Review of METAtropolis

October 21, 2008
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

METAtropolisMETAtropolis
By Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, and Karl Shroeder
Read by Michael Hogan, Scott Brick, Kandyse McClure, Alessandro Juliani, and Stefan Rudnicki
Audible Download – 9 hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2008
Themes: / Science Fiction / Future Cities / Internet / Computers / Virtual Worlds / Survival / Economics / Environment /

METAtropolis is a shared-world science fiction collection with stories from five different authors who have been busy making their marks on the history of science fiction literature: Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, and Karl Schroeder. The ties that bind these excellent stories are imagined future cities in the same future world, which is filled with detail and innovation by the authors.

Also excellent are the narrators. Scott Brick and Stefan Rudnicki are well-known and respected by audiobook listeners, and they read one story each with their usual professionalism. The other three stories are read by actors from Battlestar Galactica: Michael Hogan (Col. Tigh), Kandyse McClure (Dee), and Alessandro Juliani (Lt. Gaeta).

Jay Lake starts the collection with “In the Forests of the Night”, with Michael Hogan narrating. The story takes place in Cascadiopolis, a settlement in Oregon that is visited by a man named Tygre Tygre. John Scalzi, the editor of this collection, introduces each story, and here he says that Lake, who is skilled at world-building, did a lot of the heavy introductory lifting in this story. That’s true, and the story is filled with information, but it is never dull. Hogan’s narration keeps us on our toes.

Next up is Tobias Buckell who takes us to The Wilds of suburban Detroit in “Stochasti-city”, with Scott Brick reading. In the future, commuting to work becomes unsustainable, and entire neighborhoods are abandoned, but some still live there, like the protagonist of this story. He makes his living “turking” – finding odd jobs that someone on the net will pay for. I’ve never been to Detroit, but imagining the abandoned suburbs and the city itself was easy with Buckell at the helm of this rich, thought-provoking tale.

Elizabeth Bear, in “The Red in the Sky is Our Blood”, introduces us to Katie, who also lives in Detroit. Kandyse McClure narrates here, and does a wonderful job with the most character-driven story of the five. The story opens with Katie riding her bicycle through a downtown Detroit that is nearly impassable, due to potholes and general infrastructure failure. As it continues, she’s got some hard choices to make.

John Scalzi’s entertaining story is next, read by Alessandro Juliani. There are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in “Utere Nihil Non Extra Quiritationem Suis”, which is about a recent graduate’s first job in the city. Also filled with detail (would you take a shower with grey water?) and entertaining. Juliani reads with perfect timing.

And last is Karl Schroeder’s story, “To Hie from Far Cilenia”, read by Stefan Rudnicki. This is a wonderful story of cities of a different type. Idea-rich, action-packed – it’s got it all. It’s a perfect cap to a great bunch of stories, taking things in a completely different direction. A virtual world superimposed on the “real” one, but ins’t the virtual one just as real? Rudnicki is excellent, like always.

The shared world idea is not a new one, but this completely successful collection of great stories may renew the enthusiasm for this sub-genre. Is this a sub-genre? The actual stories of any shared-world collection can be of any sub-genre. But the point is that this is a thought-provoking, exciting group of stories that deserves high praise. An SFFaudio Essential!

ADD: I forgot to mention – get the first story for free over at Audible! CLICK HERE for details.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

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