I coordinated my reading of Metropolis with listening to the episodes of The Tides of History about the rise of civilization and Uruk, the first city in Mesopotamia. Only the first chapter of Metropolis is about Uruk, but the podcast gave me structure of: what does civilization mean? What makes a city possible? Spoiler: a certain degree of wealth; often, religion is involved; and some sort of organization to coordinate activities.
Metropolis grazes over 6500 years of human history, from the founding of Uruk to the modern day – Covid-19 even makes its way into the introduction. Each era of human history is looked at through the focus of the city and what the city meant to that era of history. For example, for the Roman era, the book focuses on bathhouses, because they’re a stand-in for the engineering feats that were needed to get the plumbing in place, but they also signify how Roman culture evolved from the non-bathhouse-having hard-nosed citizens of the early republic to the more decadent subjects of the late empire.
The cities profiled are all over the world, too. While history tends to focus on European cities – and there’s a lot of Europe in here – Metropolis is doing its best to bring in cities from around the world: Baghdad, Malacca, Tenochtitlan, and Lagos to name a few. (It gets bonus points for making you really detest the combination of ignorance and superiority complex of the conquistadors.)
I’m personally a fan of cities. I like their energy and creativity and the way that they bring people together and make things happen in a way that being out in the country, or even in suburbia just doesn’t. Metropolis really captured that for me; I would definitely recommend it.
We took a vacation! A big one, too. We spent a little more than two weeks in Scandinavia. I’d never been to Denmark, Norway, or Sweden before, and we managed to hit all three.*
I’m going to be spreading out the photos over the next couple of weeks in a series of posts, so stay tuned if there’s a particular destination/sight you’re interested in.
We spent a total of about three days in Copenhagen, much of it just walking around the city. Urban hiking is the best.
This is the bit of Copenhagen that’s on all the postcards. It’s like the Eiffel Tower in Paris: it’s the most touristy thing ever, but you have to go.
Gardens and Flowers
I was surprised through the whole trip to see an amazing number of flowers. My kid (who lives in drought-riddled California) couldn’t get over how green everything was. It made me remember how much you enjoy nature when it’s cold and white and grey for winter.
These are a couple of photos that don’t really fit into categories, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave them out.
Did I mention that we did a lot of walking? And we only stayed in the center (largely). I’d’ve loved to explore more. Next time!
* I should tell you: I don’t enjoy the if-this-is-Tuesday-it-must-be-Belguim cramming in of sights and stops. I would have loved to spend way more time in each city/country. Nonetheless, we got a decent overview of each place. I think. Next time, in depth!
What’s it about? All Fall Down is a story about an ambassador’s granddaughter, Grace. There has been an accident and her mother is dead. She, however, is convinced that it wasn’t an accident. But no one will believe her. How will she ever prove that there is more going on than meets the eye?
Why should you read it?
You should read it if you, like me, are an Ally Carter fan (the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series are fun). Otherwise, I might give it a pass. Ms Carter is a practical person – it helps her write no-nonsense characters who are good at getting things done. But All Fall Down should be about glamour. There are grand balls, tuxedoes, gowns, and secret tunnels. There is diplomacy and doublespeak and old European cities. Grace should remind me a bit of James Bond; but she is damaged in a way that isn’t, to my mind, alluring. (Her mother is dead. It would be weird if she were normal.) There is a way to make a character damaged and still fascinating – La Femme Nikita comes to mind. Grace should be competent but off her game. Instead she just came across as blundering. I didn’t get the underlying competence.
I will read the sequel – I am sure Grace has underlying competence. This is an Ally Carter series. I look forward to Grace finding it.