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City of Truth [Kindle Edition]

James Morrow
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novella: In a bizarre future metropolis where even the most trivial fib cannot be uttered, a man must learn to lie—or lose what he loves most

Truth reigns supreme in the city-state of Veritas. Not even politicians lie, and weirdly frank notices abound—such as warning: this elevator maintained by people who hate their jobs: ride at your own risk. In this dystopia of mandatory candor, every preadolescent citizen is ruthlessly conditioned, through a Skinnerian ordeal called a “brainburn,” to speak truthfully under all circumstances.

Jack Sperry wouldn’t dream of questioning the norms of Veritas; he’s happy with his life and his respectable job as a “deconstructionist,” destroying “mendacious” works of art—relics from a less honest era. But when his adored son, Toby, falls gravely ill, the truth becomes Jack’s greatest enemy. Somehow our hero must overcome his brainburn and attempt to heal his child with beautiful lies.

Alternately hilarious and moving, City of Truth thoughtfully explores the pitfalls inherent in any attempt to engineer a perfect society.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest from Nebula and World Fantasy Award winner Morrow ( Only Begotten Daught e r ) is a witty satire that examines the value of absolute honesty in human relationships. In Veritas, the city of the title, everyone tells the truth (whole and nothing but), due to harsh, aversive shock therapy. People tell one another what they really think of their new hairdos; they eat "murdered cow" sandwiches, drive Plymouth Adequates and Toyota Functionals and sign their letters "yours up to a point"; the dentist has to say, "This is going to hurt like hell." Jack Sperry is a loyal Veritasian "art deconstructor" (metaphor and fabulation are illegal, of course) until he learns that his son Toby has a fatal disease and that lying to him about it might be the only way to give Toby enough hope to effect his own cure. Against his wife's wishes, Jack joins the dissemblers--covert liars bent on undermining Veritas's status quo--and from them he learns the pleasures of mendacity, as well as the pain it can cause. Morrow leavens his serious theme with sizable dollops 'leaven' is food; 'dose' is medicine of humor, without losing poignancy--his prose is compulsively readable, sprinkled with nicely understated jokes. At 100-odd pages, the novel may seem short, but satire can become tiresome when played out too long--the length, like almost everything else about this novella, is nearly perfect. Illustrations, by Steve Crisp, not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A pair of novellas explore the meaning of mortality from different perspectives. Pohl's satire is set in a future that has seen the conquest of death due to the activation of certain genes in the developing fetus. The few genetic failures live out normal, slightly extended lives, as media celebrities--made special simply because of their ephemerality. Morrow's tale approaches the bitterness of farce as he chronicles a desperate man's search for lies to save his dying son. Each story is a small masterpiece, carefully crafted and exquisitely told. Price and brevity, however, may limit purchase to libraries with larger budgets.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 377 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media; Reprint edition (August 20, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E9501D8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,553 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Empirical or True December 12, 2002
Here is an initially sharp social satire set in a city where you must tell the truth and lies are against the law. The authorities have literally scared lying out of the population. The book starts hilariously with the citizens of Veritas telling it like it is - ending letters with "yours up to a point" and eating at a restaurant called Booze Before Breakfast. It turns out that Veritas is really obsessed with empiricism (based only on observation and rules) rather than the much deeper "truths" of life. Morrow brings up this point very briefly in chapter 5, but unfortunately fails to expand on this intriguing theme. After that brief insight, the book becomes nonsensical and melodramatic, as the main character escapes to the secret city of Satirev to deal with the real truth about his son's fatal illness. The city of Satirev, in which people are allowed to lie but ultimately are more truthful, is a ridiculous construct that is hard to take seriously, while the story devolves into sentimentality rather than the sharp social observation that was hinted at earlier. Morrow's examination of the real meaning of truth, even if lying is necessary to achieve it, ultimately does not materialize even though he was really onto something big for a while.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I�m all right, Jack. Who cares about you? May 9, 2004
By A Customer
"City of Truth" is really two short stories, three if you count the brief final section. Each section is almost worth its own review, because they are so different.
City I is a description of a society where people have perfect honesty literally burned into their brains. It's incredibly funny because it contrasts so completely with our own feel-good consumer society. Politicians candidly admit that they accepted kick-backs; a salesperson tells you where to buy an item more cheaply from a competitor; restaurants sell "murdered cow" sandwiches with "wilted lettuce."
The odd thing is that the city is rather a flat, cold place. Parents critique their kids' drawings ("It's pretty ugly.") and romance is replaced by the brutal, hurtful truth. After a while, you long for someone to say "Have a nice day!" with a big smile, instead of truthfully expressing their complete indifference.
City II describes a rebel group which teaches people to lie again. The treatment involves exposing disciples to genetically-engineered impossibilities: pigs that fly, dogs that talk. Why this is supposed to help isn't entirely clear, but it enables a father to tell "kind lies" to his terminally sick child. The problem is that the boy can see that his father is lying: This is one case where honesty would be the best policy. City II is a real tear-jerker.
City III has the family leaving both the Truth Tellers and the Liars and settling for the kind of messy mix that we have: trying to tell the truth as far as possible, but making space for poetic license and white lies. That's fair enough, but there are no revelations here. Most of us feel this way already.
Consider the five stars all for the first section and well worth them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars City of Truth--a Brilliant Satire April 6, 2000
By A Customer
City of Truth is an amazing study of one of the most important issues our society and every member of our society faces, the issue of honesty. James Morrow presents a model of a city, Utopian city where its inhabitants are conditioned to tell the truth. For the author, it is a perfect opportunity to speculate on the origins and bases of our behavior; specifically he adresses the questions of why should we be honest? When is it acceptable or right to tell a lie? Should we decide or even have such an opportunity to determine whether to tell the truth or to lie? For the reader, the novel presents an absolute answer that dishonesty is never justified.
The exaggeration and satire skillfully applied to the fantastic City of Truth, carefully reveal the faults and contoroversies of our own society. The society where controversies and disputes are reduced to slogans, the society where we often express the need to be lied to, the society where we tolerate and even promote dishonesty. James Morrow attacks the issue by comparing the two sides of the argument. He presents two worlds-the "proper" world of truth and the underground, the opposing factor-the world of illusion or dishonesty. Both worlds are extreme-the City of Truth wouldn't tolerate art, poetry, imagintion, it is almost brutal and simple. On the other hand, the underground city is not necessarily the city where one lies all the time, but it is a city of illusion where dream and fantasy preveils. It is a city where the borderline between reality and imagination has been shed. But there is also a neutral world, a world where father is conditioned to tell the truth; he does so in reference to every aspect of his life except his son.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The plain truth is... January 23, 2007
Everyone goes through a stage of frustration with society's inherent dishonesty. In "City of Truth", James Morrow shows us that the alternative may prove even worse. The city of Veritas has strict prohibitions against any form of dishonesty, and each citizen is subjected to electroshock treatment during their teenage years to wean them off disengenuousness. The result is inevitable: people drive Ford Sufficients and threaten their neighbors with Smith&Wesson Metapenises; they leave their children at Camp Ditch-the-Kids and burn the works of great poets for excessive use of metaphors. The opening section of the book is the funniest part, with Morrow throwing out these one-liners fast and furious. Unfortunately there needs to be a plot. The protagonist learns that his son has contracted a fatal virus. His only hope for survival is to be buoyed by a misleading prognosis, thereby giving him the will to survive. Hence our hero embarks to Satirev, the city of lies, where pigs do fly and the Pope really is Jewish. Further adventures down there show him that lies also leave a great deal to be desired. All in all, a decently funny and appropriately short social satire.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very enjoyable read with a fun plot line. Definitely recommend giving it a try
Published 1 day ago by Maggie McArdle
4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like classic sci-fi
An intimate story with classic themes about freedom and what it means to be human. Takes me back to something Bradbury could have written.
Published 28 days ago by Nerdbliss
3.0 out of 5 stars Book was pretty short. Wish there was more of a story
Book was pretty short. Wish there was more of a story, fairly simple but a very interesting concept!
Published 1 month ago by Joe. F
2.0 out of 5 stars Fun high concept more or less fails to deliver
I really wanted to like this, because I was captivated by the concept, but the execution is (with a few bright spots) dismal. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Will
4.0 out of 5 stars Truth and Lies
City of Truth is a short novella (Nebula Award Winner 1992) about a city where all its citizens are "brain-burned" into telling only the truth. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Alexis DeSousa
4.0 out of 5 stars Like an old Star Trek episode, in a good way.
First things first, you have to go into this one understanding that the story is 100% allegory. As with (for example) the Giver, no attempt is made here to create a "real"... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mark M
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of Morrow's best
Though I know City of Truth to be a novella, and though I am familiar with many of Morrow's other stories, this one was not quite enough for me. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mark Wilkerson
5.0 out of 5 stars This is My Favorite Book
City of Truth is the book that got me into really reading for pleasure. This is one of my favourite books of all time and I absolutely recommend it.
Published 8 months ago by Kitty
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
I really was sad to see this story end. Incredibly well thought out and written. Looking forward to reading more of this author's work.
Published 10 months ago by Detroiterinnyc
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking.
City of Truth is the Nebula award winning novella written by science fiction author James Morrow. It explores a dystopic world where people cannot lie. Read more
Published 13 months ago by April N. Loebick
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More About the Author

Born in 1947, James Morrow has been writing fiction ever since, as a seven-year-old living in the Philadelphia suburbs, he dictated "The Story of the Dog Family" to his mother, who dutifully typed it up and bound the pages with yarn. This three-page, six-chapter fantasy is still in the author's private archives. Upon reaching adulthood, Morrow produced nine novels of speculative fiction, including the critically acclaimed Godhead Trilogy. He has won the World Fantasy Award (for Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah), the Nebula Award (for "Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge" and the novella City of Truth), and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award (for the novella Shambling Towards Hiroshima). A full-time fiction writer, Morrow makes his home in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife, his son, an enigmatic sheepdog, and a loopy beagle.

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