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The Municipalists

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  2,673 ratings  ·  435 reviews
A novel about an unlikely pair of lonely outsiders--one human, one AI--on an adventure to save the great American city of Metropolis written by "one of the most exciting new voices in fiction" (Charles Yu)

*Named one of the best books of the month by Library Journal ("Debut of the Month"), The Verge , io9 , Amazon Books , Book of the Month Club, Vol. 1 Broo
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,673 ratings  ·  435 reviews

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Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Siobhan Jones

A civil servant and a supercomputer team up to stop terrorists. A Dark Matter-esque take on the life and death of great cities. A touching and funny story about an unlikely friendship. I’ve been trying, for weeks now, to come up with a zinger of a sentence that perfectly describes this book and makes everyone want to read it. Yet the words have eluded me. I’m beginning to think The Municipalists—a humorous sci-fi adventure with a mystery at its core—cannot be summed
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
The Municipalists isn’t a bad book; it’s actually a lot of fun. But it’s not a particularly good book either, a first novel from author Seth Fried which is both too thin and too reliant on exposition from its overly talkative and socially stunted biological narrator, Henry, an agent for the United States Municipal Survey, who finds himself teamed up with the artificial construct OWEN, the Object-Oriented Database and Working Ekistics Network, and sent to Metropolis, the shining city of the futur ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked this for my March Book of the Month box, and if I get anything less than Hermes and Bender save the day I'm going to be very disappointed.

EDIT: So, not quite Bender and Hermes, but not disappointing. Quite enjoyable, and very fun to read aloud.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it liked it
A fun, breezy adventure book in which straight-laced suits set on upholding the current world order are battling armed rebels who see the destruction of civilization in the most complex city in the US, Metropolis, as the only way to redistribute opportunity and resources in a place that has become the playground for the rich. In a somewhat surprising turn of events for a futuristic novel with a wiseacre AI with optical illusion capabilities, the rebels fighting for equality are the evil enemies ...more
Peter Tillman
So far, not so good. I don't like the MC, the setup & world-building isn't plausible enough to keep my interest, and the antic-holographic AI is, well, *weird.* And not in a good way. The bureaucrats in Metropolis have turned thuggish.... OK, there is invention here, but the (alleged) humor is falling flat, for me, and the writing just isn't very good. I'm about 1/4 in and this is looking like an early DNF. Do yourself a favor, if you are thinking of reading this one, take a look at the 2-star r ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For me this was a really fun book. It had a novel concept with some really interesting characters. I loved the role reversal of the staid, boring human and the flippant, unrestrained OWEN. The story was multi-dimensional with humor, pathos and a bit of adventure. It also gave me something to think about the where the future of AI is taking us.
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.
The Captain
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Ahoy there me mateys! This was Seth Fried’s debut novel and I picked it up because it deals with an AI and a mission in the greatest city in the United States. This book was worth reading for the relationship between the protagonist, Henry Thompson, and the AI named OWEN. I absolutely loved crazy OWEN and his sense of humor. I also rather enjoyed stick-in-the-mud loner Henry. I completely sympathized with Henry and his background and wanted him to succeed. I thought that the juxtaposition of the ...more
Coral Rose
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
My husband to me as I finally sat down and read this book this weekend: "You must be pretty excited about that one."
Me, puzzled, since I half-started it three weeks ago: "What do you mean?"
Him: "It's a male author. I know you don't read those unless you're really excited."

It was worth it. Wish he had written Artemis instead of Andy Weir the man child. This was funny, poignant and managed to be a buddy comedy without weird overt sexual innuendo and sexism.
Bill Hsu
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
If you're concerned about yet another tech thriller with an AI character, so am I. But this is mostly smart and funny, and good light entertainment, quite different from my memories of The Great Frustration. There are somewhat lengthy digressions into urban and transit planning, and handling social injustice; but these are issues that I care about. Also probably more action/thriller mechanics than I care for, but with some clever tricks. Light skimming can help those less tricks-y moments breeze ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed half of it and really wanted to fight the other half.
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was great! It’s hard to classify this book as one single genre because it has elements of political fiction, science fiction, and dystopias. The fictional world built in this novel was incredibly well-developed and explained. Overall, it was a really good read and I found it to be light and funny as well as action-packed, fast-paced and enlightening.

In Metropolis, the gleaming city of tomorrow, the dream of the great American city has been achieved. But al
Realms & Robots
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Municipalists is a collection of strangely compelling elements that coalesce beautifully, resulting in one of the more unique novels I’ve read this year. I was surprised to find a novel centered on an uptight civil service worker whose defining feature is an obsession with trains and the transit systems of various cities. Coupled with a hilariously down-to-earth AI named OWEN, the novel sets off on a fun, albeit dangerous, mission in an enormous city named Metropolis. The story has a noir fe ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
PLEASE WRITE A SEQUEL!!! This story was so incredibly fun and well-written. Fast read, but a crazy fun adventure! I am completely obsessed with OWEN and need more of him! The relationship between OWEN and Henry was fantastic!

Mr Reid, please please please write more about these characters! 💞

(Read this as my March 2019 Book of the Month Club pick!)
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Love this book! Great themes! A mid-level bureaucrat can save the world!
Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)
3 Stars

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced my review.*

If you want to read about a lovable AI getting drunk, flirting with other AI units, learning about the fragility of humans, imparting life lessons, and making a friend, then this might be the book for you. OWEN was the best thing about this book for me. Such a lovable little artificial intelligence.

I also really enjoyed the unexpected friendship (well, unexpected to the characters) between Henry
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The author uses so much description, which some might find excessive, but I found both necessary and entertaining. I have long loved the science-fiction genre, also called speculative literature because of its ability to look into the future through the lens of the present. Even dystopias, with a bleak outlook for the future use the present as the jumping point. Look at Hunger Games’ Panem, built on the land of the once United State of America — look at Winston’s world of thought-crimes and doub ...more
Lauren Carnahan
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was really fast paced and fun. It took a second for me to grab hold of all the infrastructure details and descriptions, but as soon as the hilarious supercomputer showed up, I was hooked.
kerry cullen
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
bonkers fun; highly recommend
Rachel (Sunflowerreads)
Didn't hate it. Didn't love it. Just "Meh." ...more
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a fun read! I fell in love with the characters 100% Super fast paced and I couldn’t put it down for a second.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I loved this book. A little irreverent and extremely fun.
Tiff (fictionaltiff)
I really wanted The Municipalists to be great. It looked great and sounded great... but it did not reach greatness.
Henry and his AI best friend, OWEN, set out to save the futuristic city of Metropolis from an anti-government group who plans to blow up buildings and overthrow its largest company. Henry is an endearing nerd who lives for his job and OWEN is a freaking computer who has 10 times more personality than him. Hilarity ensues every time they interact.
The Municipalists is a fun science fi
Apr 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
"The Municipalists" is a cool, sci-fi look at the not too distant future in America. The protagonist works for a huge city planning organization. The city, as a social structure, has come to be recognized as the ideal situation for living. They have honed cities into fine oiled machines. But all is not well. Beneath the surface someone is attacking the very pillars that hold this idea up. Mixed in with this is a version of an AI program that is fresh and fun and unlike anything I've seen in lite ...more
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, 2020
This book reminds me a lot of Punch Escrow or Here and Now and Then, both in the neverending attempts at snarky humor and the underdeveloped world-building/storytelling. Like those books, The Municipalists has a good idea, it just doesn't deliver on it. This feels more like the second draft of something good. There was a lot that still needed to be smoothed out. The plot is very thin and it seems like the author cares more about ridiculous antics than the machinations of the story, which makes f ...more
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Municipalists by Seth Fried is a quirky story about a rule-following bureaucrat and an off-the-rails AI who are thrown together to find the persons responsible for the shutdown at headquarters. Fried gives us a reality that revolves around the United States Municipal Survey, the organization responsible for improving and maintaining America’s infrastructure - one percentage point at a time. 😂 Story moves quickly with lots of hilarious moments. Another #BOTM book with zero buzz. But one you s ...more
Susan Sherman
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved this futuristic city planning novel. It made me laugh, admire, and think about the future of cities and artificial intelligence. I am on my town's comprehensive plan committee so I was already thinking about mistakes that are made in community planning. This book introduced me to Seth Fried and I hope to meet him in writing again. ...more
Ulf Kastner
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Urban planning was ripe for an entertaining rollercoaster ride take on it by way of Kafka meets Men in Black meets Solaris meets Her. I also thought that the stark contrast in personalities between the human bureaucrat protagonist and his virtual colleague was better than expected buddy comedy fodder.
Carrie Carter
A fun read about two lonely people, a man and an AI/super computer, that team up on an adventure to try and stop terrorists.

Once you get past the first 60-80 pages, this book turns into one wild ride!
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fun science fiction buddy cop comedy (where the cops aren’t necessarily the good guys) that also touches on the life and death of great American cities
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Book of The Month: The Municipalists 2 27 Mar 23, 2019 10:55PM  

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Seth Fried is a recurring contributor to The New Yorker’s “Shouts and Murmurs” and NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” His writing has also appeared in Tin House, One Story, Electric Literature, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, Vice, and many others. His short stories have been anthologized in the 2011 and 2013 Pushcart Prize Anthologies as well as The Better of McSweene ...more

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