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Metropolitan (Metropolitan #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  902 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
The cityscape has skyscrapers and slums and street gangs, drugs and television and advertising, but it also has magic. Not the kind we know about, but an energy that dwells in the very architecture itself, interacting with technology in fascinating and perfect ways--until it gets out of hand.
Published April 1st 1995 by HarperPrism (first published 1995)
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Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, read-2012
4.5 Stars

What an amazingly  original piece of what could be best described as hard-fantasy. This novel is a hybrid cross of fantasy and science fiction. Much of it plays out like a cyberpunk novel, while at other times it feels like a steampunk alternate universe story. This is not an action based novel, nor is it a dialogue type novel. It is a superb piece of world building. Walter John Williams meticulously crafts an alternate world where Plasm(sort of like electricity)is a priceless commodity
Dani - Perspective of a Writer
There are three scientific factors that are important to the world: the metropolis, the shield and plasm. (You can read more about them at my blog review:

Each of these ideas had merit but none of them fully worked for me. The gigantic planet sized city had the most potential and most everything connected to it worked. So the idea that buildings built on top of other buildings on top of other buildings creating their own energy makes a kind of sense to me
Inspired by the recent reissue digitally I read again (it is either 4th or 5th time overall, not sure though I think it is 5th) the Metropolitan/City on Fire sequence; the one distinction this time was that I read the two books the first time after a heavy dose of fantasy reading from 2008-2011 when to a large extent I exhausted my interest in most of the genre the way i did with mysteries 20+ years ago.

And Metropolitan was still fresh and interesting and did not read like a fantasy (of 2012 or
I was actually surprised how good this was and how much I liked it. Now I wish even more I remembered where I ran across it. It's an original-feeling story about a minor bureaucratic functionary who discovers a potential avenue to wealth and power and decides to make the best use of it she possibly can. The setting is detailed, believable, and makes a difference to the story, whether it's racial prejudice or long-ago-engineered man-dolphins who live in poisoned seas. The magic, which channels "p ...more
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A enjoyable story, but what is it about? Metropolitan is a wonderfully realised world, and Williams threads a compelling story through it, but I was repeatedly forced to ask the question - why? It's hard to feel passionately about the motives of any person or faction. It's hard to even understand how the stakes are even relevant at key points in the story. The meaningless of the narrative comes to a head in the action-packed climax, where the protagonist, Aiah, witnesses the violent coup that th ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, steampunk, drugs
"Chapter 1
A burning woman stalks along the streets. Ten stories tall, naked body a whirling holocaust of fire."
Forget the color of the sky. It's got the *punk!

An odd concept.
Wizards meet bureaucrats and gangsters in a quaint noirish setting (more than Metropolis, think Dark City meets Tokyo). Nietzschean fantasies and wish-fulfillment romance play out in a social realist novel. The detailed fantasy world is extraordinarily implausible yet internally consistent.

The story goes in many directions
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Writers who break with established genres have their work cut out for them. Genre familiarity isn't just a crutch for readers. Genre helps set baseline expectations. If a book is fantasy and character shows up and claims to be a wizard capable of magic, I accept what he says. If that same book is a detective thriller, I am rather less credulous.

When a writer forges into new territory that doesn't fall within the traditional bounds of 'fantasy' or 'science fiction', the reader no longer has clea
Invadozer Misothorax Circular-thallus Popewaffensquat
Williams has made a wonderfully put together world that moves shakes
and flushes. People use plasm left and right to fix wounds & fatigue
in the sprawling city world. Plasm is like what the electric company
supplies to work your household needs, but hospitals use this energy
too. Plasm can be used with a projection of the mind to sneak around
invisible or manifest yourself in a flaming 10 story tall person on
fire as the first few sentences describe a victim. Some people suck
on it all day and over
Andy Love
Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent hard-fantasy novel. In a world that may be far-future Earth, the world is surrounded by an impenetrable shield (the glow from which provides the heat and light the world needs) civilization depends on the magical substance "plasm" which powers magic (and accumulates in pools depending on the geometry nearby structures. But this magic doesn't mean that there are wizards and swordsmen around - rather, there is magical technology, metering out the limited supply of plasm to people who ...more
Joel Finkle
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Finally got a copy of this (I'd had the sequel on my shelf for years), and I'm very glad to have read it.

It's a far-future science fantasy: geomantic energy called plasm runs the world. There's some minor frustrations: Why do two characters (Gil and Constantine) have names familiar to us, but everyone else has a name not mappable to English language, and while electricity, cars, etc. are still there, computers seem to be mechanical, and there's a lot of other tech lower than today (the closest t
Victoria Gaile
Hard to say! I liked a lot about the world and the cultures, especially that the protagonist was a woman of color in a society that has racial dynamics similar to our own. The magical technology was interesting.

But so much of the story revolved around who was being used and who was doing the using. That kind of cynical manipulation doesn't appeal to me in general; and I was particularly uncomfortable watching the protagonist do things that she framed to herself as either manipulating others or
Colin Sinclair
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sealed off world covered by sprawling cities where magic is metered and sold as a utility. The rich have more magic, and magic means power. The main character finds an unmetered source and decides to sell it to a man plotting a revolution. This book was enjoyable, but odd. In some places things seem to play out a little too easily for the 'hero' of the tale. The world building is epic though. And leaves a lot of questions that I presume will be answered in the sequel.
Jun 09, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Metropolitan has some wonderful world-building, but the plot meanders for most of the book. It’s not until the last fifty pages or so that Williams’ usual razor sharp plot and action appear, and then it sort of fades out again at the end.
Metropolitan started out strong and I was excited to get involved in the exciting and dark world that was created. The world building was amazing, everything was described in detail and with colorful metaphors. Aiah is filled out well, her boring life and money troubles. I liked the combination of sci-fi and "magic". I didn't really think of it as magic, but more as energy that could be harnessed to do anything. The writing in this book was really strong and I liked how everything was described. ...more
Terry O'Brien
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite novels, as it was one of the few I actually give to friends. A very complicated plot and a very interesting if flawed central character, a detailed world with a history lost in ritualized remembrances and folk tales, a world very similar yet very strange. I would love to read how this world came about.

"Star Wars" has been often described as 'science fantasy'. It has all the trappings of science fiction but it plays more than a little fast and loose with scientific principles.

Mar 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent world-building

Aiah, a member of a repressed minority group in a dead-end job with a bleak future finds a source of almost unlimited power and uses it to change her life. The Metropolitan, Constantine in turn uses her to change the world. The story reads like a tale from the earliest days of speculative fiction, asking more questions than it answers, while exploring issues and themes that are current and relevant today. I was actually surprised to learn that it was written in 1995 becau
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy_scifi
It's a wonderfully, original story that is a cross of fantasy and science fiction. The little nuances and attention to detail that Williams gives is a breath of fresh air. At times you think the relationship between Aiah and her family is pointless, but you soon realize that Williams is doing an excellent job in character development as well as refining the softer/peripheral points of the reality he has created.

I loved the way the people communicated with their little ethnic idiosyncrasies of "
Emotonal Reads
Just as I started liking the story and heroine it's changed, so far there is some scifi and fantasy but not exactly what I thought it would be like.
I am also very disheartened, Why is it that almost everytime there is a browned/dark skin woman in one of these books she is either a slut, a cheat or a a liar, in this she is all three. she is a liar a cheating slut and a thief. I didn't need to read about her vagina or her breast, been aroused. what does that have to do with science fiction or fant
Peter Backx
Aiah is short on money, but not ambition. In her attempts to master plasm usage, she ends up in something way bigger. Plasm is the energy that can be transformed into mass or pretty much anything one desires.

Metropolitan is science fiction, but with much of the science replaced by fantasy elements. Or maybe it's fantasy with some cyberpunk mixed in.

In any case, it was quite a change from the previous book I read (The Martian) Personally, I prefer a slightly different balance, but this is a goo

I've never written a book review before so here goes! The book was good I found the story quite enjoyable and most importantly it is imaginative. All the technical all skill in the execution of writing don't amount to much if the finished product is unimaginative;and there was allot of imagination in this. All of which was necessary for a book who's setting blurs the lines between sci-fi and fantasy. Possibly Sci-fi of a far future transhumanist nature,if one was interpenetrate the back story th
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magic is tough to do. It's even tougher to do well. What Williams has done in this book is amazing. He's taken magic and made it a public utility, made it coherent, made it (almost) make sense, without diminishing the wonder. This is the backbone he built Metropolitan on. Great characters, and the arc on which the main character changes makes sense every step of the way, even though the rest of us can see the compromises she's making with what she believes. A good read. Highly recommended.
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A cross between science fiction (a futuristic earth) and fantasy (certain types of magic work). Although written in 1995 the future apparently lacks cell phones and the internet both of which existed in an early form when the book was written. Nevertheless this is an entertaining look at a future with a stratified society, corrupt politicians and people who are simultaneously idealistic and self-serving. A fun read. I look forward to the sequel City of Fire.
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I dug the power inherent in geometries -- kind of a weight of ages thing. The slow accretion of will, intent and urban refuse manifest as "plasm". Read this one a while back but it's one that I still think of quite frequently, especially when I'm treading paths through the urban wilderness. Almost reminds me of Geiman and Mieville in that sense, but maybe I'm reaching.
Peter Tillman
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic, and the ebook is currently on sale for a buck! Don't miss....

Do be aware, it's #1 of 2, and vol.1 just, well, stops. The good news is, the sequel is (if anything) even better!

The bad news? WJW planned a third book and a climax, but it never happened, so #2 also just stops. His website has some of the sad story. But what we have is near-great.
May 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, american
Bello, anche se non perfetto.
Credo di averlo letto anni e anni fa, ma potrebbe anche essere uno di quelli che avevo preso in biblioteca e mollato subito (dato che non ricordavo assolutamente nulla XD).
Ottimo wordbuilding, personaggi interessanti, peccato il finale un po' meh.
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have consistently enjoyed this take on "urban fantasy" ever since I rad it way back when. I especially love the female protagonist and her journey.
Julie Craig-muller
Gave up on it not quite half-way through. Couldn't take it any more. I wouldn't call this hard sci fi, but sort of dystopian fantasy. Dreary. No interesting characters, as least for me.
Dan Walls
Slow, didn't appeal much to me.
Jul 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating worldbuilding.
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Walter Jon Williams has published twenty novels and short fiction collections. Most are science fiction or fantasy -Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Aristoi, Metropolitan, City on Fire to name just a few - a few are historical adventures, and the most recent, The Rift, is a disaster novel in which "I just basically pound a part of the planet down to bedrock." And that's just the opening chapters ...more
More about Walter Jon Williams...

Other Books in the Series

Metropolitan (2 books)
  • City on Fire (Metropolitan #2)

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