Metropolitan by Walter John Williams

Harper Prism

Review by Wendy Kosak

I started out liking this story a great deal. As it continued, I started to dislike it. The world is interesting, using lots of 30ish technology in 90ish ways. For example, computers use plug in cables and gears to program, but can do internet-like information searches. The base of all power is plasm, an energy that collects under old buildings, which is directed by the human mind. It can cure tumors, create sky writing, give telepathy like powers, etc, etc.

The heroine is Aiah, who works for the government in a boring, deadend job under very poor conditions. Her one attempt for education died due to a lack of funds. She is on the verge of bankruptcy because her husband/lover has been temporarily transferred across the planet and not given housing funds. The one good thing in her life, the luxury apartment they can no longer sell at value, will soon be lost.

Luck has it, though, that part of her job includes searching for wells of plasm that the government can tap and control. One day, she finds a glory hole -- an almost unlimited source of plasm. All she had to do was sell it and her troubles would be over. She has to be careful to whom she sells it because it's all illegal.

In the end, she decides to sell to a exile called Constantine. As we get to know Constantine and what he plans to do with the plasm, the less I liked the book and the heroine. It was much like watching someone finding an unlimited supply of tanks, selling them to Hitler, then HELP him plan the second invasion of England. The attack on the other country goes a little bloodier than planned, and one of the royal family does escape, but all in all, it's everything that Aiah sees coming and helps to arrange.

When the last part of the story revolves around Aiah trying to avoid detection of her part in the invasion, I wasn't sure if I cared. It seemed to me that she deserved anything she got, except an happy ending.

Walter John Williams writes well and the novel is otherwise a joy to read. I'm not sure what rating to give. Good writing, neat world, characters are well done, believable, interesting but harder and harder to like.

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