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Cities in Flight Hardcover – March 27, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 91 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Cities in Flight Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Cities in Flight is an omnibus volume of four novels, originally published between 1955 and 1962, two of which are fix-ups of pieces that first appeared in various magazines in the early '50s. Despite having been conceived more than 50 years ago, and produced in episodic fashion, they stand head and shoulders above most SF available today.

In They Shall Have Stars, humankind's will to explore space is renewed with the advent of two discoveries: anti-gravity (the "spindizzy" machines) and the key to almost eternal life (anti-agathic drugs). By A Life for the Stars, centuries have passed and most of the major cities have built spindizzies into their bedrock and left earth, cruising the galaxy looking for work, much like the hobos of the Depression Era. Earthman, Come Home, told from the perspective of John Amalfi, the major of New York, was the first-written of the novels and--although not as tightly woven as the other segments--is still a masterly work. Blish gives the same weight and authority both to the sweeping cultural change wrought and suffered by the cities, and to the emotional growth of a man who is several hundred years old. We stay with Amalfi for the final episode, The Triumph of Time. New York is now planet-bound in the Greater Magellanic Cloud, but when Amalfi learns of the impending destruction of time itself, he is forced into space one more time, to take a last, desperate chance. The novel ends, literally, with a bang.

Despite the occasional, inevitable anachronism, such as vacuum tubes, Cities in Flight stands up remarkably well to modern reading. The novel's political and literary sophistication was unmatched in its time; there is very little to rival it even today. For most readers of a certain age, this was probably the first SF they encountered that was written from a mature standpoint and adult sensibility. The fact that Blish also manages to tell a fabulous, galaxy-spanning adventure tale makes this essential reading. --Luc Duplessis

From Library Journal

Blish's sf epic was originally published as four separate novels--They Shall Have Stars; A Life for the Stars; Earthman, Come Home; and The Triumph of Time--which became known over time collectively as the "Okie novels." The title of this edition is apt, as the thread of the story concerns entire cities that fly through space. All sf collections will want this.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 590 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; Reissue edition (March 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585670081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585670086
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,139,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Battaglia on November 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Probably the only way Mr Blish could have made the title anymore self-explanatory would be to call it "Cities in Space" but that's not really as poetic. Mostly due to that teeming mass we fondly call pop culture, if you've heard of James Blish at all it's probably by way of his novelisations of Star Trek episodes, which is where I first heard of him (and they really aren't half bad, honestly) but as it turns out he was one of the smarter SF writers of the fifties. His SF reputation basically rests on two novels, A Case of Conscience (which is a decent examination of original sin from a SF perspective) and the collective groups of novels known as Cities in Flight, which we'll be talking about here. Over the course of time Blish wrote four average sized novels depicting over time man discovering the ability to launch entire cities into space and the culture that developed around them as the centuries wore on. The first novel "They Shall Have Stars" mostly serves as a really long prologue to the proceedings, showing how the technology was developed, as well as the secret to halting the aging process, indispensible to staying in space for a really long time. The story also functions as a political thriller on some level, showing the earth of the future as more narrowminded and religious (always an easy target, alas) and focused more upon itself, crumbling even as he moves forward. Still, it's really just prelude for what's to come. "A Life for the Stars" is next, and is basically a better introduction to the culture of the flying cities, as they weave their way through space, taking odd jobs.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Like many people, I first read this collection of four novels when I was in High School. Long out-of-print I was very happy to see them repackaged for a whole new generation. This is high-quality science fiction from the golden age. I was suprised that so little of the technology is out-of-date (vacuum tubes excepted) that it reads as fresh now as it did before.
But this is more than just the superficial sci-fi that we sometimes hear about. Much more than spaceships and aliens, these novels dig deep into our culture, our sensabilities, our fundamental attitudes. It is a story of the human condition, as told by one of the grand masters of science fiction. If you enjoy Heinlein, Asimov, and Bradbury, you'll like this one. If you aren't into sci-fi, I think you will still find a lot to like about Cities in Flight. Give it a try.
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Format: Paperback
This really is a good buy at the Amazon price, considering
you're getting 4 books in one. This is a good summer
vacation reading book, it'll keep you dug in for a while.

Blish is very economical with words, somehow he missed the
concept of being paid by the word, his normal paragraph
would have taken any other author 6 pages to relate.
You'll find yourself happily rereading sections just to
understand everything that's happened, and be amazed at
how simply the most earth shattering events can be told
with little or no build up, and be left with little
patience for other author than stretch things out.
You'll find in Cities in Flight more astounding events,
wonders of science, amazing concepts on each page than
you'd get after reading a whole novel by current writers.
You could pick most any page here, tear it out, and spin
off a whole book around what just happen there.

What this is all about is the idea of a field device.
You turn it on and anything within the field is a unit
which can be moved, essentially by repelling gravity.
Therefore, it becomes possible to move, easily, whole
communities. If you want to go for the ride, you stay
put, if not leave before we lift. Thus is born Cities in
Flight. This is the story of those cites which are mobile
units that move about the known universe picking up the
resources they need as they go, much like the hobos of the
the early 20th century. These are honest working cities,
only looking to improve their economic well being by
moving to where the work is, sort of a mobile work force.
Read more ›
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By A Customer on September 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It's over 30 years since I have read the "Cities" series, originally 4 novels, and it has not lost any of my pleasant memories. James Blish created a masterpiece which has not been tarnished in anyway, true technology has advanced, this is still plausable. As a author I rate him along the big names of Science Fiction such as Assimov, Heinlien, E E Smith and many overs. If you have nothing to do one day and it is raining outside then pass a few hours away reading Cities in Flight. You will not be disapointed, it's a very relaxing read worthy of space on any bookshelf.
Should this ever happen, then all I have to say is "I want on".
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an anthology of four books by James Blish. The first book "They Shall Have Stars" covers the period of the discovery of FTL flight at a time when the East and West were buried in the cold war. Since speed is proportional to mass in this universe the logical development is flying cities. The story of the flying cities and in particular New York, New York is told in the next three books. The final book concerns how mankind can shape the end of time. Forget the afterword it only spoils the excitement. The book is a bit dated in many ways now but the concept, plots and dialogue still deserve a reading even today.
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