METAtropolis (Book One) by Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, John Scalzi, & Karl Schroeder
In the Forests of the Night by Jay Lake
I like it when a story tells you information about the end. In the Forests of the Night tells us quickly that the powerful mystery man, Tygre Tygre (named after the Blake poem) will die at the end. I appreciate this simply because as a reader I don’t want to be sad at the end. I want to be prepared for it, to not have pointless hope, to not be disappointed.
The author doesn’t set up an ending that we wonder about and pine over but instead tells us the ending up front. We are to find out how the great Tygre meets his demise and how that coincides with the falling of the mysterious and transient semi-post-societal collapse city, Cascadiopolis. Intermittently throughout, we hear (or read) segments of a report created by the city members after the city has disintegrated.
The name In the Forests of the Night is appropriate for a number of reasons, and the book seems a little like a classic poem in just how beautifully lyrical it is. The writing is dramatic yet strangely down to earth, even earthy. Loving Cascadia, the area between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC., I can imagine the dark loam of the city-in-the-forest, Cascadiapolis.
So Tygre dies, but the story is as much about Cascadiopolis as about him. It’s a romantic yet harsh place with lava tubes to protect from surveillance and for interrogations and other secret things. Hotbed of open source tech discoveries and savagely protected sustainable haven, it takes skills and permission to be admitted to Cascadiopolis and the borders are heavily protected. Greenies live here, and anarchists, and people who have something to offer this “idea” of organization and lifestyle. Since that is what Cascadiopolis is, an idea, not a location. It can be picked up and moved anywhere.
Blake’s poem though, The Tyger, conjures doom, brought by a terrifying being; this short story describes how the all-knowing Tygre brings doom to the city, or at least rides on the current of it. Tygre is a modern day Jesus, savior and destroyer, a god-like figure. He loves the people of the city and what it represents, calls it his “project”, yet we never really find out how this can be true when he’s a total stranger. Could I dare to hope we find out more about him in the METAtropolis sequels?
More on this story in the next post.