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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Back on the science fiction beat, at least for a little while. 
18th-Jan-2006 04:28 pm
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 BCE
Rating: 8/10 - A classic in the genre that is just as fresh now as it was fifty years ago.
19th-Jan-2006 03:28 am (UTC)
The City and the Stars is my favourite Clarke novel. It was originally a novella called Against the Fall of Night. That version is great, The City and the Stars is better. Possibly the greatest science fiction novel ever written.

If you loved The City and the Stars you should also love Childhood's End. Stick to his early stuff, up to the late 1960s.
19th-Jan-2006 03:32 am (UTC)
What do you think of 2001: A Space Odyssey and sequels? I was thinking of trying those next. I can also get the BCE of Rendezvous with Rama cheap, so I was considering that one as well. Seems like a different sort of story, though.
19th-Jan-2006 03:39 am (UTC)
I don't do sequels!

I've read his novelisation of 2001, and it's very good.

Chldhood's End is the way to go. Should be very easy to find in libraries, or in used bookstores, and it's still in print. It and The City and the Stars are his truly great novels, his towering achievements, IMHO.
19th-Jan-2006 03:47 am (UTC)
I don't do sequels!

*laughs* Why not?

Well, I'll poke around and see if I can't find Childhood's End somewhere. ^_^
19th-Jan-2006 05:03 am (UTC)
*laughs* Why not?

Life's too short to waste on sequels!
19th-Jan-2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
For movies, I would say that's generally the case, but not for books--authors tend to improve with age and time.
30th-Jan-2006 09:06 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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