Jay Lake et al. – METAtropolis: Cascadia
Read my review of book:
Read By: René Auberjonois, Kate Mulgrew, Wil Wheaton, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton
Length: 12h 56m
Genre: Near-future semi-dystopian science fiction; short story anthology
Started: 06 July 2012
Finished: 16 July 2012
Where did it come from? Free download from Audible a while ago.
Why do I have it? While I had some problems with the first book, I liked both the idea and the author list enough to give the second anthology a try.
In the future, the
woods are alive with the sound
Overall Summary & Review: The universe of METAtropolis is not far away… This is the second shared-world anthology, set in the near future, a future after the energy crisis, after the economic collapse, when the emerging structures are both local and transnational, both green and technological. The stories of the original METAtropolis anthology were set throughout the United States; those in this volume are set in and around the emergent city-state of Cascadia, in what used to be the Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada.
My reaction to METAtropolis was somewhat mixed; I enjoyed the world and the worldbuilding, but thought that some of the authors spent too much time on the worldbuilding and so lost the thread of just telling a good story. I thought METAtropolis: Cascadia did a much better job with this; even though I didn’t love all of the stories, I did think that each one managed to strike a good balance between worldbuilding and plot. Perhaps this was because the world writ large was already established in the first volume, and the authors in this volume were just filling in? Or maybe the narrower geographic focus meant that there was less world to build? I did think the confined geography of the stories helped make them more interconnected, something else that I thought was lacking from the first volume.
I did have one large problem with METAtropolis: Cascadia, however, and that was the question of date. Lake, Buckell, and Schroeder’s stories are all at least loosly tied to their contributions in the original Cascadia. But while Lake’s is set about 40 years afterwards (and he very specifically says in the introduction that the whole thing is meant to take place 40 years afterwards), Buckell’s and Schroeder’s protagonists seem to have aged no more than a few years, if that – certainly not 40. It doesn’t affect any of the stories individually, but it pulled me out of the story whenever I noticed it, and it left me wondering how everything was supposed to fit together. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Individual Stories: – “The Bull Dancers” by Jay Lake (narrated by René Auberjonois) is a loose continuation of Lake’s story “In the Forests of the Night” from the first METAtropolis. Forty years later, the death of the young man (visionary? saint?) Tygre Tygre and the destruction of the original Cascadiapolis winds up on the desk of a cop who specializes in cold cases… but she’s not the only one seeking answers. Tygre Tygre’s story was not my favorite part of the original anthology, and its followup was not my favorite part of this one. This one was better at making things less mythical and more immediate, but it still didn’t entirely grab my interest. The narrators throughout the book did a uniformly nice job, but I was particularly impressed with how close of a match Auberjonois’s version of Bashar was to Michael Hogan’s gruff rendering in the original.
– “Water to Wine” by Mary Robinette Kowal (narrated by Kate Mulgrew) was my favorite story of the bunch. It involves the daughter of a winemaker, whose father is under pressure to sell the winery from a local distributor who wants to put them out of business. Kowal got everything right with this one: the characters were great (I particularly like the protagonist’s interactions with her sisters); the plot had an appropriate amount of tension and moved at a good pace; and the technology was interesting, and fit organically into the plot of the story. (Bonus: Read it)
– “Byways” by Tobias S. Buckell (narrated by Wil Wheaton) stars a man who’s become part of a demolition crew in the hopes of unmasking a conspiracy brewing inside it… but what he finds was not at all what he expected. I liked this story well enough when I was listening to it, but it didn’t stick with me particularly well. Maybe because I kept getting distracted by the disparity in timing between this and “The Bull Dancers”?
– “Confessor” by Elizabeth Bear (narrated by Gates McFadden) involves a cop investigating a nasty murder, an Interpol agent investigating a ring of smugglers trafficking in endangered and exotic species, and the strange things they uncover when their investigations overlap. This story had some interesting ideas, and some nice moments, although there were one or two threads that were not worked in as well as they might have been.
– “Deodand” by Karl Schroeder (narrated by Jonathan Frakes) features the same investigator from “To Hie from Far Cilenia”, who has washed up in Cascadia with some immigration problems, and gets caught up with a company whose automatons have developed an interesting – and troubling – sense of morality. This story was the most guilty of letting the worldbuilding get in the way of the storytelling… or more to the point, letting the worldbuilding *be* the storytelling. However, I found that in this case, I didn’t mind, mainly because the world presented in this story is so fascinating, and one that I think I would actually like to see come about, both as a scientist and as a human being.
– “A Symmetry of Serpents and Doves” by Ken Scholes (narrated by LeVar Burton) is a look at the nature of religion, and of religious terrorism, in the world of METAtropolis. When a bombing kills four new members of a pastor’s church, and a senator’s son is somehow caught in the midst, the pastor must visit his old friend… an old friend who is starting a movement of his own, with questionable ends. There was a lot going on in this story – maybe too much; it might have benefitted from somewhat of a tighter focus – but I found it all very compelling.
Recommendation: Overall, an improvement on its predecessor in several respects, although it still didn’t blow me away. It could pretty easily be read independently, since Lake’s is the only story that directly builds on the first volume.
Other Reviews: Can’t find any. Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
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