by Public Service Associate Luke
After almost twenty years, the Matrix finally returned, as slow motion bullets, kung fu wirework, and Keanu Reeves once again graced our screens. Lana Wachowski brought back our favorite green-tinted science fiction to theatres and HBO Max, and the world of cyberpunk is here again.
“Cyberpunk” is the term used to describe the science fiction worlds of the Matrix and its kind, set in near-future dystopias. Computers and robots take over as plot devices and storylines, rather than space exploration or large-scale laser battles. These stories tend to be philosophical in nature, and examine ideas of identity, humanity, and purpose. Reality often bends to the point of shattering, and protagonists struggle with internal questions, instead of defending the galaxy from annihilation or saving an alien princess. Cyberpunk is the lens through which Matrix was created, and this might be one of its most famous productions. However, there are plenty of other stories within the world of “cyberpunk” and there are many books and movies available through the library.
To begin with, try the original Matrix movie. This debut changed movies for the better, with its examination of philosophy and reality, and mind-blowing special effects. Its sequels, while not nearly as great as the original, have their moments of fun science fiction and action.
Plenty of movies have developed the cyberpunk aesthetic into easily recognizable worlds, and use the familiar setting to enact their stories. Blade Runner and its sequel, Blade Runner: 2049, ask what it means to be human in a world where androids live amongst people (and are two of my favorite movies of all time). Possessor, Upgrade, and Johnny Mnemonic delve into ideas of personal autonomy, both physically and mentally. Characters change their bodies at a whim to carry out tasks of increasingly dangerous demands. Dredd creates a cityscape dominated by outlaws, where criminals are hunted by overpowered officers who act as judge, jury, and executioners.
There are a few staples of cyberpunk fiction in novel form as well. Neuromancer by William Gibson is known as one of the first books, and pieces of media, to create the cyberpunk genre. This novel popularized many of the concepts we have associated with cyberpunk,such as megacorporations, virtual reality, and East Asian influence. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson combines the worlds of private companies, neon advertisements, ninjas, and computer games into an exciting thriller that spans topics from the linguistics of the Sumerian language to cyborgs nicknamed “gargoyles”. Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs series, starting with Altered Carbon, follows a private detective who jumps through time and space by being able to transport his consciousness through different bodies. Throughout his adventures, memories of his original life plague him, causing him to deal with trauma through various perspectives. Ghost in the Shell is one of the most recognized mangas of all time, due to its vivid cyberpunk setting and riveting action sequences. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the master of cyberpunk and science fiction, is the novella that inspired Blade Runner, and dives even deeper into the themes of identity and humanity that are presented in the movie.
If you enjoyed Matrix: Resurrections or any of its prequels, you can dive deeper into one of the most exciting and thought-provoking science-fiction subgenres with one or all of the items mentioned above.
Original Matrix Movies
- Neuromancer by William Gibson| print / digital
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson | print / digital
- Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan | print / digital
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick | print / digital
- Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow | manga / digital