Title: METAtropolis: The Dawn of Uncivilization
Author: Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi , Karl Schroeder
Published: 20/10 2008 by Audible Frontiers
Length: 9 hrs and 12 mins
Read: October 19. to 20., 2013
Status: First reading
Genre: Science Fiction
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!
Lets talk a little bit about the worldbuilding. The book 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 payed for your trouble) and augmented reality.
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.