This if the first novel by Arthur C. Clarke that I've ever read, but it definitely impressed me, so I don't think it's gonna be the last.Clarke, Arthur C. The City and the Stars. 1956. SFBC, 2003.Summary
: Alvin is the first new human to be born to the city of Diaspar in millions of years, and he, unlike his fellows, is not afraid of going outside. He does so and encounters the only other human settlement on Earth Lys and even achieves the stars. In the end, though, he's content to reunite the two populations remaining on Earth and help them to reclaim the rest of the planet from the desert...and he also sends his ship in search of the many intelligent races who have since left the galaxy.Comments
: Arthur C. Clarke commented, many years after it was written, that this was his "coming out" novel but no one seemed to notice at the time. Well, to be perfectly honest, I don't think I would have noticed either, although I suppose there's something to be said about Alvin leaving the city in search of something that he can't name at first but what turns out to be genuine human love (which, when you're immortal and don't reproduce, isn't something that you experience, apparently). I DID notice the way that romantic companionship was always represented in gender-neutral language...and Alvin sure did get buddy-buddy all of a sudden with Hilvar. That whole, "I'm coming with you" line late in the game surprised me a bit, I admit. In any case, where this novel truly stands apart is its epic, imaginative sweep of human history. There's a bit of British gentility to it all, granted, but Clarke makes it almost believable that humanity could have lasted for billions of years virtually unchanged. And, as in some of Clarke's other works, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey
, the source of human technological advancement is alien in origin. It's too bad the reason for our decline is far less interesting than Diaspar, the form that it took. Heck, life there in the city didn't sound all that bad to me...but then I'm security- not exploration-driven.Notes
: hardcover, exclusive BCERating
- A classic in the genre that is just as fresh now as it was fifty years ago.