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(Metropolitan #1)

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,016 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Aiah has learned that plasm is more than an energy source. It resonates within the human mind, giving power to heal and to kill. So when she finds an undiscovered, unlimited supply, she dares to meet with the powerful Metropolitan known as Constantine, a mysterious rebel with plans. Together they can use the plasm to rally forces to overthrow the government.
Paperback, 359 pages
Published April 1996 by HarperPrism (first published 1995)
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3.83  · 
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 ·  1,016 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-2019
4.0 Stars
Despite some medium sized annoyances in the plot and characters, this one did eventually grip me by the end.

A very cool world with a solid climax (even if the journey to get there was a little slow) and unique premise makes this one stand out years after it's initial release. While not as strong as my previous read from Walter Jon Williams (The Praxis), reading this made me feel like an archaeologist who had uncovered a wonderful little gem of a book that seems to have faded into obscu
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: steampunk, fantasy, 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
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
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Peter Tillman
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
A classic, one of WJW's very best. Don't miss! Currently on sale for 99c! (as of 4/12/19)

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. 4+ stars.

The review to read is Jo Walton's,
Gary Sedivy
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Williams writes interesting worlds - intricate, complicated, wildly imagined. One of the things I enjoy: He doesn’t explain all the terms used in painting the milieu for the story. You get to figure out what, for example, “plasm” is, or who or what a “Barkazil” might be. The main character is in a dead-end government job (aren’t they all?) and is sent out to find who is pirating plasm, which is heavily regulated by the government.
The thot plickens...
Pretty good story, with plenty of action, whi
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
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
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
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
Victoria Gaile
Sep 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
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
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.
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very different world, in which magic ('plasm') is controlled, managed and charged for like electricity is in our world. The story tells of how Aiah, a poor member of a repressed minority, finds an untapped source of plasm, and what she does with it.

One odd thing is that the world has been completely shielded by 'Ascendents', blocking sight of the sun and the moon and preventing any space travel. This is treated as a simple fact of life, and is never really discussed - I like that, that William
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This is one of those books that can be viewed as either Science Fiction or Fantasy, depending on your point of view. When I initially read it, I thought it was about game characters caught inside a virtual reality world. The impenetrable gray “shield” that surrounds their world was the TV screen. The plasma that grants them superpowers was just how the game worked. I was very much envisioning the original Tron and ReBoot when I read it.

Based on discussions we had on Usenet back in the day, othe
Elan Firpo
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating blend of sci fi and “power of the mind”, but with far more grit and detail than is typical for the genre.
Dave Morris
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Magnificent world building. Something new.
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Metropolitan is an “Urban Fantasy” where the fantastic arises from the nature of the city, rather than just transporting elves downtown. On a world completely covered in buildings and urban development, the size and configuration of the buildings is what generates magical energy. It’s also so ubiquitous it’s metered and billed for like a public utility across the various city-states.

When a woman from an ethnic minority who works as a minor functionary in a municipal magic regulating agency comes
Candice Kamencik
Slow start, strong finish. Excellent world building, which I feel is what slowed it down in the beginning, but the effort spent in front loading this world creation definitely paid off in the end. Such a unique setting! Really well done. Too often I see newer fantasy/sci-fi sneakily recycling bits and bobs from late 70s/early 80s writing and passing it off as new, but to be honest, this world and its unique challenges really are refreshing.

There are a few distinctly separate concepts that this
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
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
Terry O'Brien
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.

Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 "
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it

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
Peter Backx
Jul 10, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
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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

Other books in the series

Metropolitan (2 books)
  • City on Fire (Metropolitan #2)
“If only the heart’s advice were infallible.” 0 likes
“power becomes a slave to passion so easily, and to an unacknowledged passion easiest of all.” 0 likes
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