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City of Truth by [Morrow, James]
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4.0 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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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: 816 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy; Reprint edition (August 20, 2013)
  • Publication Date: August 20, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E9501D8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,179 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on December 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
"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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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. Good short stories and novellas drop readers into the middle of characters' lives, and show merely a significant episode in their lives, and here is no different.

However, my issues with this particular story deal with the uneven tone, the all-too-flat characters (especially the women of the story and even the boy), and the overall emptiness that I felt when it was over.

The worlds created by Morrow have never been a problem, and here, the cities of Veritas and Satirev (I get it, Satire with a V....Witty), are teasingly realized. However, these cities feel a bit uninspired and unrealized. Veritas feels like Harrison Bergeron's America, while Satirev is closest to the outside-the-city-limits community revealed in the finale of Fahrenheit 451 with an absurdest twist.

The ground covered in this story is not new, which is okay, but without sympathetic, memorable characters, a stylistically stunning tone, or more-fully realized settings, this one is a (slightly) overrated Nebula Award Winner, good for a quick read, but does not rise to the level of some of Morrow's better works.
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I loved this book, but then again I was a philosophy major. This is easy to read and thought provoking in a major way. It's sorta like 1984 except that Veritas is a city where people are conditioned not to lie, ever. (children excepted). There is a very funny and brutal honesty. For example, his car is called an Adequate Ford. The burger place is called No Great Shakes. There is a sorta heartbreaking story which I won't give away. Spoiler.: .And of course, there is an underground city which is very much NOT like Veritas. Many people are so used to lying or hiding that truth, this book will shine a mirror to yourself and your society. That is its true brilliance as a story. Its often as funny as it is sad. Many of the characters, except the main one, are kind of poorly developed, but its a short book.
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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. Novellas usually don’t have a lot of depth to them, but this relatively short narrative will leave its readers thinking.

Truth rules in the city known as Veritas. Nobody can lie. It is brutally conditioned out of people when they turn ten years old. Cars have names like “Ford Sufficients,” and burgers are called “Murdered Cow Sandwiches.” Everything is lackluster, and there’s no passion, art, or excellence to be found.

Jack Sperry is a citizen of Veritas. He is a critique who looks at literature and art of old to determine whether or not the piece is truthful. If anything about it is a lie, he destroys it (bringing up vivid allusions to the firemen from Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451). His life is turned upside down when he receives word from Camp Ditch-the-Kids that his son has been diagnosed with an incurable, deadly illness. Finding no comfort in the stale truthfulness of the diagnosis, Sperry goes on a quest to find the dessemblers, people who have somehow relearned how to lie, thinking that hope, faith, and lies can save his son.

On the surface, City of Truth is a bit of a dull story. It isn’t until you start reading between the lines and thinking about the scenarios that it blossoms into worthy literature. It makes for a great book club book. Since it’s short, witty, and thought provoking, it provides multitudes of interesting material for conversation.
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