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The City and the Stars (Arthur C. Clarke Collection: Vanamonde) Kindle Edition
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"The City..." is a major expansion published in 1956 of "Against the Fall of Night", which was published serially in 1948 and in book form in 1953. The former version has a very tightly focused plot dealing mainly with two aspects of the distant future: 1) description of the nature of technology and society in Clarke's vision of the distant future and 2) the explorations of its 20-year-old protagonist, Alvin, and the consequent disruptions that will apparently lead to renewed vigor and growth of humanity. This earlier version is a compelling story in its own right, and I have reviewed it separately at http://www.amazon.com/review/RV8G92FK092Y2/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm . "The City..." expands the earlier version while retaining the central plot line in nearly unchanged form, with greater depth in handling the two original themes, plus a number of additional themes. This version adds significantly in areas of psychology, sociology, and philosophy. This expansion elaborates on the motivations of the main characters and the cultures and increases the amount of food for thought.
"The City..." sacrifices the concise, driving style of "Against..." as an inevitable consequence of the additional themes, and the relative advantages of the different approaches will depend on your reading preferences. My recommendation is that "Against..." would be more fun for young readers (pre- and young-teen), while "The City..." would be the more enjoyable for most of the older crowd. One surprising thing occurred as I read the two novels back-to-back: as a scientist, I wasn't burdened by concerns of realism while reading "Against..."; oddly, perhaps because of its efforts towards greater realism, I was frequently inclined to evaluate ideas and events in "The City..." on a scale of ultimate likelihood!
I recommend "The City and the Stars" for SciFi and Arthur C. Clarke fans. Given its far-future setting, wide-ranging ideas, and intriguing story, it should have continued appeal for the next 50 years.
Clarke's best work, I think, is "Rendevous with Rama". Don't miss it. I'd also recommend Isaac Asimov's Foundation series; the original Foundation trilogy is roughly contemporary in writing with the early Clarke SciFi novels and most of the early and later Foundation books are compelling.
Over the years, I've probably read it another half-dozen times, and it never gets tired. It's a world that I'd like to explore for real. Sure, the main character, Alvin, is a bit of a jerk at times, but I really enjoyed the process of discovery through his eyes.
I'm so glad that this finally has been released for Kindle. If you haven't read it or heard of it, give it a try. At least download the sample. I think you'll like it.
I'm amazed that this story was written in the 1950s. Clarke has a keen ability to mesmerize the reader with futuristic ideas that so often sound familiar to me not because Clarke is copying or incorporating common sci fi elements from pop culture today...instead he is a father of sci fi, and it appears that so much of what we read and see today in sci fi stems from ideas presented by Clarke. That's why this book felt so familiar and yet original at the same time.
The story slowed down at a few points which led to a couple of lulls in the book, but for the most part I couldn't put the book down. Highly recommend this for any fan of sci fi and anyone who wants a creative read about mankind's distant future.
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