Cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction, is typically set in an urban, dystopian future, where computers and AI run rampant, the science and technology far ahead of the people who reside in that world. Often pulling from elements like film noir and other detective works, cyberpunk stories are often thrilling, fast-paced listens, but offer just as much in terms of depth as they do in entertainment.
So if you’re a fan of cinematic gems like the film
Blade Runner, there’s no better place to start than with the fiction that established the genre. To help celebrate this resurgence and point you towards classics and new works alike, we’ve rounded up the best cyberpunk audiobooks for you to enjoy next. 0 Blade Runner
Today, the phrase cyberpunk is synonymous with Ridley Scott’s film
Blade Runner. However, Philip K. Dick’s original version of the story, originally titled 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?', was just as pivotal in establishing the literary genre. Hall of Fame narrator Scott Brick whose voice and performance bring the classic to life in this haunting, dystopian audiobook. As bounty hunter Rick Deckard, Brick’s performance encapsulates all of the disparity and emptiness of Blade Runner's world. Set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, bounty hunter Rick Deckard is tasked with taking down six escaped androids who are traveling to Earth. They can look and behave just like humans, and they pose a serious threat to humanity as a result. But as Deckard pursues his mission, he begins to doubt its purpose and, as his investigation grows more complex and confusing, also begins to doubt himself. Though many will be tempted to compare this story to its film counterpart, the differences between the two works is distinct–making it not just a worthwhile listen, but one you’ll be able revisit repeatedly. Neuromancer
Neuromancer is often credited with establishing the cyberpunk genre. Winner of Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and Nebula awards, the audiobook follows Henry Dorsett Case, portrayed with dark, heavy undertones by narrative veteran Robertson Dean. After the antihero and former hacker is caught stealing from his company, he’s injected with a toxin that makes it impossible for him to connect to the main network. When he’s offered some shadowy mercenary work by a man who claims he can reverse Case’s poisoning, he knows he must take it...despite not knowing exactly how dangerous it might turn out to be. Dean electrifies Neuromancers whole world with full, nuanced performances of each character. He easily flits between different accents and personas, making it easy to follow any conversation or high-intensity scene, so that you’ll struggle to stop listening until the very end. Snow Crash
Some audiobooks enhance the auditory experience by using music, sound effects, and more to bring the story to life—
Snow Crash falls into this category, using a broad variety of carefully concocted sounds to illuminate its world. Hiro Protagonist, the main character, delivers pizza in his reality, but in the Metaverse, an alternate universe, he is a warrior prince diving into the mysteries of a new computer virus that’s taking down hackers across the city. At the core of the virus is deep lore rooted in the Sumerian language, a carefully detailed plot device that demonstrates Stephenson’s talent for interweaving fiction with subjects like linguistics, computer science, politics, and more. The whole robust collection of characters, universes, and evil viruses is woven together by Jonathan Davis. His empathy for each character can be heard in his thoughtful performance of each person, making it all too easy to slip away and become fully invested in the story yourself. Altered Carbon
In Richard K. Morgan’s
Altered Carbon, the first in the Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy, the human race has expanded throughout the galaxy and universe beyond our imagination. While much of human society is the same, the affluent can purchase an expensive procedure that lets them "save" and "download" their consciousness, escaping death by re-downloading themselves into a new body. Takeshi Kovacs is one of those people, which might lead you to believe his life is pretty stress-free. But there’s one big problem: his most recent death was at the hands of someone else. Naturally, he embarks on a journey to illuminate the sinister details of his murder, but in the process, finds himself only falling deeper into a dark conspiracy. Todd McLaren has a deep, gravelly voice perfect for recounting the details of Kovacs’s harrowing mission, but also manages to play all manner of different characters–male and female–in distinctly different voices without distracting the listener when he makes a switch. And though each Kovacs audiobook in the trilogy features a different narrator, each well-suited to their individual story, many reviewers attest that McLaren is their favorite. The Windup Girl
In Paolo Bacigalupi’s award-winning
The Windup Girl, calories are a form of currency that people hunt and dig for. It’s these circumstances we find protagonist Anderson Lake in, undercover and searching for food thought to be extinct. Bacigalupi explores the topics of corporate greed in a corrupt, dystopian Southeast Asia. Jonathan Davis is featured on our list again with another nuanced performance. With so many characters in various scenarios, it’s no easy feat to juggle all the emotions and perspectives. Yet Davis manages to both portray each character’s personality and unique quirks, as well as alter his delivery based on the emotional needs of the scene. Infomocracy
Like a few other works on our list, Malka Older’s debut title
Infomocracy blends genres, incorporating elements of a thriller or political drama with cyberpunk and science fiction. Older’s story follows the lead up to a major election with the potential to unseat Information, the corporation that has governed uninterrupted since it first created peaceful micro-democracy out of what had been violent, warring nation-states. This makes for a story that, though set in a completely alternate reality, carries echoes of all-too-familiar elements of our own earth-bound society. It also makes Christine Marshall’s intelligent tone the perfect selection for the first in the distinctly political Centenal Cycle series. With multiple characters and perspectives to juggle, Marshall masterfully establishes distinct personas for the audiobook’s three protagonists; Ken, a young idealist hoping to prove himself to the Policy1st party; Domaine, who sees the election as an opportunity to bring down the ruling party; and Mishima, an insider with dangerous knowledge of the real purpose behind Information and the people who run it. There are no clear good or bad guys here, which allows you to decide for yourself which characters you align with most–and makes it even more difficult to pause as you track your chosen characters through what could become a very dangerous election. Company Town
On an oil rig off the coast of Canada, there is a place called Company Town. Here, most take on bioengineered enhancements, making them less human and more artificial. Listeners follow Hwa, one of the few to forgo these procedures in favor of leaning on her expertise in self-defense and protection. Cecelia Kim’s soft, but confident narration offers a unique juxtaposition to many of the narrators on this list as she tells Hwa’s story. This delivery gives Hwa’s character an equal softness and uniqueness unfamiliar to the genre. As her city becomes corrupted and tainted by a series of murders that all point to Hwa, this soft performance by Kim makes it all the more devastating to witness as Hwa is forced to make choices either for herself or for the safety of others–and deal with the potentially tragic consequences.
In Cindy Pon’s
Want, Jason Zhou lives in a world where the wealthy can buy longer lives, and he is eager to infiltrate and take down that very system. However, what seemed like a simple mission—destroy the suits that protect the rich—ends up revealing a darker, more sinister nature behind Jin Corporation, the company that creates the suits and may be perpetuating the need for them in the first place. Told by Roger Yeh in his debut audiobook performance, listeners will benefit from Yeh’s experiences telling stories on stage and in television as he adds crisp, clean punctuation to each beat in the story. Perdido Street Station
In China Mieville’s
Perdido Street Station, the first work in the New Crobuzon series, magic and steampunk technology coexist. The sprawling, detailed world Mieville has built is made magic itself by John Lee, who clearly savors each description while keeping his pacing brisk to keep up with the author’s intense plot. In New Crobuzon, a city that lies beneath the bones of a dead beast, Isaac, a scientist and researcher, is approached by Yagharek, a creature who lost its wings and asks Isaac to help him learn to fly again. Shortly after Isaac helps the creature learn to fly, it eats the mind of one of Isaac’s colleagues and escapes, sending Isaac on an adventure to re-capture the creature and destroy it. In this highly imaginative tale, Mieville pulls from fantasy and steampunk to tell a captivating story you won’t be able to stop listening to. Survival Quest
Often compared to the world of the wildly popular genre of online multiplayer video games,
Survival Quest by Vasily Mahanenko transports listeners to Barliona, a virtual world with both players and foes in the forms of monsters, battles, and more. Much like real life, some players get lost in this virtual world, constantly pulled back to the magical and mystical that reality doesn’t offer, to the point that they go months without returning home. With so much to take in and absorb in Barliona, Jonathan Yen’s engaging, animated tone will make the minutes—and hours—fly by as you listen. Each player experiences the world like a video game, able to level up, take down opponents, and more. But a select few face a larger challenge as Barliona is transformed into a hellish landscape. Alien III
For the first time ever, William Gibson’s lost
Alien III script is being published, exclusively in hair-raising audio format. Marking the 40th anniversary of the original Alien release, Alien III was intended to be the sequel to the 1987 classic, Aliens, but never made it to the big screen. But now, the Sulaco is back again and what lies inside of it's steel walls is more fearsome than ever. Featuring a multi-cast performance from the likes of Tom Alexander, Barbara Barnes, Michael Biehn, Cliff Chapman, Samantha Coughlan, Ben Cura, Dar Dash, and more, Alien III is directed by the award-winning Dirk Maggs. An incredibly immersive audio experience, Alien III is a can't miss for fans of the originial or listeners who want an edge-of-your-seat bingeworthy scare-fest.