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MetaGame Paperback – November 9, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Sam Landstrom

Question: MetaGame takes place in a futuristic world where biotech, nanotech, gaming, and "religion" merge to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. How did you dream up the story line?

Sam Landstrom: Funny you should say "dream," because that’s literally how it started. One night I had a vivid dream in which I was a devil in a ghetto apartment complex and was being hunted by the police. The whole idea took off from there. Gradually, I built a world around that single scene. For months, I fleshed out the world in a private blog with over 60 posts with titles like "Fashion," "Economics," "Religion," "Lingo," "Work," etc. I continually worked to hook these together logically, keeping in mind that one aspect of this futuristic society would influence the others. Once I felt I had a reasonable world, I hung a plot outline on it (including my dream scene). As I wrote the book, the world continued to evolve; in fact, the present book has only a slight resemblance to those early blog posts I created two years ago.

Question: You’ve previously worked in a lab programming robots to help sequence the human genome. Did this experience and background knowledge play a role in the story?

Sam Landstrom: At a high level, yes. Back in the lab, before I got interested in software, I wanted to be a genetic engineer. I felt then, as I do now, that biotechnology will eventually become ubiquitous in our lives and so I wanted to help design that future. At the same time, I wondered what exactly that future would look like. To me, being able to engineer the living is an incredibly powerful technology that can do wonderful things for humanity, but, at the same time, elicits in me a primal dread... just the sort of stew I like for fiction! Obviously, I’m not the only one with such an outlook, since biotech is a sci-fi staple.

I don’t include lab techniques or techs from that job because they would be far obsolete in the future. Heck, they’re completely obsolete now, and it’s only been 10 years! Given this, the technology I wrote about is a wild extrapolation, an entertaining guess, really. About all I tried to convey in the book from my time at the lab, in a literal sense, was the genuine passion and intelligence I observed in those who work in this field.

Question: What research did you do while writing MetaGame?

Sam Landstrom: Most of the research I did was related to confirming that the future technologies presented in the book are even theoretically possible and how they might be implemented. For example, how can a machine read and write to a person’s mind? With difficulty, as it turns out! Luckily for my readers, I only used this research to color my descriptions and confine the scope of these future technologies, not to provide in-depth specifications. Thanks to this balance, I think MetaGame gets to stay in the hard sci-fi category while remaining, first and foremost, an entertaining book.

Question: What authors or books have influenced your writing?

Sam Landstrom: Lucky for me, the public school system forced me to read 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. These books were more about sociology and philosophy than technology, and they taught me that sci-fi did not necessarily require aliens or spaceships.

In addition to these stand-alone books, I really enjoyed the Dune series by Frank Herbert because he built up a fully realized universe that included components of religion, politics, economics, and even ecology. Dune had a big influence on MetaGame.

I have heard from several readers that MetaGame shares elements with Neal Stephenson’s work. This might not be a coincidence since I read The Diamond Age and Snow Crash before writing MetaGame. Good stuff.

Question: MetaGame fits solidly in the sci-fi/cyberpunk genre, but also weaves in philosophy and thriller writing. Have you considered trying your hand at other genres in the future?

Sam Landstrom: Yes, in fact I’m writing a fantasy novel now. Magic, monsters, infinite dimensions, a high school kegger.. You get the idea--not hard sci-fi, but entertaining and, hopefully, a bit thought provoking.

Question: Have you always wanted to write? What other careers have you pursued?

Sam Landstrom: I’ve wanted to write off and on over the years. When I was really young (like 8-9 years old) I pumped out books; however, these quick reads emphasized pictures over writing. The art sported a lot of guns blazing, swords swinging, blood spraying, heads flying through the air, etc. I went to a hippie school that wasn’t big into formal education. I remember my older cousin reading one of my books, after which he told me, "You need to start a sentence with a capital letter and end with a period." First of all, I didn’t know what he was talking about and second, who cares? I didn’t understand why he wasn’t praising me for the awesome action scenes. I mean, you just didn’t see that kind of stuff in books I found in the library, much less at school! I like to think my writing has improved since those days, although my grammar could still use some work. Thank God for good editors.

As an adult, I’ve had many different career interests I considered pursuing, including underwater archaeology and neurology. When I started college, I actually went in with the intention of becoming a doctor, but quickly discovered I was more into the science of medicine than the actual application of it, hence the degree in molecular biology. Aside from working in software (my current career) and in biotech, I spent a lot of time on the water as a deck hand, first on a passenger ferry, and then on a small cruise ship in Alaska. I was really considering a life at sea. However, it turns out I was ill suited to the regimen of a sailor’s job. Captains were not impressed with what I thought were creative solutions to problems, nor with me setting my own priorities.

Question: What's next for you?

Sam Landstrom: I’m sort of writing three books at once--the fantasy novel I mentioned earlier, as well as a prequel and sequel to MetaGame. I’ve made the most progress on the fantasy, so that’s what I’ll likely finish first. On the side, I also started developing a smart-phone application that is a virtual boyfriend for young women. I hope to make him handsome and charming, even as he speaks in a computer-generated Stephen Hawking voice. I’ve heard you can get a long way with flattery, so I’m hoping a phone can successfully use the same strategy. I’m not sure when I’ll finish that, if ever. By the way, I’d make a virtual girlfriend too, but giving men what they want through a phone (or any media) is too easy.

About the Author

Author Sam Landstrom studied molecular biology at the University of Washington before working at a DNA sequencing lab that helped sequence the human genome. Presently, he works in the software industry. MetaGame is his first book.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 422 pages
  • Publisher: 47North (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935597167
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935597162
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (246 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sam Landstrom has been a technical writer for Microsoft for several years, having written hundreds of online articles teaching software development. Previously, he programmed robots for a DNA sequencing laboratory at the University of Washington that contributed to the Human Genome Project, among other genome sequencing projects.

In his free time, Sam enjoys writing (of course), listening to audio books while doing errands (e.g. walking the dogs), snowboarding, playing Dungeons and Dragons with his co-workers, and hanging out with his wife and two kids in the Seattle area.

MetaGame is Sam's first novel. He thinks that writing fiction is great fun and is working on other novels now

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Quickdry on August 29, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
I have been using Amazon for nearly a decade but have never bothered to post a review until now. I am simply shocked at the quality that has been portrayed by this new independent author, Sam Landstrom. I feel like I am robbing him with the book only costing 80 cents.

I was initially uneasy with the mundane way murder was portrayed in the beginning of this book, but I found that even that initial emotion was used to build on the fantastic yet believable world that has been created. As I am terrified that I will spoil the many plot twists and revelations for perspective readers, I will defer to the official summary and just say that this is a must add to anyone's Kindle library and I am greatly anticipating Mr. Landstrom's next work.
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66 of 74 people found the following review helpful By karmaqueen on June 28, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
I started to read Metagame after hearing about it in one if the forum posts. Downloaded it, thinking I did not have too much too lose. Oh My God!!! Could not put it down!! Loved it, got hooked on it inmediately and did nothing that day except read.... If you love original, this definitely IS original. Do not get fooled into thinking that you have to like video games to like this novel, you don't, I don't. The story hooks you, enthralls you, surrounds you, and when it ends you feel spent but wanting more!
This is one of those books that will make you look for more like it (and if you find one, please tell me..)
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By BluePelican on February 14, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall, I enjoyed this story. The author deserves credit for spinning an imaginative yarn. Unfortunately, the writing leaves much to be desired. I give this book an A for imagination/creativity. There are a large number of interesting technological concepts here, and they inspire a fascinating vision of a future world. The writing gets a C. There were several issues here. First, the characters were flat and undeveloped. It was hard to care about any of them and impossible to see why the protagonist would care about his love interest. Second, as others have noted, the maxim "don't say it, show it" applies here in spades. Finally, the use of language remains quite poor (even after a fair bit of reported editing). I have to note some egregious examples because it's just so awful to read these: erroneously using "eminent" instead of "imminent", "populous" instead of "populace", "b-line" instead of "beeline", "lightening" instead of "lightning". These kinds of errors really detract from a story. They break the spell of reading, and leave you distrustful of the author. Anyone who considers himself a writer should develop a better knowledge of the English language. On a related note, a more general lack of knowledge was in evidence in certain places. For example, the French expression is "au contraire", not "oh contraire". And the German social scientist often associated with Karl Marx is Max Weber, not "Vaber". Again, these things just stop you in your tracks as a reader. Some attention to detail and a bit of work on vocabulary and editing would help.

In the final analysis, there is a lot of potential here. It's a good draft of a book, showing a lot of imagination. Kudos to the author for getting this far. Keep at it.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 29, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this story a couple of months ago, and pieces of it are still stuck in my head. Mr. Landstrom has crafted an interesting world and a gripping story. He could desperately use the services of an editor, however. Maybe I'm picky, but glaring typos, continuity problems, and wrong word choices ("poke-a-dots" instead of "polka dots," for example) made it hard to stay engaged in the story. This story deserves better, and could be absolutely fantastic with a little cleanup. I hope that Mr. Landstrom continues to write and seeks out a physical publishing house for his work. Having an accomplished editor could bring him to the next level, and I'd like to see what other stories he has brewing.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Jacob G on November 15, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
This was the first book I acquired through the Amazon lending program. It had an interesting name, premise, and good reviews. I'll attempt to explain whey I had to set it down: (mild spoilers)

1. I don't mind being set in a world where I don't know what's going on. It makes for a second layer of intrigue that keeps the pages turning so I can get more questions answered. What I DON'T like, however, is having every chapter begin with exposition where everything is explained to me. If the author is too lazy to find an even slightly more creative method than this, I don't feel that the book is worth my time. After reading 20% of the book, I become too frustrated with this kind of laziness. Treat the reader like we're smart so we can figure out it out with out your interjections.

2. I had no attachment to the character D_Light. After several chapters, I still knew nothing about him other than facts. He had no personality traits that I can identify. Besides him, the only other character I'd been introduced to where in very brief snippets or was dead.

3. A definite been-there-done-that feel. This book reminded me a lot of Feed, but didn't capture me. It had the usual post-apocalyptic, dystopian, technothriller setup, but nothing really made me think, "wow. That's cool!" I don't mind borrowing from other books or taking the best of something and making it your own, but I didn't encounter anything that genuinely intrigued me.

I went in with average expectations and just had no desire to finish the story, even after D_Light was recruited to join the Metagames. Of all the reasons I listed, I attribute most of the failure in the book to lack of character development.
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