Title: METAtropolis: Green Space
Author: Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Karl Schroeder, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Scholes, Seanan McGuire
Published: 2013 by Audible Frontiers
Read: October 28. to
Length: 14 hrs and 16 mins
Status: First reading
Genre: Science fiction, near future
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.