Book Recommendations: Cyberpunk, Luchadores, and Elder-Thing Monstrosities by Matthew Marchitto


Necrotech is a gut punch of a cyberpunk novel. It has a protagonist who'll tear your nards out through your throat, a brutal unforgiving world, and nanotech zombies. What more do you need? Go buy it!

| Amazon | Goodreads |


Rencor: Life in Grudge City

Luchadores are the heroes and villains. They orchestrate crimes on a grand scale, only to be thwarted by the hero luchadores. Thing is, those were the old days, and two rival luchadores from those bygone times have to team up to solve a museum robbery. Cross chops, body slams, and ass kickery ensues. This book straight up made me happy. I couldn't put it down. Go. Buy. It.

| Amazon | Goodreads |


Hammers on Bone

Hammers on Bone is gross in the best way. Following a private investigator who's also an eldritch horror monstrosity as he tries to put down other equally horrifying eldritch monstrosities. The story is enthralling, with a macabre sort of fascination to detail, and prose that is at a master craft level of artistry. GO BUY IT!

| Amazon | Goodreads |

Technobabylon by Matthew Marchitto

Technobabylon is a cyberpunk point-and-click adventure with retro style graphics. Wadjet Eye Games, the studio behind the Blackwell series and Resonance, bring this sci-fi romp to life alongside developer Technocrat Games.

Wadjet Eye Games have been making quality point-and-click adventures for years, and it’s no secret that I’m a big fan. I always enjoy their games and Technobabylon does not disappoint.

Mandala, Latha Sesame's avatar, in the Trance.

Mandala, Latha Sesame's avatar, in the Trance.

You play as three characters in the city of Newton. Latha Sesame, an unemployed Trance addict. Charlie Regis, an old curmudgeon-y CEL agent (basically a detective). And Max Lao, Charlie’s fellow (and far more lighthearted) CEL agent. The story starts with the investigation of a string of murders. Each victim has been “mindjacked” meaning information has been brutally torn from their brains. As the story unfolds, its scope grows to encompass a larger conspiracy.

Newton exemplifies the “high tech low life” of cyberpunk. Newton’s wealthy residents live in opulent high rises and bear their wealth like a shield against the law. While the poor live in assigned housing, wear assigned blue overalls (which are recycled instead of cleaned), and eat from food machines that belch protein slop.

Then there is wetware. Wetware are nanomachines that allow individuals to mentally connect to the web, also known as the “Trance.” Wetware is not only common, but expected. Charlie is the odd man out for not having any. I don’t quite understand the specifics of wetware, but form what I can gather people use gelatinous forms of wetware to smear onto the surface of terminals and electronics. The nanomachines inside the jelly then build a connection from the terminal to the wiring inside the user’s head. This grants the user access to the connection with their mind, allowing for all sorts of hacking shenanigans. 

Newton is filled with a diverse cast of characters of varied race, culture, sexuality, and gender.

Newton is filled with a diverse cast of characters of varied race, culture, sexuality, and gender.

Central is the A.I. system that runs the city, and it’s also who CEL agents take their orders from. Central sees all, and can predict—to an extent—when a crime is going to take place. Its overall purpose is to make sure the city runs smoothly, including the citizens, even if that means Central has to withhold pertinent information.

Beneath the genre dressing is a story about grief, coping, and getting out of your comfort zone. A recurring theme of the story is its willingness to challenge the characters’ coping mechanisms. As with all good stories, the people are the heart of it, not the sci-fi tech.

There are twists and turns that bring into question the loyalty of allies, or the nature of an enemy’s animosity. But what really drove me forward were the characters, and all the little details that I learned through the dialogue and action. I won’t say much else because I don’t want to spoil the story, but ultimately I found it enthralling and never felt bored. By the end, I wanted to see more of these characters and the city of Newton. 

There's lots of pointing and clicking, as you’d expect from most point-and-click adventures. Technobabylon emphasises using your environments and picking up items to solve puzzles. This entails looking around and using the right-click to examine items and learn more about them. The left-click allows you to use, pick up, or move items and objects. There’s a good amount of trial and error, but the puzzles are all logic based. Everything you need to solve them is in the surrounding area, and you’ll never get stuck if you didn’t pick up something earlier in the game.

The first puzzle involves tricking a food machine's A.I. so it'll make an unauthorized item for you.

The first puzzle involves tricking a food machine's A.I. so it'll make an unauthorized item for you.

There’s a good amount of combining items to move the puzzles forward. Sometimes the solution is obvious, and sometimes it’s not. There were a few instances where I found myself doing the tried and true combine-everything-with-everything method. The main characters never have a huge amount of items in their inventory (like in some older point-and-clicks), so your options are never overwhelming.  

If you’re ever stuck on a puzzle, you’ll know that the solution is somewhere nearby.

Latha Sesame will have to pop back and forth from meatspace to the Trance to solve puzzles. The mechanics in the Trance are the same as in the physical world. Sesame navigates the Trance with an avatar, but instead of pushing tables and opening doors you’ll be uploading programs and making connections—all of which are represented visually as either avatars or new environments (like a living room or park).

There are some especially creative uses of the Trance and how it affects the physical world.    

Generally my default opinion would be to say that a point-and-click’s real value is in its story, and that’s true here to an extent, but the puzzles were so interesting and creative—not only in their implementation but in how they also acted as worldbuilding elements—that it would be a disservice to count them separately. The story enhances the puzzles and the puzzles enhance the story.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend Technobabylon to anyone yearning for a cyberpunk romp.

You can buy Technobabylon from Wadjet Eye’s site, Steam, or GOG

Wadjet Eye Games has a new adventure coming out soon called Unavowed. Check it out on their website, and keep an eye open for its release. From some of the screenshots Dave Gilbert has been sharing on his twitter, it looks flipping awesome.

A Cyberpunk Flash Fiction Story by Matthew Marchitto

This is a flash fiction story I wrote a couple weeks ago. It follows the same main character from “Shutters on Main” (published at 365 Tomorrows). Ultimately, I felt the story wasn’t really up to par to shop around, so I decided to share it here and then talk a bit about my thought process.


Deb took a long drag on her cigarette while Darwin tried to scream through his gag.

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Fantastical Cities by Matthew Marchitto

Cities that tower over mountains, ones that float in the sky, are encased in an underwater dome, or hidden in a volcano. I really like fantastical cities. There’s something about a city with surreal or fantasy elements that is so intriguing to me. There are so many ways a magic system can be worked into the intricacies of a bustling society. How does that steampunk technology affect day to day life? How does the average person use all those alchemical ingredients? What does everyone do with those crystals that have little frozen pixies in them? 

One of my favourite genres is cyberpunk. I think one of the major aspects of most cyberpunk stories are big, sometimes overcrowded, cities. Stuff that has a neo-noire bend (like Blade Runner) are my particular favourites. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Shadowrun game so much (I haven’t had a chance to play the follow-ups).  It combines a lot of my favourite things into one neat package. It’s got fantasy races and neon signs in rusty cityscapes. And every part you visit feels like it has a place in the landscape even if the megacorps HQs are so pristine compared to the back alley streets. 

A city can be packed with all manner of peoples and places and still have vastly different mindsets, cultures, and settings. The most obvious being the wealthy versus, well, everyone else. There can be cultural pockets that have clustered together, or new subcultures that form from the places that those clusters overlap.  It really feels like there are so many possibilities to create stories and characters. I think that's probably why I gravitate towards big city settings.  

There's also something really satisfying about slowly populating a city. It starts off with some vague ideas, and those generalities get broken down to a series of intricate parts, until there are subsections within subsections of people all living next to one another affecting each other without even knowing it.  

Rolling green hills and lush forests can only go so far. Maybe it's because of how much I love the ideas behind neo-noire themes that I've been inadvertently applying them to my fantasy writing. And a lot of that influence probably comes from the way Shadowrun marries the two so well. I liked both before, but as separate entities, now I want to smoosh them together.  

Question to readers: What are some of your favourite genres? They can be super specific, super vague, or even just a particular piece of media that resonated with you but doesn't quite fit any genre.

Flash Fic and Brain Ooze by Matthew Marchitto

I’ve been racking my brain over flash fiction the last couple of weeks. The idea of getting a full story in 500 words makes my brain all snotty and oozy. So, I was pretty happy when my submission to 365 Tomorrows was accepted. It’s a cyberpunk story titled Shutters on Main, and it leans pretty heavy on some neo-noir themes. You can read it here.

Peeling away the excess fat of a story to try and get to the most import core elements is something that I’m still getting used to. I have to say though, I’ve been having a lot of fun writing flash fic (how much if it sees the light of day is another matter). 

My guidelines have been to try and tell a full story in 300-500 words. That means it has to be as lean and efficient as possible. I’m far from mastering it, but there are already things I’m learning that I hope will benefit my long form writing. It feels a little more like an instinct than a technical skill, like I’m getting better at sniffing out unwanted fat and cutting it from the draft. 

There is still a long way to go, but I like to think of this as a positive step forward.