City by Clifford D Simak — book review

City by Clifford D Simak. Gollancz SF Masterworks, ‘7.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

Originally published in 1952, this is actually a collection of inter-connected short stories that relates several thousand years of future history: from the time mankind decides it has evolved beyond living in cities to when humans have left Earth to live on Jupiter (and aren’t even human any more), leaving the planet to dogs, robots and ants.

Inevitably there is a degree of quaintness to be found herein ‘ the fiction is over sixty years old, after all ‘ humanoid metal robots, intricate machines that are controlled by dials, animals that talk like extras from The Waltons‘ But to concentrate on such things is to rather miss the point. Under the soft, cuddly skin there’s often a hard surface. Helplessness in the face of distaster occurs more than once (a simple case of agoraphobia looses humanity a thousand years of advancement; dogs almost certainly doomed because the one thing that could have saved them was bred out from the start). The abstract callousness of a mutant human who could do so much to help the world (if he could be bothered). One of the last humans on Earth putting himself into an eternal sleep, because to stay would be to risk the evolution of the dogs (even though it’s probably for nothing). Bleak irony abounds.

The stories are packaged as though they are ancient, curious fables; with the dog editor attempting to place each tale in context (balancing the conflicting theories of various historians as to the veracity of the works). It’s an amusing conceit.

With an introduction from Gwyneth Jones, this is certainly the book for those who ‘ like me ‘ have never read Simak before. Or even if you have.

City by Clifford D Simak. Gollancz SF Masterworks, ‘7.99

Reviewed by Mike Chinn

Originally published in 1952, this is actually a collection of inter-connected short stories that relates several thousand years of future history: from the time mankind decides it has evolved beyond living in cities to when humans have left Earth to live on Jupiter (and aren’t even human any more), leaving the planet to dogs, robots and ants.

Inevitably there is a degree of quaintness to be found herein ‘ the fiction is over sixty years old, after all ‘ humanoid metal robots, intricate machines that are controlled by dials, animals that talk like extras from The Waltons‘ But to concentrate on such things is to rather miss the point. Under the soft, cuddly skin there’s often a hard surface. Helplessness in the face of distaster occurs more than once (a simple case of agoraphobia looses humanity a thousand years of advancement; dogs almost certainly doomed because the one thing that could have saved them was bred out from the start). The abstract callousness of a mutant human who could do so much to help the world (if he could be bothered). One of the last humans on Earth putting himself into an eternal sleep, because to stay would be to risk the evolution of the dogs (even though it’s probably for nothing). Bleak irony abounds.

The stories are packaged as though they are ancient, curious fables; with the dog editor attempting to place each tale in context (balancing the conflicting theories of various historians as to the veracity of the works). It’s an amusing conceit.

With an introduction from Gwyneth Jones, this is certainly the book for those who ‘ like me ‘ have never read Simak before. Or even if you have.