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City Paperback – July 21, 2015
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“Just about any work by Simak deserves to be considered a classic and City is no exception. . . . A unique perspective on the race of man and a fantastic read.” —SFBook.com
About the Author
During his fifty-five-year career, CLIFFORD D. SIMAK produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time. Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association's Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. DAVID W. WIXON was a close friend of Clifford D. Simak's. As Simak's health declined, Wixon, already familiar with science fiction publishing, began more and more to handle such things as his friend's business correspondence and contract matters. Named literary executor of the estate after Simak's death, Wixon began a long-term project to secure the rights to all of Simak's stories and find a way to make them available to readers who, given the fifty-five-year span of Simak's writing career, might never have gotten the chance to enjoy all of his short fiction. Along the way, Wixon also read the author's surviving journals and rejected manuscripts, which made him uniquely able to provide Simak's readers with interesting and thought-provoking commentary that sheds new light on the work and thought of a great writer.
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Almost every story ended with my closing the Kindle and uttering, "Wow" to myself. I was constantly surprised, caught off-guard, and left contemplating the new direction the author took me. There are also moral issues to contemplate with many of the stories: if you could have paradise, would you grab it at the expense of your human form? If mankind was standing in the way of forward progress for another species and the whole planet, would you make sure the planet had it's chance?
I'm so glad I bought this book and discovered this classic sic-fi author. I can see re-reading this book many times in the future.
The stories are deep and it is often hard to grasp their meaning, particularly for a non-native English speaker like me. I found them rather entertaining and I believe the whole book is brilliantly written.
The philosophical question underlying City is what would happen if mankind had the benefit of communicating with another intelligent species? How would this help or hinder our development? Man first attempts to form a beneficial partnership with Martians, but for reasons better left unsaid here, that proves unsuccessful. Then, a scientist named Bruce Webster decides to enhance the communication abilities of dogs so they can more intelligently interact with humans. This move has unseen ramifications that play out for tens of thousands of years into the future. City chronicles this future history of life on Earth, with recurring appearances by members of the Webster family, their robot Jenkins, and the descendants of those first experimental dogs.
At first it seems the talking, literate canines merely serve the purpose of comic relief, but as you become more involved with the stories, the dogs become more integral to the narrative, and it becomes clear that they serve a higher function. The dogs are presented in contrast to mankind, to highlight the qualities inherent or lacking in human nature. This creates a disturbing disjunction between the cute humor that arises from talking animals and the serious points Simak makes about the future of the human race. Jenkins, the robot, presents a similar quandary, as he at times is depicted as possessing perhaps more humanity than the humans he serves.
I had previously encountered two of these stories, “City” and “Census,” in The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak series. I thought these stories were great on their own, but here in City they become part of something grander and much more remarkable—an epic, sweeping speculative vision of the ultimate fate of mankind and the planet we live on. Though the parts may originally have been published separately, Simak clearly conceived them as one cohesive whole. Each piece is intricately linked to those that precede and follow it. The one aspect of the book that I didn’t care for all that much is the dog editor’s brief introductions to each chapter. They don’t do much to enhance the narrative, and they get annoyingly repetitive as the fictional commentator repeatedly wonders whether men ever existed, or if they are merely a myth. The eight stories and epilogue alone would have worked just fine without these interludes. I would argue that the canine editing hurts the narrative more than it helps.
This may be the book that made Simak famous, but if you’ve never read his writing before, City is a challenging work to start with. Be prepared for weirdness, and open your mind to Simak’s grand plan. This epic saga of the intertwining destinies of men, dogs, mutants, robots, extraterrestrials, and others may come across as exceedingly bizarre at first, yet Simak never betrays the unique logic of his fictional universe. What’s more, as is often the case with his work, Simak endows this sci-fi novel with an underlying humanity that elevates it into the realm of great literature.
Most recent customer reviews
In fact my neato is named Jenkie . The earth transcends from one entity ruling to another - mankind, dogs , ants ......
I read and enjoyed Clifford Simak's writings when I was young and started reading science fiction.Read more