was the film Blade Runner. Many also assume William Gibson's Neuromancer was an influence; however, Pondsmith did not read the novel until a later date.[9] Other sources included the film Streets of Fire and the anime Bubblegum Crisis.

First edition[edit]

The original version of Cyberpunk was published in 1988 by R. Talsorian Games. The game components of the boxed set consist of a 44-page Handbook, a 38-page Sourcebook, a 20-page Combat Book, four pages of game aids and two ten-sided dice.[2]

A number of rules supplements were subsequently published in 1989:

This edition of the game retrospectively became known as Cyberpunk 2013.

Second edition: Cyberpunk 2020[edit]

In 1990, R. Talsorian Games released the second edition of the game, titled Cyberpunk 2020, which featured updated rules for combat, Netrunning, and character generation. The game's timeline was also retconned to accommodate the German reunification in 1990. It was released as a boxed set that contained a 222-page softcover book, and a 24-page reference guide and adventure.[10]

R. Talsorian Games released two revised versions: Cyberpunk 2020 version 2.00 (1992), and Cyberpunk 2020 version 2.01 (1993).

A total of 28 rules supplements and sourcebooks, and 6 adventures were also published by R. Talsorian Games between 1993 and 1996. In addition, Atlas Games published twelve adventures under license between 1991 and 1994.[11]

Dream Pod 9 released Night's Edge in 1992, taking the Cyberpunk 2020 setting and adding a horror theme, including vampires and werewolves. Dream Pod 9 published ten other supplements and adventures in this setting between 1992 and 1995.

An alternate world sourcebook, Cybergeneration, was published in 1993; it centers around teenagers with unusual, superhuman skills gained from a nanotech virus epidemic. The first version of Cybergeneration required the Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook, but a second version became a standalone game.

Two Cyberpunk 2020 novels were published, in 1995 and 1996.[12]

Third edition: Cyberpunk V3.0[edit]

Cyberpunk V3.0 is set in the 2030s, and was published in 2005. It takes Cyberpunk into a transhumanist setting in the aftermath of a fourth Corporate War. The global NET has been corrupted and rendered unusable, as has much hardcopied data, throwing human history into doubt. Six new subcultures have emerged, known as Altcults; one such group are the Edgerunners, successors to the cyberpunks of previous editions.[13]

The third edition uses the Fuzion game system, rather than Interlock. Both the change of setting and the artwork within the book received negative criticism.[14]

From 2007 to 2008, two sourcebooks were published to accompany this edition.

Fourth edition: Cyberpunk Red[edit]

The fourth edition of Cyberpunk, titled Cyberpunk Red, is set in 2045, following the events of Cyberpunk 2020 and serving as a prequel to the video game Cyberpunk 2077.[15][1] The game is set after a fourth Corporate War; however, the events differ from Cyberpunk V3.0, which is considered to be a separate timeline.[16]

The Cyberpunk Red core rulebook was released in November 2020.[17] It was preceded by the release of a simplified boxed set, known as the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit, at Gen Con in August 2019. The core rulebook was delayed from a planned release alongside the Jumpstart Kit, initially to allow Cyberpunk Red game lore to be better aligned with Cyberpunk 2077, and later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18]

Other media[edit]

Collectible card games[edit]

Two different, independent collectible card games have been licensed and produced based on the Cyberpunk setting. The first, called Netrunner, was designed by Richard Garfield, and released by Wizards of the Coast in 1996 (the game has since been re-released as Android: Netrunner but is no longer associated with the fictional Cyberpunk universe). The second was called Cyberpunk CCG, released in 2003, designed by Peter Wacks and published by Social Games.

Miniature game[edit]

Combat Zone is a tabletopminiature wargame by R. Talsorian Games and Monster Fight Club, due to be released in 2021.[19]

Video games[edit]

"Cyberpunk (video game)" redirects here. For the 1993 video game, see Cyberpunks (video game).


Stewart Wieck reviewed Cyberpunk for White Wolf #14, rating it 3 overall, and stated that "Cyberpunk is a fine game set in an environment which is very conducive to role-playing."[22]

In the May 1989 edition of Games International (Issue 5), Paul Mason found the rules disorganized and lacked an index. He also found lots of typos, "the sign of a rushed production." Although Mason found the concept behind the game "quite appealing," he thought that the combat system, which was supposed to be an improvement on the usual non-descriptive hit point system, was too constricted by data tables to be very descriptive. He concluded by giving this game an average rating of 3 out of 5, saying, "All in all, Cyberpunk does the job. If you want to run a game in this genre and you want a single source of rules and background, then this game will be adequate to the task [...] It doesn't contain any ideas radically new to rolegaming, however, and so won't be much use to anyone else except inveterate collectors."[23]

In the September 1989 edition of Dragon (Issue 149), Jim Bambra liked the production values of the original edition, but found many typos in the various books as well as a missing encounter table. Bambra found the setting "does a superb job of capturing the flavor and atmosphere of a disturbingly plausible and realistic future. The development and presentation of the Net is stunning and can be used as a basis for countless numbers of adventures. No other game has succeeded in portraying computer hacking in such a vibrant and absorbing way." He concluded that this was not for everyone: "Gamers brought up on heroic-fantasy or shiny science-fiction games may find the gritty realism of the Cyberpunk game not to their liking... To decide if this is the game for you, read a few of the Cyberpunk style novels. If you like them, don’t waste any time — rush out and buy the Cyberpunk game. Welcome to life on the edge."[2]

In the September 1992 edition of Dragon (Issue 185), Allen Varney found Cyberpunk 2020 just as stylish as its first-edition predecessor, but he found even more typos in this edition than in the first edition. Varney liked the new streamlined combat system, but criticized the duality of modern combat, where "unarmored characters become pools of blood in 10 seconds of combat, but those in flak armor can shrug off submachine-gun fire." Varney also felt that the Netrunning system was much improved, calling the rules system "elegant and original." Varney thought the second edition's biggest flaw was lack of an index, but he also criticized the dichotomy of a system where "you can break into Eurobank and embezzle five million bucks, but you better pay your phone bill on time or you’re in big trouble." He accused the game of being "in the curious position of advocating rebellion, but only in socially acceptable ways." Nonetheless, Varney concluded that "The Cyberpunk game’s second edition surpasses its first edition on every count. With its smooth action, 'pure' cyberpunk atmosphere, easily accessible setting, and medium-low complexity, this game tops my list as the field's best route to dark near-future adventure."[24]

In a 1996 reader poll undertaken by Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time, Cyberpunk was ranked 10th. Editor Paul Pettengale commented: "Cyberpunk was the first of the 'straight' cyberpunk RPGs, and is still the best. The difference between cyberpunk and other sci-fi is a matter of style and attitude. Everything about the Cyberpunk game, from the background to the rules system, is designed to create this vital atmosphere. Cyberpunk is set in an unforgiving world where betrayal and double-crosses are common, trust is hard to find and paranoia is a useful survival trait."[25]

In November 2020, Forbes found Cyberpunk Red to be a consistent continuation of the themes from Cyberpunk 2020. Contributor Rob Wieland praised the system for character generation, stating, "One of the signature elements of the game, lifepaths, went through a great refinement. Lifepath is a chart where players roll to determine elements of their character’s history. It creates lovers, friends, rivals and more for GMs to hang plot hooks on. Cyberpunk thrives on the personal connections between characters. Lifepath makes player buy-in easier; players are going to be much more interested in a job given to them by an old flame than a random NPC."[26]

Other reviews[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abHall, Charlie (2019-08-07). "Cyberpunk Red review: This pen-and-paper game is the key to understanding Cyberpunk 2077". Polygon. Retrieved 2020-05-16.
  2. ^ abcdBambra, Jim (September 1989). "Roleplaying Reviews". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (149): 85–86.
  3. ^Peter (18 May 2012). "A Thorough and Objective Review [Night City]". RPGGeek. RPGGeek. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  4. ^ abcGibson, Than (28 Mar 2018). "Welcome to the first article of Retro RPG Reviews!". Meeple Mountain. Meeple Mountain. Archived from the original on 13 May 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  5. ^ abElsam, Sara (5 Mar 2020). "Here's an exclusive first look at character creation, abilities, Lifepaths and the new Medtech role in the Cyberpunk Red tabletop RPG". Dicebreaker. Dicebreaker. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  6. ^Kanouse, Patrick (2020-12-14). "Cyberpunk Red: Style and Substance". Black Gate. Retrieved 2020-12-15.
  7. ^Lafayette, Lev (31 Dec 2010). "Review of Cyberpunk 2020". RPGnet. RPGnet. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  8. ^Girdwood, Andrew (23 Jul 2019). "So, you wanna be a cyberpunk? A review of the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit". Geek Native. Geek Native. Archived from the original on 14 July 2020. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  9. ^Allison, Peter Ray (26 February 2020). "'Making Cyberpunk Red almost killed us': Mike Pondsmith on the return of the tabletop RPG, catching up with 2020's future and Cyberpunk 2077". Dicebreaker. Dicebreaker. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  10. ^Wayne’s Books (16 June 2019). "Cyberpunk 2020 box set (1990)". Wayne’s Books. Wayne’s Books. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  11. ^Deric Bernier (22 July 2016). "The Master Books List for Cyberpunk 2020 and All Things Related". Datafortress 2020. Datafortress 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  12. ^"Stephen Billias's Cyberpunk books in order". Fantastic Fiction. Fantastic Fiction. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  13. ^Cowen, Richard (1 February 2010). "Review of Cyberpunk v3". RPGnet. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  14. ^Peter (16 June 2011). "A Thorough and Objective Review [Cyberpunk v3.0]". BoardGameGeek. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  15. ^Hall, Charlie (2019-06-24). "Cyberpunk 2077 prequel, a tabletop RPG starter kit, will be out this August". Polygon. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  16. ^Garrett, Eric (2019-05-12). "Cyberpunk 2077 Shares Same Timeline With the Tabletop Game, Says Mike Pondsmith". Archived from the original on 2020-07-13. Retrieved 2020-05-16.
  17. ^"Cyberpunk Red RPG has a release date and price, launching alongside Cyberpunk 2077". Dicebreaker. 2020-10-12. Retrieved 2020-11-05.
  18. ^Purslow, Matt (2020-05-19). "Cyberpunk Red Tabletop Game Delayed". IGN. Retrieved 2020-06-26.
  19. ^Meitzler, Ryan (2020-12-15). "Cyberpunk Red Miniatures Game is Coming from R. Talsorian Games in 2021". DualShockers. Retrieved 2020-12-15.
  20. ^"Cyberpunk: The Arasaka's Plot for J2ME (2007)". MobyGames. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  21. ^Keane, Sean (October 27, 2020). "Cyberpunk 2077 delayed to Dec. 10". cnet. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  22. ^Wieck, Stewart (February 1989). "Review: Cyberpunk". White Wolf Magazine. No. 14. p. 58.
  23. ^Mason, Paul (May 1989). "Role Games". Games International. No. 5. pp. 44–46.
  24. ^Varney, Allen (September 1992). "Roleplaying Reviews II". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (185): 83–84.
  25. ^Pettengale, Paul (Christmas 1996). "Arcane Presents the Top 50 Roleplaying Games 1996". Arcane. Future Publishing (14): 25–35.
  26. ^Wieland, Rob (2020-11-13). "Cyberpunk Red Looks Back To The Dark Future". Retrieved 2021-03-10.


  • Michael Pondsmith (1993). Cyberpunk: The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future. Talsorian Games, Incorporated. ISBN .
  • Will Moss; Mike Pondsmith; Lisa Pondsmith. Cyberpunk v3.0. R. Talsorian. ISBN .

External links[edit]

Home of the Brave, A Cyberpunk 2020 Sourcebook. My Review and Book Report.

Scammers are selling Cyberpunk 2020 roleplaying books for crazy prices, but new ones are just $30

Fueled by the thirst for Cyberpunk 2077, there are plenty of people now interested in its source material: late-80s tabletop roleplaying game Cyberpunk 2020. Perhaps banking on the idea that you’ll think a 30-year-old game is out of print, sellers on Amazon and other sites are charging exorbitant rates for copies of the game: $200 or more for a used copy, $450 or more for new.

The twist here is that new copies are still in print and can be purchased from publisher R. Talsorian Games for $30. Seriously: Here is a link to their store. You can also get a PDF of Cyberpunk 2020 for a mere $15. If you're looking to get a copy, don't get ripped off.

R. Talsorian Games is aware of the issue, but there’s not much they can do about it other than start selling on Amazon themselves. The new edition of the Cyberpunk 2020 roleplaying game, codenamed Cyberpunk Red, is due to release by Christmas this year. A sourcebook letting you play in the setting of the Cyberpunk 2077 videogame from CD Projekt Red has no announced release date.

If you, too, are interested in more about Cyberpunk, check out the origins of Cyberpunk 2077 or a list of neat stuff from the tabletop game we’d like to see in the video game.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.


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Cyberpunk 2nd Edition Reprint Edition (Cyberpunk (R. Talsorian))

Pondsmith, Michael

Published by R. Talsorian(1999)

ISBN 10: 0937279137 ISBN 13: 9780937279137

New Softcover Quantity: 1

Book Description Softcover. Condition: New. R. Talsorian Cyberpunk (R. Talsorian) Cyberpunk (2nd Edition) (Reprint Edition) (MINT/New)Manufacturer: R. TalsorianProduct Line: Cyberpunk (R. Talsorian)Type: SoftcoverCode: RTGCP3002-2ECopyright Date: 2020Page Count: 250Please review the condition and any condition notes for the exact condition of this item. All pictures are stock photos. The condition of the item you will receive is MINT/New. Our grading system is explained in the terms of sale section of our bookseller page. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Product Description:Please note that this item is a reprint edition that comes directly from R. Talsorian Games and while all content is identical to the original printings it has the same markers as POD book such as the back blank page and the barcode on the page.Cyberpunk: the original role-playing game of the dark future; a world of corporate assassins, heavy metal heroes and brain-burning cyberhackers, packed with cutting-edge technology and intense urban action. Within this book, you'll find everything you need to tackle the mean streets of the 2000's - in a game system that combines the best in realistic action and playability. Seller Inventory # 2148838613

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