All posts by Alexander V Woods

What is Cyberpunk Fashion?

What is Cyberpunk Fashion?

A lot of things are clear in Cyberpunk: what started the genre, what the classic cyberpunk movies and books are, what makes a movie, tv show, or book more or less cyberpunk than something else. But what about Cyberpunk Fashion? As a major part of the Cyberpunk aesthetic, this is a lot harder to pinpoint. So we here at Cyberpunk Matrix humbly present to you a breakdown of classic Cyberpunk Fashion.

Cyberpunk Fashion 101:

First off, there’s no one definition to Cyberpunk Fashion. So it’s best to start off by reviewing what cyberpunk is, and how that definition will impact the subsequent fashion inspired by the genre. Cyberpunk is high tech, low life, and its characters are punks trying to survive on the streets in a high-tech dystopian future. That future looks like skyscrapers, ubiquitous advertisements displayed via holograms, projections, or screens. It’s often dark or raining, and the reflections of the neon lights can often be seen on the rainwater accumulating on the streets or off the plastic, reflective surfaces throughout the mega-city.

So a Cyberpunk living in this kind of dystopian future would want their clothes to be functional, above all. It’ll tend to be black, so a cyberpunk can stick to the shadows or possibly represent the dark future they live in, or if it does have colors they’ll tend to be dark colors like browns, oranges, yellows, or scuffed dark grey or white. These colors may have highlights of neon colors or neon lights, such as bright blue, pink, yellow, or purple. There are several different subcategories of fashion styles that can fit in the Cyberpunk fashion umbrella.

Blade Runner 2049 is a great example of Cyberpunk clothing done right. Officer K’s trademark trenchcoat, very similar and inspired by Deckard’s trenchcoat from the original blade runner, is the perfect stylish Cyberpunk clothing choice.

But what are all the different Cyberpunk styles? Let’s break them down into categories.

Cyberpunk Style Categories

  • Techwear
  • Military / tactical
  • Goth Ninja
  • Streetwear
  • Subversive/Referential
  • Cybergoth/Raver/Club wear

Cyberpunk Techwear

Techwear is probably the biggest, most relevant fashion style that Cyberpunk often falls into. According to techwear-x.com,

Techwear is a kind of Clothing with both Functionality and Technological Aesthetics, which is born in line with the development of the cyberpunk network. The perfect combination of futurism and high-tech fabrics.

Military/Tactical

This is what it sounds like, the future will require tactical enforcers so military apparel with vests and pouches is a no-brainer. Colors for these should probably be dark and muted, without much cameo color.

Goth/Ninja

A variation of techwear, with big hoods and masks

Subversive/Referential/Nerdy

This will be more for the punk types, think console cowboy or punk hackers. It’ll often have a witty reference to hacking or some other cyberpunk-related skill or theme.

Cybergoth/Raver/Clubwear

This style definitely received a bump after the Matrix trilogy, think any club wear at the Merovingian’s, or simply Trinity’s black latex  body suit. Skirts or leggings, even fishnet stockings, neon colors, braids, goggles, and high-platform boots.

3 Generations of Cyberpunk Fashion: A Natural Evolution

Neon Dystopia’s founder, Veritas, noticed a natural evolution of Cyberpunk fashion across three generations.

The first generation featured more punk and rivethead fashions, think the terminator. It was rougher, harder, and more retro.

The second generation was led by the Matrix trilogy, with trench coats, latex, and fetishwear with a subvariant using tea-shades and fractals called cyberdelic and focus on computers and altered states (think Snowcrash).

The third, and current generation, is techwear (with techninja as a subvariant). The look is more sleek and urban, with functionality and technical fabrics. They tend to be with big cuts of fabric, whether somewhat baggy pants with cargo pockets and straps, or box cut or open jackets, also often with pockets or straps, with the entirety of it being comfortable, breathable, and waterproof. Tech-ninja will also often have hoods and masks.

History of Cyberpunk Fashion

After the novels Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Neuromancer began the genre, we didn’t truly get a glimpse of what Cyberpunk fashion would look like until Blade Runner came out in 1982. The costume designer Michael Kaplan described his inspiration, explaining:

“After reading the script, we definitely felt that Blade Runner was of that film noir genre, and we looked back to the films of the 1940s for inspiration. Deckard (Harrison Ford’s character) was as much a Gumshoe as Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart). For Rachel’s character, our chief inspirations were the tailored suits that Adrian designed in the late 1930s and early 40s.”–Michael Kaplan

So Cyberpunk fashion has always respected the cyclical trends of fashion, as some fashion pieces go out of style only to become vintage or retro and come into style three cycles later. There were little changes, like Deckard’s distinct coat collar, or Zhora’s transparent rain coat. Following up on this inspiration, the Ghost in the Shell anime would further influence the Cyberpunk fashion style by bringing more tactical and military influences.

Field or bomber jackets appeared with high collars, striking colors, or a multitude of pockets to embellish the style. Kurt Swanson, the costume designer for the 2017 live-action film, had this to say:

The original informed a generation of designers. We are living in a world that reflects some of that vision of the future from 20 some years ago and the next generation of designers will continue to influence cinema and be influenced by it.

The next major fashion influence in the cyberpunk fashion style would be 1999’s The Matrix. Trench coats became trendy again, along with sunglasses and goth black. And just as fashion is cyclical, it suddenly became en vogue in 2018, with celebrities like Kendall Jenner, Lupita Nyong’o, and Lady Gaga have been seen wearing clothing that seem to have taken direct inspiration from the Matrix trilogy.

Where does Cyberpunk go from here? It’s anyone’s guess. Some might argue the future is in Techwear, whereas others might just take inspiration from films like Blade Runner and other sci-fi films.

Accessories

There are also some key accessories that are required to complete any proper Cyberpunk style. The first one being mirrorshades, or sunglasses of some kind (a classic cyberpunk anthology being called mirrorshades itself). Teashade sunglasses are another option, they were sunglasses with perfectly round lenses, much like the ones John Lennon wore, made famous in the 1960s and connected to psychedelic art. They were sometimes worn for aesthetic reasons, and other times to hide bloodshot eyes from recreational drug use.

A more recent accessory which hasn’t been quite picked up as much yet, as it’s mostly still in the athletic fitness style, is the smartwatch. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on smartwatches as they develop in capabilities and funtionality.

Hairstyles

Further more organic Cyberpunk styles include short hair, with practical side buzz cuts for both guys and girls, and alternatively mohawks, dreadhawks, and synthdreads.

Biohacking

Probably the most Cyberpunk, but currently not very mainstream and even a little dangerous accessory, is one that you implant underneath the skin. That’s right, I’m talking about biohacking–it used to be neodymium implants (small, strong magnets) that allows users to “feel” magnetic fields. But now the fad seems to favor RFID chips that can do anything from unlocking your Tesla car, your front door, or even quickly loading your home page on a smartphone.

16 Oct 2013, Berlin, Germany — US American Tim Cannon holds a headphone magnet on his finger through magnetism in Berlin, Germany, 16 October 2013. Cannon has carried a magnet in his finger since spring 2011. People with such modifications refer to themselves as ‘cyborgs’. Photo: Ole Spata/dpa — Image by © Ole Spata/dpa/Corbis

Biohacking / Body Augmentations

To go even further, there are bionic augmentations that are making progress, but those are pretty much exclusively for those who lost limbs due to genetic defects or accidents. Tilly Lockey, for instance, is a 13 year old amputee who became an ambassador for open bionics and also received a new pair of bionic arms from director James Cameron at the premiere of Alita: Battle Angel. She’s also a great example of a true cyberpunk.

So there you have it! Now you know how to be a true cyberpunk, or at least how to dress like one. If you think I’ve left something out, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

Further References:

The Cyberpunk Fashion Aesthetic: Shellzine.net. https://shellzine.net/cyberpunk-fashion/

Top 14 Best Cyberpunk Clothing Brands and Online Stores (thevou.com): https://thevou.com/fashion/cyberpunk-clothing/

Cyberpunk 2020 Subcultures: Fashion (cyberpunk.fandom.com): https://cyberpunk.fandom.com/wiki/Fashion

Cyberpunk fashion history, modern Sci-Fi outfits, futuristic style clothing: cyberpunkclothing.net

Cyberpunk Fashion Guide in 2022 (New): techwear-x.com. https://techwear-x.com/blogs/talk-about-techwear/cyberpunk-fashion-guide-in-2022

The Evolution of Cyberpunk Fashion: shiftlondon.org. https://www.shiftlondon.org/fashion/the-evolution-of-cyberpunk-fashion/

Cyberpunk clothing might be the future of fashion: medium.com. https://medium.com/predict/cyberpunk-clothing-might-be-the-future-of-fashion-afe768167925

Cyberpunk Fashion Guide (Sub), Neon Dystopia. https://www.neondystopia.com/cyberpunk-fashion-lifestyle/cyberpunk-fashion-guide-sub/ and https://www.neondystopia.com/cyberpunk-fashion-lifestyle/get-cyberpunk-clothing/

Cyberpunk Wiki Clothing: Reddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/Cyberpunk/wiki/clothing/

 

Cyberpunk Book Review: The Wrath of Leviathan

Cyberpunk Book Review: The Wrath of Leviathan (BetterWorld trilogy #2)

The Wrath of Leviathan is book two of the BetterWorld Trilogy by T.C. Weber, which is available on Amazon now as part of the three-book set called The War for Reality. It continues the story of the Cyberpunk crew from book one, this time set mostly in Brazil but also covering what happens to Waylee as she’s left to fend mostly for herself back in the US. Wrath of Leviathan is based on the crew’s attempts to avoid the wrath of BetterWorld and the US government after the events of Sleep State Interrupt unfolded. As a result, it continues with the thrilling, oppressive atmosphere of our heroes being on the run, but this time includes a villain’s perspective. Also, some spoilers ahead since I’ll be referencing a couple things that happened in book 1, so be warned!

Still Varied, Some Old, Some New

Wrath of Leviathan has a couple new characters that play a major part, while leaving some old characters we saw from Sleep State Interrupt left behind (like M’Pat, Dingo, and Shakti). We also get to know Kiyoko much better, as she’s become the main character of sorts and has her own arc, while Waylee has a lot less to do this time around. Secondary characters remain Charles and Pel, but they’re still central to the story as well.

The cast in order of importance/relevance are Kiyoko, Gabriel, Pel, Charles, Waylee, and Dalton Crowley (the new villain of Wrath of Leviathan). While the main villain’s character seemed relatively shallow, his motivations were believable enough and his cold, vicious nature made him a compelling villain. And although the bodyguard Gabriel’s motivations felt somewhat surprising, I really enjoyed the action and agency that he brought to the story.

Going from the Offensive to the Defensive

There was a lot less of BetterWorld, the virtual online world, in Wrath of Leviathan. Most of this novel was set in Brazil, where Charles, Pelopidas, and Kiyoko are living in exile with newcomer to the team, Brazilian local and bodyguard Gabriel. The parallel narrative, meanwhile, follows Waylee in jail as she copes with being a prisoner and attempts to prepare for her upcoming trial.

Like book 1, there was still some hacking present, but considerably less so. This made sense from a narrative standpoint, but it also unfortunately made the novel feel a little more removed from the standard cyberpunk genre than the first one did. There’s less hacking and less subversion in general as the crew simply try to stay alive, while mostly living abroad in a new country that’s (mostly) friendly or neutral to them.

The New Setting: Sao Paolo

While the first novel had a very strong sense of paranoia and suspense, this novel had more of a sense of cat-and-mouse action mixed with a background sense of despair. The reason for this is that we are given access to the villain’s mind and his thoughts. As a result, when he acts against the main characters, it’s never a surprise, since we’ve already read Crowley’s plans up until that point. On the other hand, it also means we get to revel in seeing Crowley’s frustrations when the team outflanks him in whatever ways they can. Allowing the reader this kind of omnipotent understanding of what was going on was definitely fun at times. The background sense of despair, however, is telegraphed through Waylee’s thoughts and limited options as she mostly languishes in her prison cell for most of the novel. This really helps build up MediaCorp as a kind of undefeatable enemy, especially when the police and government are working on MediaCorp’s behalf. Which I’m hoping will lead to a more satisfying end or comeuppance for MediaCorp in book 3, hopefully.

Final Verdict: 7.5/10

T.C. Weber’s strengths continue to lie in his pacing, storytelling, and varied cast of believable characters. Wrath of Leviathan is a fun story filled with its fair share of intrigue and action, but if you want a 100% cyberpunk story filled with VR, hacking, and future tech, Wrath of Leviathan probably isn’t what you’re looking for. This novel definitely continues to feel very punk at times, but if I had to sum up the story in one sentence, it would be that it’s a tale on how to watch your back while living in a foreign country as a political refugee. I liked the more developed action scenes compared to Sleep State Interrupt, they were a lot of fun to read and definitely a welcome change. Weber also finally starts writing some sex and more romance into his novel, although on the whole it’s all still relatively PG-13, nothing too gory or explicit like you might find in Altered Carbon or other more mature novels.

So make sure you don’t miss reading this fun on-the-run cyberpunk tale, and if you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought of the book in the comments below!

P.S. One of the many fun additional features you can find on T.C. Weber’s page includes a kickass recipe on how to make the perfect Caipirinha, that staple Brazilian cocktail! You can check it out here:

https://www.tcweber.com/how-to-make-a-capirinha

And as always, if you liked what you read and want to help the Cyberpunk Matrix going, you can show your support over on Ko-Fi. Help contribute to the costs of website upkeep, or simply buy me a simu-latte. https://ko-fi.com/cyberpunkmatrix

This is a sponsored post.

Top 10 Cyberpunk TV Shows You Should Watch in 2022

Top 10 Cyberpunk TV Shows You Should Watch in 2022

There’s nothing the corporations would like more than for you to mindlessly watch TV, consume media and believe in their propaganda. While they shouldn’t get what they want, there’s no denying the world’s “Netflix and Chill” culture of watching shows online after work, for fun or to relax. Well, if you’re going to binge watch anyways, we here at Cyberpunk Matrix have 10 series you can try to binge that will hopefully help you wake up to the reality that these evil corporations are trying to hide from you. So let’s get into our top 10 Cyberpunk series to watch in 2022! (Try as we might, we couldn’t rank them, so they are presented in no particular order).

Psycho Pass (2012)

Ever wonder what it would be like if you could take the technology in Minority Report and put it in a bad-ass gun? Then you’d get something similar to what Psycho Pass has to offer. Set in a dystopian future in Japan, a complex  network of psychometric scanners called the Sibyl System measures the minds of the populace using a “cymatic scan” to give every citizen a “Psycho-Pass.” If their Psycho Pass is higher than an acceptable threshold, the person can pursued, captured, and eliminated if need be. Police detectives then use “Enforcers” to hunt down these individuals. Enforcers are humans  with higher-than-acceptable crime coefficients who are used as hunting dogs to find the latent criminals. Both Enforcers and Detectives use these large handguns called “Dominators” that change their lethality based on the crime coefficients of the targets they are aimed upon, in real time. The series follows Akane Tsunemori, a new recruit, as the team fight crime and then later learn more about the darker side of their crime-fighting system.

With inspirations from such other notable Cyberpunk works like Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Gattaca, another big inspiration was the film-noir L.A. Confidential. The series garnered critical acclaim from both the west and the east, as the series explored psychological themes in society and morality. It’s a classic Cyber-Noir psychological thriller which shouldn’t be missed. You can check out our full review of the series here.

Batman Beyond (1999)

While not 100% Cyberpunk, you will often find Batman Beyond on any proper Cyberpunk fan’s top 10 list. Set in a future filled with all the best kinds of futuristic tech, this sci-fi classic had several Cyberpunk episodes, which we at Cyberpunk Matrix went over in detail here. The future Gotham features an old and wizened Bruce Wayne who has passed on the Batman mantle to young Terry McGuiness when he stumbles into Bruce’s mansion one day. Bruce now mans the Batcave and helps Terry on his missions to keep a new Gotham clean from criminals, while Terry tries to continue navigating High School. With Kevin Conroy coming back to voice Bruce Wayne once again, he’s joined by Will Friedle to voice Terry McGuiness, and both do an excellent job. The series ran for two years, until 2001, spanning 52 episodes and leading to The Justice League right after it ended. With its dark and very Cyberpunk artwork, the series featured many dark issues, particularly in reference to teenage issues such as substance abuse, subcultures, child abuse and neglect, school violence, peer pressure and more while still staying a kid-friendly cartoon.

Blade Runner: Black Lotus (2021)

Having just come out last year, Blade Runner: Black Lotus follows the story of female replicant Elle as she attempts to regain her memory to figure out who she is, with the only clue being the mysterious tattoo of a lotus on her shoulder and an encrypted data cube. Set after the original Blade Runner but before Blade Runner 2049, the series is a fun, true-to-form modern return to the Blade Runner universe. Both in story and in visuals, it feels better than Ghost in the Shell_SAC_2045. This series may fly under the radar for many, but is well worth the viewing. It’s also one of the most recent modern good Cyberpunk series, having just come out last year.

The Animatrix (2003)

The Animatrix is comprised of 9 short films which explain the origins of the Matrix, including how the machines rose to power and why the Earth turned into the dystopian nightmare that it did, but also provides side-stories set in the Matrix universe. Released in June 2003, it does an amazing job of showing different parts of the Matrix universe, questioning reality, and telling the intimate stories of humans, machines, programs, and everything in between. It’s as cyberpunk as you’ll ever get. The artwork for each short story also varies widely. There are some classic anime styles, some digital animation, a black and white anime, and lots of different artists with different styles as well. For a quick and concise explanation of the world before the Matrix, watch the second and third episodes called The Second Renaissance (parts 1 and 2). Fora  prelude to Matrix Reloaded, with an incredible artistic digital animation, watch episode one: The Final Flight of the Osiris. The episode also has a great musical track by Juno Reactor, called Conga Fury. And for a true Film Noir style episode, check out A Detective Story, episode 8.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is probably the golden standard for Cyberpunk TV Shows, and should always be in any proper top 10 Cyberpunk shows list. Ghost in the Shell originally started as a Manga that ran from 1989 to 1997, with the first book running from 1989 to 1991. In 1995 an anime film with the same name came out, which also became an instant Cyberpunk classic. Stand Alone Complex would later come out in 2002 and run for two years with two seasons. The story follows Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team with Public Security Section 9 in the future year of 2030 in Japan as she investigates issues of cyberterrorism from a mysterious hacker only known as the Laughing Man. It’s a thrilling detective story set in the future with hacking and cybernetics, delivered in true stylistic Cyberpunk fashion in downtown Tokyo.

Black Mirror (2011)

Black Mirror is a live action series of 5 seasons, with each season having between 3 and 6 episodes only. Most episodes are psychological thrillers, some more dark than others, but for the most dark and thrilling of episodes, I will definitely say that Black Mirror is not for the faint of heart. Generally critically acclaimed, the series shows the absolute worst that could happen from specific technologies if they were taken too far. First released in December 2011, the last season aired in 2019. Black Mirror also had one episode, called Bandersnatch, that featured one of the first and perhaps only episodes on Netflix to be interactive, meaning that viewers can choose how characters respond to certain situations, resulting in 5 distinct different endings to the episode. One of the episodes, Metalhead, featured a technology that has an uncanny resemblance to some tech that is developing today. We reviewed the episode and its implications a few years ago here. Other noteworthy episodes that feature technology that we may soon see someday include:

  • Fifteen Million Merits (social media, online currency, and TV game shows, from season 1)
  • Nose Dive (Social Currency, Season 3)
  • San Junipero (Virtual Reality, Season 3)
  • Men Against Fire (Augmented Reality, Season 3)
  • Hated in the Nation (Social Media and Cancel Culture, Season 3)
  • Black Museum (Digital Consciousness, Season 4)

Love, Death, & Robots (2019)

Love, Death, & Robots is now a 2-season animated adult anthology on Netflix. The animated shorts vary just like the Animatrix in anime style, animated style, and digitally animated style, and each episode is standalone and not at all connected with any other episode. The stories themselves vary as being sci-fi, fantasy, a mix of both, or simply absurdism. Most episodes are serious, some are tongue-in-cheek, others facetious, but they are all great. Not all are Cyberpunk–in fact, most of them aren’t. But the ones that are Cyberpunk, are actually really good, and thus merit putting the series in this top ten list. We here at Cyberpunk Matrix already reviewed the Cyberpunk episodes here and here.

3. Cowboy Bebop Live Action (2021) and Anime (1998)

Although Genre-bending and not 100% cyberpunk, it’s close enough that many Cyberpunk fans consider it Cyberpunk. Plus the original anime is a legend, considered by many to be the best anime of all time. Thus it merits a spot in our top 10, especially considering it was very recently adapted to a live action series on Netflix. Although the anime is almost 2 decades old, it definitely stands the test of time, and although the live action adaptation had mixed reviews (I personally really liked it), its modernity qualifies it to also have a spot on this list.

Cowboy Bebop is about a team of Bounty Hunters who live on board the space vessel Bebop, and their antics as they all try to earn a living while observing their own versions of moral values. There’s also a loose plot centered on Spike’s departure from the mob as his past comes back to haunt him. Both the anime and live action feature episodes that can mostly stand on their own, a bit like the Mandalorian in the sense that each episode they go somewhere with their ship, things happen, and then they get back on their ship and go to the next place for the next episode. Due to its music, visuals, hilarious irreverence from its characters in their interactions with others and themselves, and very punk nature of the series, you should definitely watch both of these series. The live action follows some episodes and events of the anime but then also deviates a bit, in particular with the ending.

2. Upload (2020)

Upload is now 2 seasons long, the first one coming out in 2020 and the second coming out in March 2022. It’s the most recent cyberpunk media to come out as of this writing, and it’s very good. It’s also a comedy, with a sprinkling of mystery and drama, which is rare to find in the Cyberpunk genre. It’s quite a genre outlier, more unusual even than Cowboy Bebop’s genre-bending. But it definitely qualifies as Cyberpunk as it has all the high-tech, low-life elements that you can come to expect.

Set in the year 2033, humans are able to upload their consciousness to a virtual afterlife, with the better afterlife constructs being ones their users pay more for. When computer programmer Nathan dies prematurely due to an accident on the highway with his self-driving car, his girlfriend convinces him to upload to “Lakeview”, an expensive digital afterlife, only to find himself under her oppressive thumb as she holds total control of his funds and thus, his afterlife. He later develops feelings for his “angel handler”, Nora (a real-life customer service rep), which becomes somewhat awkward for all involved, in a very humorous way.

1. Altered Carbon (2018)

Ever wonder what it would be like if we had a future where our consciousness could be stored in a little “black box” of sorts called a stack implanted below our brain in our spine? Well, if you did, then you’d get the world of Altered Carbon. The series was released on Netflix in 2018, an adaptation from Richard Morgan’s 2002 novel of the same name, and then renewed for a second season before the series was cancelled.

Both the novel and Altered Carbon season 1 really did a great job in getting the Cyberpunk aesthetic right. The novel is a true detective noir which the series adapted very well, although there’s a considerable amount of differences between both, especially for the endings.

Altered Carbon is about Takeshi Kovacs, an ex-elite soldier called an envoy, the last of his squad. He wakes up 250 years after his death when his digital consciousness, or stack, is inserted into a new organic body, or sleeve, so that Kovacs can help an ultra-rich man, Laurens Bancroft, solve his own murder. Kovacs’ investigation will lead him down dangerous paths with mistrustful cops, lethal Russian mobs, and more. With a dark thrilling mystery, gore, and a charming AI companion, you get everything you need with Altered Carbon.

Top 10 Cyberpunk TV Shows you need to watch in 2022

So that’s our top 10 roundup! What did you think of our list? Are there any shows we didn’t include that you think should be included? Let us know in the comments below!

And as always, if you liked what you read and want to help the Cyberpunk Matrix going, you can show your support over on Ko-Fi. Help contribute to the costs of website upkeep, or simply buy me a simulatte. https://ko-fi.com/cyberpunkmatrix

Cyberpunk Review: Upload Season 2

upload season 2 review

Upload Season 2 Review

Well folks, one of the few Cyberpunk content that we had to look forward to coming into this new year of 2022 is finally out. Upload Season 2 was released on March 11th, 2022, and I’ve already binge watched the entire season. So here are my thoughts and comments on Upload’s second season.

Upload Season 2’s Shorter Run Time

The first thing I noticed right off the bat is Upload Season 2’s shorter total run time. Season 2 is only 7 episodes long, compared to season 1’s 10 episodes and at 30 minutes per episode, this definitely left me wanting more. However, Robbie Amell (who plays Nathan Brown, the main character) explained the creator Greg Daniel’s new approach going into this second season was that it took them longer to shoot. ”

“It took the same amount of time to shoot seven as it would have to take to shoot 10. So just with COVID restrictions, testing, having to group people into different bubbles, it was just more than anything, it just took longer,”–Robbie Amell

If they were filming this during the height of one of the many COVID-19 pandemic waves, I really couldn’t notice–the quality definitely didn’t suffer because of it. So I guess that makes sense that it would have taken longer to shoot and create. Amell also mentioned “Story should dictate episode count, episode count shouldn’t dictate story” (referencing show creator Greg Daniels). If that’s true, then it made sense for them to finish Season 2 where they left it, since the story they tell does in a certain sense end nicely during the finale. Except…it’s also very much a cliffhanger, making me already clamor for season 3.

Where Upload Season 1 Left Off

The end of Upload Season 1 found us with Nora leaving the city to go live off the grid, free of technology, while Nathan is trapped in the poor section of Lake View (a 2 gig room) for a month after Ingrid tells him she just uploaded (meaning, killed her body in order to upload her consciousness into the digital world of Lake View.)

Upload Season 2 Review: Characters

One of this show’s strengths is definitely the likeability of the characters, and how interesting they are as well as how many there are, too. I liked how this season still had us pining for Nora and Nathan to get together, their chemistry is palpable as ever on screen and while they spend a lot of the season apart, the scenes they do have together are very cute. Ingrid plays the role of annoying, obsessive, quasi-villain well here (she’s even less likeable than in season 1, but also is given a lot of depth and dimensions this time around) while Nathan continues in his quest to find out exactly how and why he died. We spend some time with the Luddites, a somewhat Amish-style anti-technology society as the true opposition to Horizen, the corporate company that runs Lake View. A new character to join the roster is Matteo, a young fellow Luddite who becomes interested in Nora, and Tinsley, a new temp at Horizen who works under Aleesha and develops an interest for Nathan. Luke is still hilarious as ever as Nathan’s Lake View best friend. AI guy actually is given more of a role here, not only consoling and showing some human moments (which is surprising considering he’s a program) but also we get to see the human who sold his physical likeness to Lake View in order for them to create AI Guy in the first place.

Upload Season 2 Review: Plot

In Upload Season 2, we begin with Nora and her father joining the anti-technology collective of the Luddites while Nathan tries desperately to reach Nora and tell her that he loves her back. But after Nora goes tech-free for long enough, Nathan starts to think the he will never see her again. As Nora starts to develop feelings for the new Luddite she’s working with, Matteo, Nathan will have to fend off being in Lake View 24/7 with Ingrid, as she just uploaded for him, which causes him to feel immense guilt for not being able to reciprocate her feelings after she made the ultimate sacrifice. It turns out Nora’s connections and knowledge of the inner workings of Horizen were just what the Luddites needed to strike back against the corporation, something that Nora struggles to internalize. While Matteo sees most tech and the corporate company of Lake View as terrible, Nora still feels connections to that old world and sees it in a more nuanced light. Nonetheless, she decides to use her previous experience with Horizen to infiltrate the company for the Luddites, while at the same time assisting Nathan with his investigation on discovering the circumstances surrounding his death. A lot of the questions this season begins to ask remain unanswered, however, so get ready for a pretty big cliffhanger at the end of the season.

Upload Season 2 Review: Cyberpunk Elements

Upload Season 2 undeniably goes darker than Upload Season 1. The series introduces a new technology that can record the thoughts and dreams of the residents at Lake View, which they then make hilarious, but the privacy concerns are still very relevant and valid, especially in our modern day society. The season addresses income inequality again, as it did last season, but it also adds a fun “Robin Hood” element to a couple of the episodes, which felt very Cyberpunk indeed in the way that it was executed. Also the anti-corporate Luddites were fun to watch, seeing how they went about their anarchist agenda.

Final Verdict for Upload Season 2: 9/10

The only reason why I’m giving this season a 9/10 instead of a 10/10 is that we simply couldn’t get deep enough into the story and the characters with only 7 episodes. The ideas of new tech presented are fun and refreshing, as always, and the wide variety of characters, who are very well-acted, have a lot of heart in them and are very likeable (well, most of them anyways). The humor and ingenuity is excellent, which allows you not to mind as the plot slowly gets around to figuring out Nathan’s “murder”–at least you’re laughing along the way. If you liked this season, make sure to catch the end-credit scene of the last episode for more fun digital antics with Luke.

And as always, if you liked what you read and want to help the Cyberpunk Matrix going, you can show your support over on Ko-Fi. Help contribute to the costs of website upkeep, or simply buy me a simulatte. https://ko-fi.com/cyberpunkmatrix

Top 5 Cyberpunk books you should read in 2022

Top 5 Cyberpunk books you should read in 2022

2022 is looking to be quite an ominous year, with plenty of dire headlines to read. But if you’d like a different kind of ominous, or perhaps a dystopian series of fiction to go with your Cyberpunk reality, then we here at Cyberpunk Matrix have you covered. Here are our top 5 Cyberpunk books you should read in 2022.

2022 Cyberpunk Book #5: Second Variety by Philip K Dick (1953, novelette)

Technically pre-Cyberpunk, Philip K Dick does a masterful job of writing both novels and short stories with believable, interesting characters while also somehow being very easy to read with compelling dialogue. It’s hard to choose from his 44 novels and 121 short stories (he was a prolific writer during his life), but Second Variety is one of his more popular and well-known novelettes.

Second Variety reads and feels a bit like a Black Mirror episode. It’s an eerie, perhaps prescient story of a battle between Americans and Russians, which feels a little apropos for our times here in 2022, but is also about paranoia and androids.

Set in a dystopian future, the story starts off with a group of American soldiers sitting in the trenches on Earth in the middle of a very long, drawn-out war with the Russians. At some point, the Americans were able to develop a technologically advanced set of robots called Claws that burrow into the ground and attack any living flesh they can. The Americans, who apparently developed the line of robots, are protected from the claws by radioactive “tabs” signalling that they aren’t the enemy.

As one Russian soldier tries to cross no-man’s land and inevitably dies to the Claws, the Americans recover a message from the soldier asking for a chance to negotiate a cease-fire. This leads to the American leader deciding to cross no-man’s land to the Russian trenches in order to do so, when he discovers that the robots the Americans had developed have learned to self-develop, resulting in a Second Variety of robots that take on a human appearance in order to kill their prey.

What happens next is an incredibly thrilling tale of a dystopian future as humans fight against robots, and themselves, as they try to determine who the threats really are.

You can read my more complete review about the short story, which was part of a series of stories, here.

2022 Cyberpunk Book #4: Ready Player One (2011) by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One was Ernest Cline’s first book, and an instant success. So much so that it was adapted into a live action movie directed by Steven Spielberg, which is also excellent. In stark contrast to Second Variety, Ready Player One reads like a gaming nerd’s fever dream. It’s filled with pop culture references to the 1970s and 1980s, and describes in eager detail the process of a gamer grinding through levels to become good at retro, simple videogames. However, it does this while set in a somewhat dystopian future where much of the world lives their lives in a virtual world called the Oasis, much like Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of what he wants Meta to be.

You should read Ready Player One in 2022 for its depiction of virtual reality alone, especially considering this image of the future was brought onto the silver screen to allow us to truly picture what it may look like.

In true Cyberpunk fashion, Ready Player One is set in a world with massive wealth inequality, and on the bottom rung of that ladder is Wade Watts, the protagonist of the story. He lives in a trailer park where the trailers are stacked one on top of the other in Columbus, Ohio, and spends his time in the Oasis until the founder of this virtual reality world, James Halliday, dies. His death sets off a massive easter egg hunt where anyone within the Oasis must find 3 keys with clues leading them to egg itself, which is a prize bestowing on the finder a huge sum of money, as well as over 50% of the shares of the company that runs the Oasis itself, thus effectively giving ownership to the company. Wade teams up with a motley crew of fellow nerds to be the first to the egg in order to save the Oasis from the nefarious IOI industries, who want to turn the Oasis into a marketing nightmare.

One thing this book did really well was describe the advantages a virtual reality could have for society as a whole, an unusual thing to accomplish within a cyberpunk story. While definitely showing the potential for harm if the megacorporation were to gain control, the book also describes how low-income students were able to access state-run online classes, and virtually receive a bully-free education as a result.

I went into more of the potential ramifications of this in a short review on the blog here.

Cline also wrote a sequel to RPO, called Ready Player Two, which I liked well enough but was apparently panned by many critics. Nonetheless, the sequel takes the next logical step forward with the technology of VR immersion, along with the dark possibilities and ramifications therewith, and is well worth the read.

2022 Cyberpunk Book #3: Altered Carbon by Richard K Morgan

Like many, I learned about this novel after watching the first season of the Netflix series by the same name. A thrilling classic film-noir style cyberpunk story, Altered Carbon is set in the dystopian future of 2384 where consciousness and memories are kept on small metal discs, called cortical stacks, that are implanted into the stem of the vertebrae in humans when they are young. When any human dies, their cortical stack can be put into another body where the human consciousness can live on, but if their stack is also destroyed, this  results in a permanent death. However, this also means that certain humans with enough wealth can effectively live forever, through the use of human clones and uploading their consciousness to a cloud server via satellite. These elite god-like humans are called Meths, in reference to Methuselah who according to the myth lived for 1000 years.

The main character is Takeshi Kovacs, the last remaining elite soldier of the envoys, a rebel group who were defeated trying to overthrow the new world order. The  the story starts when one particularly wealthy meth, Laurens Bancroft, decides to take Takeshi’s stack out of prison storage and put it into a new body 250 years after the uprising, so that Takeshi may solve the mystery of Laurens’ own (body) death.

What follows is a wild story filled with suspense, intrigue, action, and admittedly sexual scenes (so be warned!) But the book is well worth the read, not only for its entertaining qualities, but also for its on-point depiction of absurd wealth inequality and digital immortality. There are two other novels that follow in the Kovacs trilogy, but the  sequels are nothing like the original.

2022 Cyberpunk Book #2: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick

Despite it being written so long ago (1968), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep always seems to pop up in any proper Cyberpunk must-read book list. It’s an incredible tale featuring worldwide animal extinction, mass shared sensory experiences, and the blurred line between humanity and androids.

While having inspired the classic Blade Runner movie from Ridley Scott, the plot is actually significantly different. The story follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Department, who has a simple desire in life: he desperately wants to buy and own a real live animal, to replace his electric sheep and maybe cheer up his wife Iran. Meanwhile, duty calls, which in this case is his assignment to “retire” (kill) six androids who escaped Mars and are hiding somewhere on Earth. These androids are new, highly intelligent “nexus-6” variants that are almost impossible to tell from real humans. As Deckard pursues his leads, he meets Rachael Rosen, who works for the Rosen association that manufactures the new lifelike androids. What follows is a mysterious tale where the theme is, more often than not, a constant questioning of characters on whether they themselves are androids, and how they would even know if they were.

This novel is worth reading not only for the classic question of how human androids can be, and how robotic humans can be, but also for its depictions of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by climate change. It also has an interesting bit about a worldwide cultural and religious icon, whose experiences can be relived through special technology by the masses, which feels oddly familiar to the direction our social media is taking us with YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.

2022 Cyberpunk Book #1: Snowcrash by Neil Stephenson

And our #1 Cyberpunk Book to read in 2022? Snowcrash by Neil Stephenson. Both Cyberpunk and a parody of Cyberpunk in one, Stephenson was the author who coined the term Metaverse decades before Mark Zuckerberg decided to take the name for Facebook. Similar to Ready Player One but predating that novel (as Snow Crash came out in 1992), this novel really has it all: drugs (including cyber-drugs), megacorporations, VR worlds, crazy real-world tech including nukes, cyborgs, viruses, levitating skateboards, and even italian mob-run pizza delivery companies!

Snowcrash is set in a 21st century L.A. after a worldwide economic collapse, and the world is no longer run by governments but instead by corporations. The novel follows the story of Hiro Protagonist (yes, that’s the main character’s actual name) who is a hacker and pizza deliverer for the mafia. On a particular delivery where he fails to get the pizza delivered on time, he runs into Y.T., a courier who agrees to help him deliver his pizza for him. They decide to team up. Meanwhile, in the Metaverse, one of Hiro’s friends Da5id is given a datafile but when he looks at the image, it causes the computer to crash and lands Da5id in a coma. It’s up to Hiro and Y.T. to slowly investigate what and how this deadly virus, this Snowcrash, works, before it causes a worldwide systems crash and millions perish.

The amount of technology and content in this novel is truly phenomenal, the things I’ve mentioned happened above only scratch the surface of what actually happens in the novel. The thing that I loved about this novel is that it has great dialogue, excellent world-building, a very punkish and irreverent tone, and actually exciting action sprinkled throughout with insane and very creative high-tech.

So do yourself a favor and read Snowcrash in 2022, and see for yourself the origins of the term “Metaverse”, and why having a world run by private security and megacorporations would be a terrible thing indeed.

Thoughts on Top 5 Cyberpunk Books to Read in 2022

So these were our top 5 Cyberpunk books to read in 2022. But what did you think? Would have another order, did I omit a book that you think I should have included? Let us know in the comments below.

And as always, if you liked what you read and want to help the Cyberpunk Matrix going, you can show your support over on Ko-Fi. Help contribute to the costs of website upkeep, or simply buy me a simulatte. https://ko-fi.com/cyberpunkmatrix