The Municipalists

By: Seth Fried

Henry is an agent of the United States Municipal Survey responsible for the development and maintenance of cities like his home of Suitland. When the agency is the victim of a terrorist attack, Henry’s boss sends him on a mission with an unlikely partner, OWEN, a vain AI hologram with alcoholism.

Together the pair must travel to Metropolis, the largest municipality in the US, to find their contact, Biggs, who may have information about the attacks. Thrust into some of the most ridiculous and crazy circumstances, Henry is placed into constant danger from the moment he leaves the airport. Henry must place his trust in the unbalanced AI if he has any hope of succeeding in his mission and getting out of the city alive.

Of all the books I have ever read in my life, I think this one might take the cake for its complete overuse of info-dumping. All well-established authors know that there is a cardinal rule when it comes to presenting information which is “Show, don’t tell.” What this means is instead of making statements to the audience about the nature of a person or object, the author should present the information organically through dialogue and circumstances.


Telling: Mary was a plumber and asked for directions to the bathroom. She seemed confident.

Showing: Mary wore blue coveralls with a multitude of different wrenches hanging from the waist. In her hand, she carried a plunger and a metal toolbox. With calm composure and authority, she made a simple demand, “Point me to the head.”

See the difference? The first one probably sounds like an amateur wrote it while the second statement is more well-rounded. Unfortunately, the poor background and plot presentations weren’t the only issue with the story. The character development is sorely lacking as well especially when analyzing Henry.

Henry is described by his co-workers as lacking a personality so the author wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of actually giving him one. His lack of ability to connect with those around him or generally appreciate anything other than his work made me pity him. Maybe that was the point, but the guy genuinely had problems and had no coping mechanisms to deal with them.

OWEN is also the first AI character I can think of that I openly dislike. Usually, the AI are my favorites because of their computer logic and sass, but OWEN’s manic episodes reminded me of an untrained puppy with a temper. The only piece of his character I found interesting was how he wrote a program that would make him act like he was drunk. That’s new and unique for a computer but didn’t play any substantial role in the story. Nothing is that meaningful in this story if simply because OWEN is the solution to every problem. He’s a supercomputer who always has the answers, and there were no real stakes. Boring.

I’m saddened by the fact that the premise of this story was interesting, and the moral was solid, but the issues with the writing are too large to excuse. The story was all over the place and ridiculous in the worst ways. I would advise a hard pass.

Overall rating: 2.5

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