Nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Award, City on Fire returns to the world-city of Metropolitan, a city dominated by plasm, the magical substance capable of both creation and destruction.
With her help, Aiah’s lover Constantine has established himself in the metropolis of Caraqui, a nation dominated by corrupt officials, gangsters, and the genetically altered known as the “twisted.” Here they hope to create a revolution in the cosmic order--- but first they must fend off treachery, war, and the threat of Taikoen, the “hanged man,” a deadly creature that lives within plasm itself. Aiah must fight not only for her revolution and for her place in the world, but for Constantine’s very soul.
“City on Fire is a splendid, riveting novel in which the most powerful magic is that of a writer directing the twin streams of reason and intuition to produce a dream within the texture of reality.” --- Russell Letson, Locus, April 1997
“City on Fire, by Walter Jon Williams, is that rarest of entertainments, a sequel that improves on a successful predecessor . . . Mr. Williams’ prose is distinguished by a no-nonsense confidence that perfectly matches Constantine’s unshakable faith in his own destiny and in his ability to resist the corruption that notoriously comes with power.” ---Gerald Jonas, NY Times Book Review, Feb 23, 1997
“City on Fire offers something for just about every kind of reader . . . Williams really gives the reader hours of entertainment with polished style, twisty plots, action and vivid characters.” ---Jeff Watkins
“Williams [creates] a magnificent world-city, its entire surface urbanized by a multitude of civilizations that draw their very existence from plasm, the mysterious energy contained in all matter . . . Well-drawn, believable characters give emotional force to this fine novel . . . Ultimately, however, it is Williams’s complex world-city, more convincing than even Asimov in Foundation, and his endlessly inventive use of plasm that will hold readers’ fascinated attention. --- Publishers Weekly, Dec 30, 1996./
Walter Jon Williams is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind, Deep State, and This Is Not a Game.read more
Reviews for City on Fire (Metropolitan 2)
Metropolitan was a very good book; City on Fire is even better. These urban fantasy/science fantasy books are epic in scale in a way reminiscent of a big romantic novel like War and Peace. Yes, City on Fire gives us magic (of a dark, thaumatergical sort), but it also includes plenty of war, love, loyalty, treason, military strategy and tactics, insurgency, prejudice, politics, science, economics, academia, religion, the entertainment industry, naïve idealism, and Machiavellian scheming. The atmosphere of the books remind me of China Mieville’s New Crobuzon books, but a bit less horrific. The setting is a planet (perhaps a distant future Earth) surrounded by an impervious shield of unremembered origin. The planet is covered by a single unending city, broken up into independent city states. The world’s energy source is plasm, a pseudoscientific force that inhabits all things, especially large masses of metal (kind of like Lucas' Force without the religious overtones). Our protagonist is Aiah, a minor bureaucrat who in the first book discovers a substantial plasm source and decides NOT to simply turn it over to the government. The second book picks up in the aftermath of the great event that culminated the first book. Race and ethnicity play key roles in the story: Aiah is a Barkazil, an ethnic group recently displaced from their ancestral homeland, subject to frequent prejudice. The Barkazil philosophy of life boils down to “there are two types of people, those who are taken for a ride and those who do the taking.” Aiah really grows in City on Fire, declaring her moral independence from her lover Constantine, even as she works with him to achieve his political goals. Constantine is an idealist turned Machiavellian who seems prepared to make any sacrifice to achieve his very specific vision of a better future. Add to the mix Constantine’s other sometimes-lover-turned-ally, the brutally manipulative Sorya (whose philosophy of life is that “all truces are temporary”) and you have an intriguing trio pushing the action. These main characters are explicitly set up as almost mythological archetypes, in a way that is very directly explored in Aiah’s three visits to the Dreaming Sisters. Williams has said that he eventually plans to write a third book to the series. I sure hope he does.read more
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