Review of the shared world anthology series METAtropolis. The future is changed when the US fall apart into smaller city states and out of those ashes a new SolarPunk world is born. The stories are all about the intersections between technology, climate change, economy and new social structures.

My review of METAtropolis edited by John Scalzi

Rating: 5 out of 5.

METAtropolis aims to inspire and imagine solutions to real world problems. The stories in METAtropolis is so thought provoking and well thought out. At the same time the stories are entertaining, easy to follow and makes me want more.

If you find technology, climate change, economy or social sciences interesting, I think you will enjoy this book. METAtropolis a challenging read and it is definitely worth a listen.

Review of METAtropolis

My review from 2013 of METAtropolis

Title: METAtropolis: The Dawn of Uncivilization
Author: Jay LakeTobias BuckellElizabeth BearJohn Scalzi , Karl Schroeder
Serie: METAtropolis
Genre: Science Fiction, near future

Some people think that science fiction is a special genre because it has a mission. They believe that mission to be to predict the future; inspire innovation; imagine solutions to real world problems; build their settings on hard science, not hand waving and be critical of society. I do not always agree: Sometimes I just want science fiction that entertain me. But this is the kind of science fiction that do both! And it is amazing. The stories in METAtropolis is so thought provoking and well thought out. At the same time the stories are entertaining, easy to follow and makes me want more. I have already picked up the next two books in the series!


METAtropolis is set in the mid 21st century after the US has experienced series of really bad economic collapse. The world is post-oil and climate change has melted the poles and devastated the coastline all over the world. Energi is at a premium and resources are scarce. Much of the world have stopped producing new stuff and is just recycling trash from generations before them.

The US is not a functioning state anymore however the cities have become more or less independent city states. Outside the big cities the infrastructure has completely collapsed. The economic collapse has hit Europe and parts of Asia less severely. How the world is handling the new challenges are highly regional and one city’s solution is not the same as the rest.  Politically it is also a very different landscape. The Greens are a force to be reckoned with and they have whole cities of their own.

The technology is extrapolation of the technology of 2007. All of the technology feels very plausible (with one or two small misses). But it is not just the technology that is extrapolated social fenomens is to. The stories plays with crowdsourcing, augmented reality, post-valuta economy, energy-based economy, reputation-based economy, gen-modded animals and plants, zero-footprint cities, vertical farming, post-consumerism, flash mobs, urban farming, localism, sustainability, tribalism, anarchism etc.

I particularly found the augmented reality, the economy and the crowdsourcing really fascinating. The authors takes current trends and imagine how they would look in the future. They suggest trends that I had never thought about . Security problems posted by both crowdsourcing of real world tasks (move a package from a to b in small increments and get paid for your trouble) and augmented reality.

The stories

In the second story the first steps to make Detroit a car-free city with urban gardening and lots of bikes. While New St. Louis is a zero-footprint city closed to the surrounding  world. The suburbs everywhere has turned into “the wilds” because the transport engergy cost is too high for anyone to afford to live there.  Cascadia is a huge secret non-city-city independent from the rest of the US with strict immigration policies, anarchism and a super sustainable way of living.

It is not only the thought experiments of this future that makes this book worth a listen (or read if you want to be old fashion) but the stories are solid, well told and well written. But for me it is the ideas I will be fascinated by for the foreseeable future. The book gives us several innovative ideas to interesting alternative ways of organizing societies both as self contained societies and as parallel societies.

If you find technology, climate change, economy or social sciences interesting, I think you will enjoy this book. The book is a challenging read and it is definitely worth a listen.

The stats: METAtropolis

Published: 2008 by Audible Frontiers
Length: 9 hrs and 12 mins
Read: October 19 – 20, 2013

My review of METAtropolis: Cascadia edited by Jay Lake

Rating: 5 out of 5.

METAtropolis: Cascadia has wonderful, thought inspiring stories, many of them picking up where the first book left off but all of them standing on their own and can be read together or standing along. There were no misses in this collection they were all solid, well told and interesting stories about a world that might be. This second book is less about technology than the first one, but more about community and human relationships. It has inspired me to seek out those of the authors I did not already know.

My review from 2013 of METAtropolis: Cascadia

Title: METAtropolis: Cascadia
Author: Jay LakeMary Robinette KowalTobias S. BuckellElizabeth Bear, Karl Schroeder & Ken Scholes

The setting of the second book is Cascadia, the truly green city of the Metatropolis world that is in the middle of a soft apocalypse. The world is post-industrial, post-capitalist, post-national. The first volume of METAtropolis was all about how to create a livable world in that setting, this second book is set around 2070. The world is changed and quite different but still recognisable. While the first book is rather urban in scope this book is all about the rural areas.

The Bull Dancers by Jay Lake

Ha! A businessman just commented that he needed hard currency, talking about Euros not soft currency talking about the US Dollar. I really find it interesting that the authors judge Europe to be that much more stable than the US. Perhaps that will be explained later.
The language is beautiful and slightly whimsical! And it is so interesting to hear about open source economics.
Rewilding crews! What a cool ideas – crews that remove crumbling roads. I have never run into that ideas before, doing a bit of research later and I learn that it is a real movement. Cool. And seriously why not in the errors of the world where humans no longer really live. And the term used in METAtropolis goes quite a bit further than animal crossings over roads.
I love the Dune-like book chapters instead of doing infodumps or exposition. It works really well.
The “rust belt” I adore the terminology that the authors have invented it seems very likely and quite pronounceable.

“The city is an idea, not a place.”

I really like that the first story is a continuation of Lake’s story from the first book. And it is adding a lot of meaning to that story. There are some great sentences in this story painting vivid pictures in my mind. The quote below might be paraphrased a little:

He slapped together a rifle that looked like it had been build in a high school shop class, possibly by special needs students.

I know just how that would look now. One would think that all stories would do that, but they do not.

I really like the slow conspiracy that run throughout these three books. The story is all about hope and the uselessness of money. It is a really melancol story and I liked it a lot. I am looking forward to hearing more about this in the third book.

Water to Wine by Mary Robinette Kowal

I have never read a story about winemaking before, much less a science fiction story.

I just realised that Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of Shades of Milk and Honey, which people have been raving about, since I really like the writing so far and the quite pace, I think I will have to pick it up.

I learned quite a bit about making wine. Apparently Kowal’s husband is a winemaker (the things you learn on twitter). The details in the story rings very true, which makes a lot of sense with the personal knowledge of winemaking Kowal must have.

Close family relationships plays a major role in the plot and not in a narst potting Dune, kind of way, but rather everyone is trying to do the right thing by everyone. It is rather unusual in science fiction but it is wonderful to see.

I was too wrapped up in the story (and eating dinner) to write a lot while listening to the story. The story is rather slow paced but moves you along by a fairly high speed. It only give you the amount of information you need to make your own conclusions and lets you guess along with the narrator about what is going on in the story. Compared to the first story this one was much more about the sense of place and about the characters.

Loved, loved, loved the story. It was all about wine, family and trusting each other – and of course about how businesses fight each other. I will be reading more by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Byways by Tobias S. Buckell

Narrated by Wil Wheaton, sqeee. Great reading, he makes the languages rhythm sing.

While the first two stories talk about ‘rewilding’, the third one starts with recycling efforts. Or rather it is about reusing the materials of the unused suburbs – big machines eating the materials.

He got a real rush out of destroying the soft world that he had abandoned.

Lovely writing – it makes me happy. I know it is not flowery or pretty but flowery or over complicated language irritates me. I think half the books I end up not finishing has over complicated language or over explain things. You do not need long descriptions when a few sentences can paint just as clear a picture and let the reader’s mind fill in the blanks.

This story makes it clear that this book is also about reopening the frontér of America, with all it’s politics and practical problems and solutions. Again this story is about the people, the best stories always are. They focus on the people and let the concepts and ideas be minor characters in the stories, but the human relationships and the humans be the main characters because science fiction and fantasy is all about agency.

Mug turtle! This story is also a sequel to Buckell’s story from the first book. I find it really interesting that our protagonist does not believe in the green course but is in the fight for the kicks of it. “Sticking my fingers in the socket” as he says. I liked that his views grew and changed like they did in the last story. That he questioned those around him and their views on the world.

How ideas bread in cities – that is such an interesting theory – I had heard it before, but never seen it explored in fiction. Ideas screwing each other breeding new and more interesting ideas by bumping into each other. It is the same kind of environment you can create on a good convention of any kind on a micro level. I wouldn’t mind a story that went deeper into that. Travel is important if you don’t want your civilization to stagnate meeting of mind and the experience of coming home and seeing your world with the outsider’s eyes.

Great sequel to the story from the first book. I loved seeing the characters again. And Mug Turtle best name ever.

Confessor by Elizabeth Bear

Our protagonist is dealing with emotional damage. Another law enforcement story.

I love that Edgewater is consistently annoying, badly behaved and clearly quote corrupt from story to story.

The story jumps back and forward between two points of view, an adult and a child, both female. I am trying to figure out if they are parallel in time, it is not yet clear.

Pacific tree octopus… awesome. Genetically engineered octopus.

I will not say a lot about this story because I don’t want to spoil it but I do want to say that Bear is for once not mean to her characters but let them have a good ending.

Deodand by Karl Schroeder

deodand [ˈdiːəʊˌdænd] n
(Law) English law (formerly) a thing that had caused a person’s death and was forfeited to the crown for a charitable purpose: abolished 1862
[from Anglo-French deodande, from Medieval Latin deōdandum, from Latin Deō dandum (something) to be given to God, from deus god + dare to give]

Uh another sequel. I really like the protagonist – our Russian nuclear arms inspector. He is stranded in Casadia, very much to his annoyance.

Time sensitive local currencies… you gotta spend it before it expire. Interesting concept and it definitely solves some of the normal problems with money – owing people work invitingly into the future. Currency is very interesting and strange – the unrealness of money is not something we think about when they are stable, but when it isn’t it become a big problem.

Exoskeletons and Gold Man – interesting

This story is all about ethics, morals and A.I.s – it isn’t so interesting if they are sentient is it? It is more interesting if they are moral creatures or purely logical creatures. I like the streetcar problem.

Rich sea otters – loving it!

This story deals with the difference between humans and non-humans, now sentient do something have to be before we have to take their opinion into account? Can sea otters be compensated for the carbon-good they are doing? Should trees have a say? SmartDust it is all about smart dust.

I really like the story, it is so stuffed full of ideas. Karl Schroeder’s story in the first book was also the most crewy  and thought provoking. I will have to read more by him wouldn’t I?

A Symmetry of Serpents and Doves by Ken Scholes

In the middle of the last story i was thinking that it would be interesting to hear from one of the religious areas and I am getting it. I love how many militæry people that are in these books – and how non-stereotype they are.

This is a great story about fundamentalism and bring about armageddon. I don’t think I want to write more about it because it will be spoiling the story.

The stats: METAtropolis: Cascadia

Published: 2008 by Audible Frontiers
Length: 9 hrs and 12 mins
Read: October 19. to 20., 2013

My review of METAtropolis: Green Space edited by Jay Lake

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The stories in METAtropolis: Green Space are just so amazing and thought provoking!

I really adore the world building the authors did with this version of the future. You can clearly see how you would get from here to there and their projection are possible. Hope is an act of rebellion!

METAtropolis Green Space

My review from 2013 of METAtropolis: Green Space

Title: METAtropolis: Green Space
Author: Jay LakeElizabeth BearTobias BuckellKarl SchroederMary Robinette KowalKen ScholesSeanan McGuire

As you have probably guessed by now, I pretty much love the METAtropolis series. I am looking forward to diving into the third book and I hope you will dive in with me. This was the first one I purchased because Seanan McGuire was in it and I will pretty much read anything that has her as a contributor. When I started listening to the third book i figured out that hey this couldn’t be the first book and looked it up. Of course it wasn’t so I had to go back and oh boy was I glad I did that.

I really adore the world building the authors did with this version of the future. You can clearly see how you would get from here to there and their projection rings true. As I have done with the second book, I let you read along with me and will comment on each story, some in-depth and other more superficially – the degree of depth does not really reflect on the story, but more a reflection of what I am doing while listening to the book. I can’t find the official table of content for this volume, so I hope I spell things right.

Rock of Ages by  Jay Lake

This is a sequel to Lake’s stories in the first two books. Bashar is once again the main character. He tries to figure out the sinister truth behind a series of plagues where the vector does not make sense – this is a theme picked up from  Ken Scholes‘s story in book two. Bashar is crazy old now – more than 130 years old. Interesting Charity is in here as well from Scholes story. Epidemiology  and conspiracy theory places a big role in this story.

Interesting ideas: Smart clothing with uv-filters and energy capturing; Ships with kit sails; connected semi-sentient trees – natural entities; peer-to-peer package transportation “turking”; genetic drift and founder effects; orbital evolution;

As with the two other stories, I am impressed by the language – not just the writing style but the slang used in the dialog and about the tech. And it is rare that you get quotes like this out of science fiction:

Like mother fucking angles dangling from God’s dick

The story talks quite a bit about genetics and now I am glad I took that evolutionary sociology class. This can be a little dense if you don’t know what they talk about. Or you would need to do quite a bit of googling while listing, if you wanted to catch-all the science references. All those hours listening to KEAR Think and Burkley online lectures are paying off.

This first story is not a short story but a novella, short stories are not more than three hours long. It is still quite good and rather sinister. The hard greens are jackasses. I have a hard time sympathising with people will sacrifice their own species for the rest of the Earth, especially with the progress the rest of humanity have done in this timeline. Especially when you put your self well out of harms way while killing of the rest of humanity and dropping rocks down the gravity well.

Now that was a wild story and a good story! I definitely recommend it.

Green and Dying by Elizabeth Bear

Concepts: modified personality overlays, disease outbreak, the perfect foodstock, bioengineering

This is a con-story and those are always fun. The British tv-show Hustle is one of my favourite tv-shows. I love following the steps involved in a good con. Seeing the set up and seeing how it unfolds. Green and Dying is very much that kind of story.

As all of the stories in the METAtropolis universe it is also a story that does a good deal of world building and plays with technology. One of the con artists had a full personality modification running on top of his own personality to lend credibility to his cover-identity. And he worried that this modification would eventually seep into his own personality even when he wasn’t wearing the mod – which I think is quite likely and a really interesting idea.  I do find it quite credible that corporations of the future would use personality mods on their key-personnel to make them more convincing and agreeable to be around to make it easier to close deals. Scary but not so far-fetched.

The story is also a story about disease management, I think Elizabeth Bear might have spent too much time with Seanan McGuire. Viruses seem to play a big role in these stories. And pathology and epidemiology is quite interesting. How do we handle outbreaks of disease – it is so tempting not to quarantine your self but also so necessary. I heard a really interesting interview with McGuire where she talked about how most mass media tells us that in case we get quarantined we should try to break quarantine because the people treating us really don’t have our best interests at heart, which is a really damaging message to send. Bear takes this idea one step further and makes us think about what independent nations do when they are not equipped to handle a health crisis – which is sadly happens in the world of today every year.

I really like how the stories are tying into each other, interlocking and bring events from one story into another to create a whole universe instead of fragments on the same cloth.

I listed to this story while shopping today (shopping alone is boring and requires audiobooks or podcasts), so I don’t have notes for this one like I do with many of the others. The story probably didn’t make quite the impression it would have if I had been home while listening to it, not the stories fault by mine. Green and Dying is a great short story with some very interesting topics wrapped in a fun and entertaining con-story.

The Desire Lines by Karl Schroeder

Concepts: Endangered species, augmented reality, desire path/lines, engineered species, rainforests, real vs. artificial, preservation of species

Midway relics and dying breeds by Seanan McGuire

Concepts: Gen-engeried babies, prehistoric animals restored, engineered virus, traditions

Why am I not surprised that Seanan’s story is about a giant carnival. And of course the carnival has a giant blimp and a prehistorical draft animal… of course it does. And of course the engineered viruses again because it is a Seanan story.

Leaving home is of course another theme of the story which does not surprise me either. It also makes me very happy. It is a story about standing up for your self. It is about carving out your own story, your own path, not just following the one put in front of you, if it is not the path for you.

This is not a high concept story, it is however a very emotional story and a very enjoyable story. I love Seanan’s strong-willed and capable female protagonists and this is another one of these.

I did not feel that the story quite fit into the METAtropolis collection though. The other stories do tend to be more concept rich and this was more of a regular story set in that world, but so has others in this book of the series been. It isn’t so much part of the world building as playing in the world that the first two books build. Nothing at all wrong with that. And it does make it as less demanding read, which is quite nice. So over all I enjoyed the story and the main character was pretty awesome. An yeah huge big herbivores!

Tensegrity by Tobias Buckell

First of all, WTF is tensegrity, ok looking it up on wiki. I hate it when I don’t know what words mean, must know all the words… all the words. Ok it is something that “made strong by the unison of tensioned and compressed parts”. That does sound interesting.

Concepts: Augmented appearance, artificial limbs, cybernetic body upgrades, floating cities, artificial intelligence city, gender politics, identity, gamified work tasks, cooperate marxists, karma as valuta, negative population growth, transhumanism, turing test, extremism, contracting friendships

It is a story about grieving and how to get media to help you remember, and is that a good thing? Remembering, not forgetting and letting go.

Skyholm a floating artificial intelligent city. Sub-zero-gravity city floating over the world. People augmenting non-believers out of their reality. Gamified factories, negotiations, interrogations etc

In this story the world building exposition is done via dialog and it is quite effective. It puts the reader in the asking person’s mind and let them understand the answers and the world as that person understand it. Lets the reader wonders along with the asker and adds an extra layer of the reader’s own questions.

This story makes me question: What is reality, what is cultural overlays, bias overlaying the way we see the world, preserve our fellow-man, how we interpret events?

For the first time I have heard humanist used as a derogatory term. And in the context of this world building I guess that makes sense. Why are human life worth more than other life form’s life? We are just dumb apes, to use The Doctor’s turn of phrase.

The benefits of travel stated in a scientific way that I have never run into before.

Some great quotes:

“Humans are fucked up”

“Sure, we also used to be serfs. It is a valid economic system, doesn’t mean I want to live under it.”

“By letting a machine run our lifes?” […] “What should I let a human being, with all our greed, jealousies and bias do it? To be honest, I would rather a machine, than someone like do it.”

What a freaking great story! It really made me think – I am loving it! 5 stars from me. I gotta find an award to nominate this for. I really adore the recurring characters of these collections.

Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal

Concepts: Authenticity as a rarity, the unreliability of memory, experiences as a commodity

3D printing has made it so anything can be reproduced making the unique more valuable to some. The same goes for selling of unique experiences. And this is how this story is told, it is a sold retelling of a rather unusual experience. Which is really clever way of telling a first person narrative. It isn’t told to some fictive or even non-realised listener/reader, but rather to the buyer of her story.

I am coming to really like Kowal’s storytelling and I think the short stories she does might be better than the novels, or perhaps they just seem more original, probably because it is easier to maintain a more experimental form throughout the story.

I really liked the voice of the story and the uncertainty of what the fuck was going on! Definitely way better than if all the questions was answered. Definitely a good story, I was transfixed and stopped doing things while listing.

Wow this collection just keep giving there is one more story?!

Let Me Hide Myself Within Thy by Ken Scholes

Concepts: AI integrating with humans,

Oh a direct continuation of Scholes’ story in the last book but with a shifted point of view from the father to the daughter.

It has been some time since I read this, so it is not quite as fresh in my mind as I would like it to be. It is a really strong last story of the book, it ties up the ends that was left open in the earlier story by Scholes. It has high emotional impact. By this point I was very invested in the characters.

The stats: METAtropolis: Green Space

Published:  2013 by Audible Frontiers
Read:  October 28 2013
Length:  14 hrs and 16 mins

This review was originally posted: October 20, 2013, October 26, 2013 November 27, 2013. Updated and edited June 28, 2023



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