Joel Ohman
(Meritropolis, #1)
Publication date: September 8th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

In Meritropolis everyone is assigned a numerical Score that decides their worth to society and whether they live or die. After a young boy is killed because of a low Score, his brother plots to take down the System.

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…




“Easier Said Than Outrun”

Charley crouched, motionless, willing himself not to blink. A bead of sweat bubbled across his eyebrow and clung to his eyelash: a warm and salty droplet hanging like a swollen piece of fruit, overripe and ready to fall. He stared straight ahead, eyes wide open; to move now would be disastrous.

The thing stopped, ears twitching. Charley willed himself not to make a sound, but was suddenly aware of the faint scent of his own sweat; he wondered whether the creature could smell it, too. He had been following it for half of the afternoon. By this point, the thing should have had ample opportunity to scent him, given Charley’s quite rudimentary tracking prowess, but it hadn’t yet. Each time Charley drew close enough to chance a shot with his bow—and he knew he would only have just one shot—the thing capered off, leading Charley even deeper into the brush.

Charley found it maddening how fast its four legs could move; the bushy forelegs of pillowy grey-white fur made it seem as immobile, docile, and non-threatening as a sheep. But, as Grigor had instructed earlier, to underestimate a llamabill was to invite disaster.

Charley reached over his head, slowly, and withdrew an arrow from his sheath.

The profile of the llamabill shifted slightly, revealing great big haunches of what Charley hoped would be today’s dinner, as well as the severe-looking face of a shoebill bird. Its body, with the exception of the incongruent webbed feet and feathery wings, was almost entirely reminiscent of a llama: big, wooly, and slightly ridiculous. The head, however, was no laughing matter. The wide shoe-shaped bill could decapitate a fully-grown man with one well-placed chomp. A standard shoebill stork is not a bird to be trifled with, at three-feet tall and a weight of ten pounds, let alone when it’s six-feet tall and a weight of 400 pounds with the body of an agile llama.

Charley notched the arrow and pulled back slowly.

He hated to do it, really he did. He didn’t enjoy the killing, but the truth of the matter was quite simple: they needed food, badly.

Charley steeled his resolve and dipped his head slightly downwards to his right shoulder while closing his left eye. He sighted in on the creature, aiming for the spot where its long wooly neck met its substantially muscled left shoulder. He reconsidered, tipping his bead slightly higher to avoid the feathery wing that jutted incongruently from the llamabill’s great side.

The muscles in Charley’s forearms stood out like corded bands. He held the bow drawn back all the way without wavering. He inhaled through his nose, and then expelled the air slowly through pursed lips, attempting to quiet his beating heart. He would release the arrow upon a full exhale, and in between heartbeats, just as Grigor had trained him.

It was as good of a shot as he would ever get. Charley didn’t really have to do anything, now. He just needed to relax the three fingers of his string hand, and the llamabill, still standing motionless, would be dead, motionless forever.

But he paused.

A glimmer of uncertainty, a pang of conscience—and for what? he wondered—it was just an animal.

The llamabill turned to look directly at him, its prehistoric eyes glinting sharply as they focused in on Charley.

A cold shiver crept up Charley’s spine. He had waited too long, and he knew it. The droplet of sweat plummeted from his eyelash, and Charley released the arrow. It went wild left, and the creature went wild right—directly at Charley.

The llamabill opened its enormous bill and screamed a challenge. For a moment, it looked like an anachronism to even more savage times, a winged dinosaur on the rampage.

Charley did the normal human thing first, and then the normal trained hunter thing second. He froze. Then he ran.



Q&A with the Author


Other than an author, who are you Joel Ohman?

My name is Joel Ohman. I am 33 years old, married to my best friend, Angela, and have 3 kids, ages 5, almost 3, and 1. My writing companion is my 130lb Bull Mastiff, Caesar (who’s asleep on the job most of the time, to be honest). I am a Christian who likes to talk about the good news of Jesus Christ. I do volunteer work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and also with my church in Tampa. I am a serial entrepreneur, having founded a number of different startups in the web space. I am currently the President & CEO of 360 Quote LLC and Real Time Health Quotes LLC, and we own a lot of different web properties, one of the most popular ones being our workout website/iOS App/Android App for You can learn more about me at


What books and authors, past or present, have inspired you to write?

I read a LOT, so there are many different things that have shaped my writing over the years, but I wouldn’t say there was any particular book, or books, that I was consciously looking to for inspiration while writing Meritropolis and Meritorium. For the craft of storytelling, I have learned a lot from John Truby and his book, The Anatomy of Story. I can also see different threads of influence in almost everything I have read over the years that contribute toward making the Meritropolis series what it is—the strong protagonist of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, the philosophical bent of C.S. Lewis’ fiction, the dystopian setting of Hugh Howey’s WOOL series, and many more.


In the Meritropolis series how were the animal combinations decided upon? For example, I know you chose to write about a bion (bull-lion), as well as many other freaks of nature. So what I want to know is how did you decided which animals to meld together and why.

I have a big list of animal combinations that I came up with before I began writing the book, and I tried to work in as many as I could. Sometimes the only criteria was that I liked the way the name sounded. There are over fifteen new animal combinations introduced in Meritorium as well as a couple of big reveals toward the end that many readers might not see coming…


Who illustrated the animal combinations that are featured before each chapter?

Rachel Crafton is a friend of mine who is a very talented artist. She did each of the 17 different animal combination illustrations (one for each of the 17 chapters in Meritropolis) as well as 14 brand new animal combination illustrations for the 14 chapters in Meritorium:


Chapter 1 – Horoceros (Horse-Black Rhinoceros)

Chapter 2 – Llamabill (Llama-Shoebill)

Chapter 3 – Medusa Tree

Chapter 4 – Venus Mantrap

Chapter 5 – Durkey (Deer-Turkey)

Chapter 6 – Snurtle (Snake-Turtle)

Chapter 7 – Zippo (Zebra-Hippo)

Chapter 8 – Marmosal (Marmoset-Jackal)

Chapter 9 – Hedgedog (Hedgehog-Wild Dingo Dog)

Chapter 10 – Narse (Narwhal-Horse)

Chapter 11 – Sworse (Swift-Horse)

Chapter 12 – Wolverator (Wolverine-Alligator)

Chapter 13 – Boadicon (Bat-Toad-Scorpion)

Chapter 14 – Vulcodile (Vulture-Crocodile)


My favorites are some of the ones that were directly engineered by man to recreate mythical creatures like the unicorn, Pegasus, and even a dragon. (Illustrations available to embed in post)


Who or what was your inspiration to write about post-apocalyptic, dystopian, sci-fi?

I’ve read a lot in this genre, so I would say it’s a mix of a lot of different things. I really just wanted to explore this question of, “What gives a person worth?” Is it their usefulness to society? Is it because someone loves them? Is it because of how they look? Is it because of their health or ability? As a Christian, I believe that all people have worth, because

they are made in the image of God. I wanted to explore some different takes on this question. I think that the post-apocalyptic/dystopian/sci-fi genre was the best vehicle to tackle some of those deep philosophical questions in a fun and interesting way.

While book #1 was all about this idea of what gives a person worth—and is really the overarching theme of the series—in Meritorium I really wanted to explore what makes a person different than an animal. Is it because we are (hopefully) smarter, more cunning, more powerful? What if that weren’t the case—could you say that an animal is just as important as a person, or even more so? Why or why not?

I also wanted to delve into mankind’s relationship to animals: why do we love some animals, like dogs, and yet eat other animals, like pigs? How do we “rank” the importance of one animal in relation to another? How should we be responsible stewards of the animals around us? Is it possible to love animals and care for them while also eating them? And no, I am not a vegetarian—in case you were wondering—but I think that the Biblical Theology of Creation is uniquely suited to answer some of these tough questions that we all wrestle with, at one time or another, and when you can explore some of these big, weighty philosophical questions against the backdrop of battles and gladiators and creatures with eyes that glint gold in the pitch black night then it can be a lot of fun too.


What projects are you currently working on—both in your writing and otherwise?

The next writing project is book #3 for the Meritropolis series. Other than that, I own a number of different businesses, so we always have new and interesting projects in various stages of development. One fun project is our workout website/iOS App/Android App


How long did it take you to write Meritropolis and Meritorium?

It took me about a year and a half to write Meritropolis, almost two years, really, and then less than a year to write Meritorium. I finished the bulk of the writing for Meritorium in about four months, so I feel confident that I could write the next book much quicker, because I learned a lot from my editorial team and others at whitefox.


What are you doing to market your book now?

Right now I am concentrating on getting my book in front of as many of the awesome book bloggers and book reviewers out there as possible. Meritropolis is fortunate to have received a large number of 5-star reviews on both Amazon and GoodReads, and I am definitely hoping this trend will continue with Meritorium. I also recently started working with Emlyn Chand over at Novel Publicity, and she has been great, so I am excited to see what she can do!


Do you have any advice for authors who are considering the self-publishing route?

I am not one of those authors who will say that self-publishing is the best choice for every single author, but I am absolutely glad that I went this route. I love that I can fully control and fully own my work, but I would encourage anyone who self-publishes to try and adhere to the following advice:

  1. Don’t be a cheapskate – be willing to pay for a professional editor, a professional book cover designer, etc. It boggles my mind that people will spend hours upon hours writing their book and then just take a few minutes to throw some clip art and stock photos together to “design” their book cover. Don’t. Just, don’t.
  2. Work with professionals – by this I simply mean to not overly rely on friends, family members, and co-workers, all of whom will likely just tell you what you want to hear. You need someone who is not afraid to point out the problem areas in your book and provide an honest critique. You already know that your mom is going to say she loves your vampire-Scottish-Highlander-billionaire-love-triangle-in-space book that you wrote, so don’t even bother asking her for feedback. Instead, pay someone who does that kind of thing for a living
  3. Sell, sell, sell – If you are a self-published author and you are not actively involved in sales and marketing for your book—which is essentially your mini-business—or you are not paying someone else to be actively involved in the sales and marketing of your book, then you are not maximizing the reach your book can have. As uncouth as it might be to say this, writing is only half of what is required to see success as a self-published author.


Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Meritropolis is a bestselling YA dystopian that has been in the top 100 in the entire Kindle store for multiple days. It has over 100 5-star reviews on Amazon as well as great reviews from Kirkus, Clarion, MBR, and others! Grab your copy today!


About the Author

Joel Ohman is the author of the Meritropolis series –“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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