Meritropolis by Joel Ohman

I turn my attention to yet another young adult dystopian novel, the self-published Meritropolis by Joel Ohman.

In Meritropolis everyone is assigned a numerical Score that decides their worth to society and whether they live or die. After a young boy is killed because of a low Score, his brother plots to take down the System.

“The Hunger Games meets The Village with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist.” – Donny Meader

“Meritropolis is a superior read with a powerful protagonist that brings readers along for a ride which will prove wild at times, always involving, and filled with depth and ethical insights. An absolute standout from the masses of post-apocalyptic survival works permeating today’s market.” – Midwest Book Review

Meritropolis first grabbed my attention due to the fact that it was billed as The Hunger Games with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist. I’m unfamiliar with the other comparison, The Village, listed in the quote provided on the blurb by Donny Meader, but despite this, it was enough when combined with the interesting sounding blurb to get me reading. Meritropolis was compelling enough to keep me reading, and whilst it’s probably among the better crop of YA dystopian that you’ll read, it still doesn’t quite reach the heights of The Hunger Games.

Joel Ohman is a debut novelist and I didn’t actually realise until after reading the book that it was, as it turns out, self published. Don’t let the fact that it’s not traditionally publisher put you off though as it’s a pretty decent read, despite the few major problems that the book has. Yes, there isn’t exactly anything new here. But it creates an interesting world and a fairly strongly developed cast of characters which is enough to keep you invested even if it’s likely a book that you’re going to forget fairly quickly.

The world in Meritropolis is very much similar to that of Orwell’s 1984. You have to obey what Big Brother the system says, or else you will be punished. The community of Meritropolis is trapped inside a city surrounded by various animal hybrids and if you don’t meet a certain Score set down by the system then you will be thrown outside of the gates. Nobody has ever survived a night outside the walls of the city, but those who get high scores are rewarded.

Charley, our main character, has lost his younger brother because of his low Score. Nine years of building hatred and anger have pushed Charley to the edge and now he finds himself revealed with an extremely high Score, which just happens to save him from the punishment of a “crime” that he had just committed. Charley is then enlisted into the Hunter faction, a group that patrols outside of the walls. However, secretly, he’s biding his time, waiting in an attempt to strike back at the system.

The book itself was an incredibly short read. I sped through it really quickly and the pace pulled me and would not let go. However, there was a problem with this approach, and that came with the ending, which felt really rushed. Sure, it built to a nice climax, but there was a moment where I just sat there wondering whether this book had truly ended or not. Yes, it ended on a cliffhanger, as is fairly typical of all dystopian young adult novels nowadays, but it didn’t really feel as effective as it should have. It felt like the author was trying to wrap things up as quickly as he could in order to make the book end on a hook that would get the reader to read the next novel.

And does it work? Well, kind of. I’m intrigued and kind of want to find out more, but at the same time, this book didn’t blow me away so there’s nothing that makes book two something that will appear on my list of highly anticipated reads anytime soon. I’ll read it if I can (this is of course, assuming there ever is one, because it certainly felt like there needed to be a second), but yeah, I’m not going to go out of my way to read it.
The characters are well, not that memorable either and fairly standard. Charley is the one that is easily the most memorable and the others aren’t really fleshed out well enough to make a lasting impact on the reader and the only one I can recall without looking up is Sandy, the main female character, which isn’t good considering that I finished the book not even a week ago. They never made a strong impression on me as a reader and I couldn’t help but feeling underwhelmed, and they could have easily been given some much needed depth.

In conclusion then, Meritropolis is a bit hit and miss. The Worldbuilding is pulled off fairly well and the pace is pretty good until the end where it feels rushed. The characters aside from Charley could have used a bit more development to give them a lasting impression, but despite the problems the book remains fairly enjoyable and fun. So yes, there are a lot better titles out there, but you could do a heck of a lot worse than this one.

VERDICT: 6.9/10

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