Book Review: Meritropolis by Joel Ohman

Today, I’m taking part in a book review/tour on the book Meritropolis by Joel Ohman. I signed up for the tour with Juniper Grove Book Solutions because this freedom-themed book seemed like it would be right up my alley. Check out the synopsis and excerpts, enter the giveaway for a chance to win, and then read my review at the end of the post!
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About The Book

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Published:  September 9th, 2014
Genre:  YA Sci-Fi Dystopian
Recommended Age:  14+
The year is AE3, 3 years after the Event. Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by the brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die. Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment–to be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond.
But for one High Score, conforming to the System just isn’t an option. Seventeen-year-old Charley has a brother to avenge. And nothing–not even a totalitarian military or dangerous science–is going to stop him.
Where humankind has pushed nature and morals to the extreme, Charley is amongst the chosen few tasked with exploring the boundaries, forcing him to look deep into his very being to discern right from wrong. But as he and his friends learn more about the frightening forces that threaten destruction both without and within the gates, Meritropolis reveals complexities they couldn’t possibly have bargained for…
BONUS Original Artwork – 17 original chapter illustrations that precede each of the 17 chapters: Bion (Bull-Lion), Scorpicon (Scorpion-Falcon), Chimpanzelle (Chimp-Gazelle), and more!
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Meritropolis – Joel Ohman
The crowd filling the courtyard massed on either side of the girl and her captors, a slow-motion whirling river of bodies, moving them along like so much flotsam, toward Commander Orson and the gates. Charley watched intently as each person in the crowd strained to get a glimpse of the little girl.
Charley had read books about hangings in the Old Days, where crowds had traveled from miles around to see, and even cheer at, the macabre deed performed, but this was different. There was no excitement, but there was also no undercurrent of disappointment, of sadness, or even of shame; it was business as usual. Someone had been sentenced to the gates and that someone just happened to be a scared little girl.
Each person in the crowd wanted a glimpse of the girl to see how she would react, to see if they recognized her, to see the pitifully low Score on her arm, and perhaps to verify that she deserved the gates, but there was no outrage, no demand for justice. The System had ordered her to the gates, so it must be just. Charley thought about Sven’s statement: “I’m sure it gets easier” and considered that, maybe, if you see something often enough and put up with it for long enough, even the most horrendous deed can become part of your daily life. Maybe you just stop caring.
Was this how the crowd had reacted when Alec was put outside of the gates? Charley wondered. As the younger sibling of Alec, only eight, and presumably unable to take in what was happening, Charley had been confined underground during Alec’s gate ceremony—they had simply replaced Alec by assigning someone new to sleep in his bed that exact night. Had some of the very same people around him now looked at Alec with the same sick feeling in their stomachs that Charley now felt? Had they remained silent, swallowing their shouts, averting their eyes, and now, after many such acts of cowardice, they no longer even cared? Bile rose in Charley’s throat. He wanted—he needed—to care, to hate those who had taken Alec from him. It was all he had.
Charley watched the gloved hands of the guards on either side of the girl squeeze her pale, stick-like upper arms, roughly pressing her forward, just a few short steps in front of Charley. She faltered, stumbling as the toe of her slippered foot caught on the edge of a cobblestone, bending her foot back and causing her to let out a sharp cry of pain. One of the guards on the outer edge, a redheaded Blue Coat with a bristly goatee and arms knotted with thick cords of muscle, gave a muffled curse and dropped back behind her, harshly shoving her onward.
Her cry ignited some primal part of Charley’s brain: pure emotion, cause and effect. Synapses fired, rage blossomed. To act was to live, as natural a part of living as breathing. There was no fight or flight, only fight.
In an instant, Charley launched himself at the guards, eyes glazing over, an answering cry rising unbidden from his lips. His limbs pistoning as if controlled by an unseen puppet master; marionetting in time to the inner drum beat of angry energy. There was no plan, no strategy, no thinking ahead to plot out actions and counteractions. There was only the ever-present NOW. 

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About the Author

Joel Ohman is the author of Meritropolis–“The Hunger Games meets The Village with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist”. He lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids. His writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries.

Giveaway Details

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • $50 Amazon gift card (INT)
  • 3 x Stuffed Animals (US)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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My Review

If you know me, you know that I love stories about freedom. 1984 is probably my favorite book. So when I read a new dystopian story, I have high expectations. There were things about this book I enjoyed and things I would like to see improved.

First, the good. I love the concept of the society: each person is assigned a number (that is subject to change), indicating how useful he or she is compared to society. I love reading about the theme of the individual being forced to submit his will to the “greater good.” This brings out the best in a protagonist as he is pushed to fight for justice, as Charley does in Meritropolis. I enjoyed the concept of the world–a post-“event” landscape in which society is kept safe within a wall (this aspect first reminded me of The Handmaiden’s Tale, and I was curious to see what was kept beyond the wall). Turns out, there are all kinds of weird hybrid creatures out there. Each chapter is divided with an illustration of some kind of hybrid–mostly terrifying creatures that Charley has to fight during the course of the story. I especially liked the moments when the author spent time and depth on moments of “human interest,” such as the time when Charley’s disabled brother had been forced beyond the wall because his score was too low, or when Charley decided to stand up for a young girl whose score fell too low after an illness. Charley’s questioning of the “system” in place is hauntingly reminiscent of what must have happened during the Nazi era and any time period during which a dictator is able to impose his will to be carried out by otherwise-good people. I wanted to see this passion flourish throughout the novel–that question of good men standing up to wrong and in so uniting, defeating evil.

While I liked the concept behind the story, there were two things I wish had been done more effectively: point of view and the balance of showing vs. telling. I felt that the point of view used never really got deep enough into any of the characters. I found myself craving more information about Charley–but not just factual information. I craved emotional information. I wanted to experience what Charley felt. The shallow point of view made me feel distanced from the characters, like I didn’t really know them. The other element, over-explaining, left me impatiently speed-reading through certain scenes. I like being shown images and emotions and being left to come to conclusions on my own. When I’m being told what a character is thinking, or the reason behind an action, the tone becomes slightly too dogmatic for me. At times, the novel relied too heavily on telling rather than showing.

Don’t get me wrong: the book definitely has moments, and I found myself relaxing on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and indulging in the chapters. But it was just missing that omph factor that so many of the classics have. It ended on a cliffhanger following a major battle, definitely leaving it open for a sequel. While I understand the importance of leaving it on a cliffhanger, I miss the satisfaction of having a story come full circle, able to stand on its own regardless of what follows.

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