[Book Review] Metatropolis

Metatropolis is an anthology book with stories by Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell and Karl Schroeder. Each story is short enough to read by itself and does not have to be read to understand the others but there are subtle links between the stories that expand the bleak future.

Each story takes place in a different city except for Elizabeth Bear’s and Tobias’ stories. This does not harm either since as I said before neither of them are interlocking.

The first story entitled “In The Forests of the Night” by Jay Lake follows a man named Tygre Tygre into the city of Cascadia in the North West and chronicles his brief stay before events spin out of his control. This story has been getting bashed so I’ll try and give a different review of it. Jay’s universe building threatens to over take the story at times. Several characters are introduced in the beginning and their story arcs are easy enough to follow until the end comes too quick because there is no act 3 as the noose around Tygre’s neck twists, the story promptly ends in two pages. So promptly I re-read it to confirm the antagonist managed to make it out to Cascadia before Tygre’s final moments. For the sake of the story I would have dropped a few of the pages of the universe building and tightened up the narrative a bit more.

The second story by Tobias Buckell entitled Stochasti-City takes place in Detroit and chronicles the journey of a bouncer that becomes a general in an war between the police and ecoterrorists. The shift from one jungle to the next is not jarring even if the story themes are different. The bouncer has stayed off the grid and kept his money hidden until events out of his control lands him in need of some fast cash. Tobias’s story is a bit more of the hero’s journey and in my opinion should have been led off with instead of Jay’s. Protagonist and Antagonist are given enough page time to make the story an enjoyable read.

The Red in the sky is our blood by Elizabeth Bear follows a protagonist in Tobias’ Detroit but is not effected by the events which in hindsight would have been a great interlocking story to see the effects. The story feels like Jay’s where the characters and universe building have to duke it out for page length. Unfortunately, in the end, the universe building wins and the character answers the call of the hero but the story feels like it should be longer.

John Scalzi’s story with the nigh unpronounceable name as most reviewers have already said is probably the best of the book. This is due to mix of universe building and story that feels natural. Moving from Detroit to New St. Louis the story focuses on Benji and his new job as pig shit farmer. Yep, you heard right. And, yes, there are Thunderdome references in there as well so you can see where this is headed. All of the characters are well thought out and are fairly likable even the antagonist is someone what dimensional instead of chewing scenery.

The last story by Karl Schroeder began great with some radioactive reindeer from Chernobyl and quickly digresses into a bore fest with multi-online-games within games and a dash of Steampunk overtones just to try satisfy the geeks. The story revolves around a missing something something that I honestly could not care less about because the idea presented was trying too hard and it just went right over my head.

So, in closing, is this book a library book or should you buy it?

I’m going to go with library book. If the first and last stories were tighter and with better narrative it would go into the buy column but alas the book is not worth spending $24.99.

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