1980s or early 90s era sci fi book, the main character is a woman. The world is now just a mega city around the equator enclosed by a shield or dome, and built generation by generation on top of the ruins of previous cities.

There's a power source generated by the ruins, I think it's called plasma? It lets users astral project and other stuff. The main character finds an unknown well of the stuff and tries to find a buyer, and gets sucked into a political coup of a different area.

Any help is much appreciated.

2 Answers 2


This is Walter Jon Williams Metropolitan

It's set at an indeterminate point in the future, where the world is one giant city, including some neighbourhoods that extend out over the sea. The world is sealed behind an impenetrable Shield, and buildings and cities are built on the ruins of older ones. It has been discovered that certain configurations of buildings and architecture generate a substance called plasm, which can be used to manipulate matter in magic ways.

The lead character is called Aiah, and she starts as a minor bureaucrat, investigating an incident where someone has located an unregulated well of plasm, before having a rather nasty accident.

There's also a sequel, City on Fire, which starts up immediately after the events of the first book.


I haven't read it, but have looked at the book several times because I've liked other books by the same author: Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams. Here's an extract from the Wikipedia page:

Working for an emergency response team investigating a huge flaming apparition of a woman that damages several city blocks, she discovers a previously unknown plasm well of tremendous power (the apparition being caused by a woman who blundered into the well and tapped the plasm directly, killing herself in the process). Instead of disclosing its location, she [Aiah] leads the Authority on a wild goose chase while trying to decide on how best to use it to her advantage.

There's a sequel called City on Fire.

  • Yes! This is it, thanks so much! Nov 15, 2014 at 15:40

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