Biopunk books? Feels like we are going to read about some douchebags who are flunking biology, ain’t it?
Well, not exactly.
Punk is not just used to refer to a worthless person, as we use it very colloquially, but is also a subculture that is characterized by anti-establishment views. A portmanteau of biology and punk, therefore, biopunk books refer to books that are about the consequences of dissident discoveries or inventions in the making or modifying of products from living organisms or systems (biotechnology).
The term, biopunk books was popularized in the world of literature after cyberpunks became the vogue, with the only difference that it refers to implications of biotechnology rather than information technology (as in cyberpunks).
Categorized as a sub-genre of science fiction, it explores the near-future struggles of individuals or organisms that are a product of biotechnological revolution against a, generally, dystopian background.
Considering the troubled times we live in and the relatability of grimdark fantasies that brought them in vogue, with series like the Game of Thrones making people go bonkers, biopunk books are my new bet. The invention of recombinant DNA, and the momentum that technological advancement is taking, biopunk books will be flying off the bookshelves in just a few years.
When the literary world is all about to tip the scale of the balance towards this sub-genre, then it is a must to know some great books currently out there, isn’t it?
The following list is not just a recommendation list for the creepy bookworms, who usually follow my blogs, but for anyone who is looking to increase their science literacy without wanting to go through the travails of reading science textbooks.
By the way, do you like reading science and biology? Let me know in the comment section below.
But I can tell you that I always flunked biology in school. And I still loved reading –
15. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Acclaimed to be the first science fiction novel, Frankenstine or The Modern Prometheus is certainly the first biopunk book that was written. The Story of young scientist Victor Frankenstein who uses his knowledge to create monster Frankenstein, it is a classic of all times. Victor is horrified at the sight of what he created, and falls into a feverish illness when the monster kills his brother and takes the life of his housekeeper because she gets falsely convicted for the former. Even his best friend is killed by the monster in revenge for his refusal to create a female companion monster for him. The monster then goes about killing Victor’s bride and his father dies of the shock. Victor then resolves to chase the monster and kill it but dies of ill heath too soon with his last words that “one must find happiness in tranquillity and avoid ambition” . But the monster is grief stricken and realizes what he did. At the end, he decides to kill himself so that no one could know of his existence.
14. Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Considered both a cyberpunk and among the best biopunk books, Altered Carbon is the story of Takeshi Kovacs, a former U.N. elite soldier turned private investigator who is contracted by a billionaire to find out who murdered his last dead body.
It is set in an interstellar space where you can freight consciousness between bodies. But when his consciousness gets downloaded into the body of a nicotine-addicted ex-thug, everything runs amok. When Kovacs finds himself drawn into a conspiracy, he has to fight to save his grace.
Richard Morgan’s story has rich characterization and excellent plot that keeps you engaged till the very end. The book has been adapted into a Netflix series and is considered one of the most expensive TV shows ever made.
13.The glass bees by Ernest Junger
After Mary Shelley’s Frankenstine, it was Ernest Junger’s biopunk book that presented an unsettling futuristic image of technological advancement. The story revolves around captain Richard, an unemployed ex-cavalryman who abandons his job to work for Zapparoni, an astute businessman. Zapparoni is on a quest of using his scientific prowess to hegemonize the entertainment and information industry. He hires Richard as the chief security man out of his fear that his scientists might reveal his secrets to the world. However, Richard’s encounter with Zappporoni forces him to answer questions about his own past and morality, and reflect on war, technology and time.
12.The Windup Girl
A future Thailand is fighting is fighting for an environmental collapse. Calorie companies rule the world, bio-terrorism has become a tool to extort corporate profit and oceans sea levels are rising. An American, Anderson Lake is roaming the streets of Bagkok hoping to make a motor spring and looking to make blight-resistant foods. The hardened capitalist finds himself falling for bioengineered artificial human Emiko (“the windup girl”) who has ended up in a rotten Thai brothel. The relationship that ensues, is one of the most delightful biopunk read that will manage to make you think and entertain at the same time.
11.Unwind by Neil Shuterman
Unwind is considered among one of the best biopunk books ever written. Revolving around the issue of reproductive rights over which the second civil war was fought, the story fictionalizes the near future in the United States.
Life is inviolable till the age of thirteen but between the age of thirteen and eighteen, parents can have their child “unwound” by dissecting all their body parts for future use. Because 99.44% of the body parts are used, the individual body parts live on. The story revolves around three teenagers, Connor, Risa and Lev, who are to be unwound. If they are fortunate, together, they will have a chance to escape and survive.
10. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The blockbuster film made from the novel has made it all too familiar in the world of biopunk books and science fiction, in general. A cautionary tale about genetic engineering, the novel excites even the most jaded of science fiction book lovers by bringing dinosaurs alive. Through the biotechnological evolution, dinosaurs have been rediscovered and roam freely in the Jurassic Park. Everyone is happy but only until they face the real world implications of actualizing their ambition. The novel is as much riveting as the film and must not be missed by any biopunk book lover.
9.Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
In an alternative version of World War I, the “Clankers” (the Central Power) and the Darwinists (the Entente Powers) are at war with each other. The Clankers use mechanized war machines against the darwinists who fabricate living creatures genetically as their weaponry. Prince Aleksander, the would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne has been betrayed by his own people and is running from the kingdom with his handful of loyal-trustworthy men. Deryn Sharp, the brilliant British airman has disguised herself as a boy and lives in terror of being caught. With the ruputuring of world war I, their paths meet and changes their life forever.
One of the most classic biopunk books ever written, which combines the steampunk (steam machinery) and biopunk (DNA fabrication) genres, the book is inimitable in presenting an alternate history in the genre of biopunk books.
8.The Island of Dr. Moreau – H.G Wells
A classic H. G. Wells story adapted into a film, it talks about the misuse and terror that science can bring! Edwar Prendick is stranded on the Pacific island curated by the scandalous Dr. Moreau and discovers dark secrets, eerie creatures and horrific incidents that makes him run for his life!
7.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A dystopian novel like Orwell’s 1984, it anticipates huge scientific advancements (revolutionary idea of biopunk books- reproductive technology, psycological manipulation, sleep learning and much more) that make up a utopian society except it gets challenged by the story’s chief protagonist. The novel’s central theme and how the two archetypal books are different is best described by Neil Postman
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism… Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
6. Ribofunk by Paul Di Filippo
I haven’t personally read Di Filippo’s book, but his work must not be missed when we are discussing the list of biopunk books!
This is a book review of I found in https://www.publishersweekly.com/ website, under biopunk books
Shifting his focus from Victorian pseudoscience to genetic engineering, two-time Nebula finalist Di Filippo follows Steampunk Trilogy (1995) with a story collection that presents a mid-21st century dominated by an awareness of the primacy of protein to all life. By linking the “”ribosome”” (producer of cell protein) to “funk,” the title suggests the collection’s general theme: that those who create life should remain compassionately responsible for it. In these 13 stories (two original to this volume), “”basal”” humans can no longer function adequately in the world they and their ancestors have warped, and so engineered grotesques abound. The most appealing tales are “”Little Worker,”” about an amalgamation of 12 different species (including human and wolverine) that is poignantly devoted to its negligent human master; and “”McGregor,”” wherein a chain-smoking Peter Rabbit rescues an “”epcot”” full of abused “”splices”” from their sadistic human keeper. The previously unpublished stories play Krazy Kat, a charismatic human-feline splice, against an artificially hard-shelled Protein Policeman. Despite occasional obscurity, Di Filippo’s effervescent prose can provoke both hilarity and haunting reflections on our species’ possible fate
5.The Ware Tetrology by Rudy Rucker
The Ware Tetrology is a series of four science fiction novels- Software, Wetware , Freeware and Realware. Boppers are the first robots with real brains. Retired computer scientist, Cobb Anderson have given robots artificial intelligence and free will. But the audacious try has landed him into trouble. He is tried for treason but nevertheless, the boopers create their own race in the moon by growing through the superconducting Josephson effect circuits. They have grown to such power that they are now offering their creator, Anderson, immortality but at the cost of his life and his world!
Built upon some of the core ideas of the books of Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov, it is one of the best biopunk books ever written!
4.Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
In her laudable style and masterly prose, this biopunk book of Atwood will delight your heart. Though not as dense and comprehensive as some of her other masterpieces, she manages to vicariously let us experience a very dangerous future through her riveting love story.
Possibly the last human on planet earth, Jimmy is struggling to survive in a lonely world. Mankind has been decimated by a deadly plague (brought about by genetic experimentation and pharmaceutical engineering) and claimed the lives of best friend Crake and the beautiful and adorable Oryx whom they both loved. With Crake’s green eyed children, Snowman (Jimmy) is wandering the wilderness, (which was a great city recently) in search of his answers.
3.Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
A biopunk novel with a Darwanian vision where races unable to progress will get extinguished, Cloud Atlas is one of the best biopunk movies that you can watch! David Mitchell’s novel that was adapted was indubitably, a class of biopunk book in its own self!
2.Starfish by Peter Watts
Ex-marine biologist Peter Watts, reintroduces his character Lenie Clarke from his book, “A niche” in “Starfish” Lenie is biologically transformed power station worker who can live underwater. A girl who suffered horrific childhood abuse, she is a girl who chooses the ocean because she does not want to interact with people. The more she is ignored the better she feels. She is always the last one to be the part of a solution. There are interspersed moments of conflict where she comes out to lend a helping hand but always regrets it later. The story seems to follow a flat character arc initially, but frighteningly swerves in a different direction over the course of the story. Lenie transforms from being a cringing introvert to being a monster of destruction. Among the most brilliantly written biopunk books, Starfish must not be missed at any cost!
1.Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Intense, evocative prose set in the city of New Crobuzon, Mieville’s story is one of the most masterful works in the collection of biopunk books. Crobuzon is crested beneath the towering ribs of an ancient dead beast that has eerie characters like Bohemians, insectoid people and even a grub that metamorphosed into a giant slakemoth. The central character of the story is scientist Issac. He is approached by a (half-bird, half-human creature) Garuda who wants something scientifically daunting. Despite the odds, Issac takes a plunge into the unknown, sparked by his uncanny reverence for the creature. But little does he know that the mutation will evoke an unspeakable terror that cannot be fixed even by the Ambassador of Hell!
Mixture of biopunk, fantasy and horror, this is one of those sweeping and jaw-dropping epics that you will have never wanted to come to the end!
Enjoyed reading the blog? Have something to ask? Did I miss mentioning some of your favorite biopunk books out there? Let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!