Author: Joel Ohman
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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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.
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.
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