Cover Image: The Big Book of Cyberpunk

The Big Book of Cyberpunk

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This huge book has taken me ages to finish! Obviously in a book like this there are stories that didn’t grab me so I admit I skipped some. Divided into sections on the ‘self’, ‘culture’, ‘society’, ‘challenge’ and ‘post cyberpunk’ and then in each section the stories are arranged chronologically. It includes well known authors and many I’d never heard of and stories from all over the world. Easy to dip into when I felt like a short story and very enjoyable.

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The Big Book of Cyberpunk by Jared Shurin is a strong collection of cyberpunk stories, and a worthy addition to any library collection. Readers will find a range of stories and cyberpunk subgenres, blending the familiar and the new. Longtime cyberpunk fans and people new to the genre will find plenty to enjoy.

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“The Big Book of Cyberpunk” edited by Jared Shurin absolutely delivers the goods. It is a heavyweight at 1152 pages (in the electronic review copy) with 108 dark techno stories spanning 72 years from 1950 to 2022 including stories translated from German, Spanish, French, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, & Russian. This book includes many outstanding authors such as Bruce Sterling, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Fritz Leiber, Greg Bear, Greg Egan, Hoshi Shin’ichi (indirectly), James Patrick Kelly, James Tiptree, Jr., Ken Liu, Multiple AI's, Nancy Kress, Neal Stephenson, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, & William Gibson. It is also notable that these stories were originally published in such venues as Omni, Galaxy, Nature, Time, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Amazing Science Fiction Stories, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed.

As expected with good science fiction stories, these tales are entertaining and thought provoking. I think the editor did a great job of selecting these stories. I had already read about 15% of these stories, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed rereading these. Overall, I found about 20% of the stories to be exactly what I look for in science fiction (new ideas, cool settings, fun to read, etc). On the opposite spectrum there were a couple of stories that did not work for me, but I am sure that those stories are appreciated by some readers.

The most controversial point of this book is surely the label “cyberpunk”. The editor discusses and describes his definition of “cyberpunk” in the introduction. This book absolutely does contain some great cyberpunk, yet, it also contained a few stories that I personally do not consider to be cyberpunk. This is not a problem, however, since these are nicely offset by the rest of the book

An ideal review would include a brief critique of each of the 108 stories. Yet, if I attempted to do so, this review would turn in to a 100 page “Big Review of the Big Book”. Let me conclude by offering warm words of appreciation to the publisher, editor, authors, translators, and illustrators for kindly providing an electronic review copy of this excellent work. I strongly recommend this for readers that enjoy science fiction.

For Netgalley reviewers only: I strongly recommend reading the pdf version since it is formatted perfectly.

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I'll admit that I didn't finish this book. And it's absolutely a case of "not you but me" - when this is called the big book of, it is the BIG BOOK. There's more than a hundred stories in here! And it turns out that I just can't read that many cyberpunk stories in one sitting, so... I lost momentum. This is not, for me, the sort of book that can be read in a short period of time (like the time NetGalley gives; this is not a complaint about NetGalley, it just means the policy doesn't work for me with a book like this specific one). This is the sort of book that I would probably read over about six months - a few stories between every other book, basically. I think it's brilliant that this book exists, and I expect to look out for a print version that I can dip in and out of (in print, I suspect the formatting will work better, too).

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The character limit prevents me from posting all of what I wrote about the individual stories here.
To see the everything I've written refer to provided Goodreads link:

The Big Book of Cyperpunk has 108 stories. Its details say it's ~1,100 pages, but it has ~643k words, which is closer to being ~2,200 pages normally. Each page has two columns of text, which explains the doubling. That's a lot of content. The scope and range of this anthology is immense. There were so many authors that I read for the first time and so many different concepts and ideals that I hadn't seen before. Each story is different in its presentation. I didn't notice any repetition despite this being a themed anthology. If you read every story in this anthology then your view on what cyberpunk is will be greatly expanded. There were several stories that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them, often because their content was something that I initially thought that I wouldn't like. If this anthology was only composed of the stories I thought were good and great, it'd still be a full length anthology. There's even a few that I'm considering whether they're among the best of the 1000s of short fiction stories I've read. That may be enough by itself.

15 Translated
3 Japanese
3 Spanish
2 Arabic
2 Russian
1 Chinese
1 French
1 German
1 Korean
1 Portuguese

102 of the 108 stories have been previously published in English. This is the first appearance in English for 6 that have been translated. No story that was originally written in English appears in this anthology for the first time. I expected there to be more stories from Chinese authors because the Chinese science fiction anthologies I've read have had several stories that could be arguably described as cyberpunk as defined by this anthology. There are several that I would've included, though including what I prefer wouldn't necessary have made it any better. Unfortunately, there are doubtlessly many logistical issues that make the inclusion of anything difficult. An anthology of this size is a grand undertaking and even so in many ways it's still a survey rather than anything even pretending to be fully representative of its theme.

Shurin argues the world itself has become much more cyberpunk which in turn has made science fiction itself more cyberpunk. I completely agree with that assessment and as he notes it's probably the most important reason why cyberpunk barely has a discrete identity. The stories that can be most readily identified as cyberpunk are those that could now be considered as alternate histories. They're futures that never came to pass, at least not in the iterations presented for the most part. I find that especially interesting considering that the story which opens this anthology, “The Gernsback Continuum” by William Gibson is all about that. Even as cyberpunk was born it had contained the death of its identity. There are many nonfiction books that describe the assimilation of the counterculture into the mainstream and that's what seems to have happened with cyberpunk. Sadly, it often seems like those who have tried to most make the world the most cyberpunk were those who saw its warnings as inspirations and its villains as heroes.

72 men
31 women
5+ non-binary persons
1 AI + human prompters

Decade Distribution
1950s - 1
1960s - 2
1970s - 1
1980s - 18
1990s - 16
2000s - 13
2010s - 42
2020s - 15
20th Century - 38 35%
21st Century - 70 65%

At 39% of the stories, the 2010s are represented more than the entirety of the 20th century. That's understandable based on the restrictions Shurin placed upon this anthology. Of the 51 stories that were published before the 2010s, 13 of them were by authors who didn't exclusively identify as male, as assumed by a cursory search. That's 25%. The overall percent is 34%. The 57 stories in the 2010s and 2020s have 24, which at 42% is closing in on parity. I have no idea what the overall percent of eligible stories were written by whom, but I assume that even to be at this level of inclusion required a lot of effort. That's especially the case since Shurin said he tried to avoid having the same author more than once as well as those that have already been heavily anthologized.

Having a large number of non-white authors is almost surely too much of an ask without personally commissioning many authors. As Shurin notes, Afro-Futurism is not Black Cyberpunk. The other major source of fiction would be from authors from Southeast Asia and East Asia as far as I'm aware, but whether many of those would qualify is arguable.

I mention this because in the Editor's Note that opens the anthology Shurin explicitly states that cyberpunk was ahead of its time with both progressive themes and inclusivity. Of course, that's only relevant to its contemporaries and not to current expectations. However, Shurin also states that many of the stories in this anthology are transgressive in a variety of ways. I was surprised by how many of the stories could be considered offensive, personally I'd call them distasteful, by people of all sorts. Most of the stories I strongly disliked were because of this, though I would like to think it's also because of more than that, but it can be difficult to tell.

Enjoyment Distribution
Highly Enjoyable - 9
Enjoyable - 25
Ok - 37
Meh - 14
Blah - 23
Highly + Enjoyable - 32%
Ok - 34%
Meh + Blah - 34%

I don't know what conclusion I ought to draw from this since it's all over the place. This is unfortunately the case for a lot of anthologies and collections for me so it causes a lot of problems with how to rate it, much to the work's detriment. If a reader ignores everything they don't like rather than reading it all would it be a much better experience? I don't know whether that the better approach or not.

When I compared my ratings of the stories written by men compared to those of women I found that in terms of percentages, I was twice as likely (35%) to have rated a story as Enjoyable when it was written by a woman rather a man (17%). I was surprised by that and I'll have to look into that more. However, I was also twice as likely to have rated a story as Highly Enjoyable (10%) when it was written by a man as compared to a woman (5%). I'll have to ponder that as well.

The enjoyment distribution by published year was even more surprising for me. When I compared post-2010 and pre-2010 to have about half the stories in each era I found that I had almost the same for every single rating. I didn't expect at that all. Apparently I have minimal time preference, going by this at least.

In the preface to the Post-Cyberpunk section Shurin says that he was self-indulgent with the stories chosen for it. In my opinion, he was overly self-indulgent elsewhere as well, mostly with those that seemed to be included because of their malicious attacks on thinly-veiled contemporary public figures. It's not enough separation of fantasy from reality for my preference within its specific context.

Story Presentation
I copied the table of contents from Shurin's substack so I wouldn't have to type out the relevant details for each story. That's presented in alphabetical order by last name.

This anthology instead has them by sections and chronological order of publication. The sections are Self, Society, Culture, Challenge, and Post-Cyberpunk. The first story is outside of the sections though. Each section is prefaced with an introduction where Shurin discusses its theme and provides a brief description of each story. The first story of each section is one that could be considered to be proto-Cyberpunk.

The rest of this is what I've written about the stories. There's relatively a lot. As the entirely of everything here is about 60k characters, 10k words, and 20 single spaced pages. It suffices to say that if you have an interest in cyberpunk and don't mind short fiction then there will probably be a lot that you'll enjoy reading. I find it difficult to write about short fiction, the shorter the more so, because saying anything about it is a greater percentage of how much it is. So, be forewarned that what I've written for each story says enough to give an idea what the story is about, but since they're so short it may be also an overview of the story.

I received this DRC from Vintage Anchor through NetGalley

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The big book of cyberpunk is exactly as the title states; a big book about cyberpunk! With over 100 stories, the book give an extensive look into the genre. The stories are entertaining and well written. It is quite enjoyable!

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At +1000 pages, Big Book is apt. This is also a book with a wide variety of talent and stories. I got the badly formatted Kindle version and that took away from my ability to get thru all of it unfortunately. What I read I enjoyed. Good stories, bad formatting.

Thanks very much for the free copy for review!!

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It's a brilliant anthology for people who want to understand what cyberpunk is about. Sadly, the pdf is almost unreadable on my Kindle due to formatting issues. Guys, if you want to provide readers with an ARC of such a huge book, consider doing it in a reader-friendly format. Chances are I'll buy the book and finish it this way but for now, I'm calling it quits (because of the formatting, not the content).

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This is a stunning collection of the Science Fiction and Cyber Punk genre. The book is big. I would recommend purchasing the eBook, rather than the physical 1152 paged beast, that could break your shelves - however, I did find ergonomic problems with the eBook.
Reading should be easy.
Reading a book is simple, turn the next page. At any one moment you can consult the contents page, see chapters etc. However, in short story analogies, I know what I like. I like the story title to have the author along with it. Unfortunately The Big Book of Cyberpunk did not have that.
I like a foreword accompanying each story, which gives me information about the author and the story itself, for instance, where was the story first published?
I also like the contents page to have clickable links, so I can go to that story, instead of clicking through the pages.
Perhaps it was my kindle, or the book I was sent, but none of these things were in the eBook. It made reading tedious, as I did not have an ergonomic experience.
If I had a physical copy of the book, it would have been easier, as I could have quickly flipped to the front and got my answers, however it still would have been an inconvenience.
But, for the anthology itself, there will be something here for everyone. As I said originally, this is a beast of an anthology, with people I recognise, some which are new, stories I have never heard of and as Science Fiction is meant to do, it opens your mind and gets you thinking. I would recommend the book to fans of Cyberpunk or Science Fiction.

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