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Earthman Come Home by JAMES BLISH

Earthman Come Home (original 1955; edition 1955)


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334548,678 (3.44)15
Title:Earthman Come Home
Info:Putnam (1955), Edition: BOMCE, Hardcover
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Earthman, Come Home by James Blish (Author) (1955)



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Earthman, Come Home is the longest book in the Cities in Flight series, even so it is still a relatively spritely 266 pages making it a fairly quick read.

The story gains even more scale in this book with New York continuing it's adventures and travels through the universe, times get harder for them in this book and they're forced to make some tough decisions in some rather adverse conditions.

Certainly builds upon the foundations laid out in the earlier books of the series (although interestingly this was written first in 1955, the first in 1956 then the second in 1962 as a bridge between this and the first) and paints quite a vivid universe. ( )
  HenriMoreaux | Apr 23, 2018 |
Did-not-finish. (Read to page 118.)
Usually, I'd give only one star to a did-not-finish, but there's nothing about this book that has aggravated me; I have no strong criticism. It just has failed to hold my interest. I started reading some Haruki Murakami short stories and can't bring myself to pick this back up.

I hadn't read any Blish in probably 25 years - since I was really into reading Star Trek novelizations. As far as I recall, his Star Trek books were OK - some of the first ones - but not the best ones, even back then.

I rather feel that when people criticize science fiction as a genre, they're talking about books like this (if they know what they're talking about.) It features lack of significant characterization, a plot that's a series of events rather than a dramatic structure, and a concentration on ideas rather than story. And they're some quite half-baked ideas too. Socially, it also feels extremely dated (as if everyone in the future is still living in an imaginary 1950's). I'd blame the time period - but I just read some Theodore Sturgeon, written around the same time period, and the guy doesn't fall victim to that trap in the slightest, so... yeah, this book just isn't very good.

The concept is that anti-gravity is invented, which causes cities (as a group) to lift themselves off the face of the earth and to function as mercenary spaceships-for hire. This means that the Mayor of New York (just Manhattan) is now essentially a spaceship captain. Interstellar travel and adventures ensue. Eh. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I really don't quite know what to make of this book, now. 'Earthman come home' was, as far as I recollect, the fifth sf novel I ever read (don't worry, I don't list them all in the order of reading! It's just that the first five sf novels I read are fairly fixed in my memory for a number of reasons...). This means that I first read it at the age of about 13 and then re-read it fairly regularly up to the age of 21, since when I haven't picked it up at all - so that's at least 37 years that have gone by since I last looked at it, until I started a re-read of the whole 'Cities in flight' sequence earlier this year.

I found the first two novels uneven going, to say the least. I was relieved when I got onto this book, which I note was written the year before I was born. The odd thing was that I went straight back into the story, with the text proceeding as though I was re-acquainting myself with an old friend - but a friend whose motives I thought I understood once but now no longer do. The events of the book flowed past, with plot milestones passing by with great regularity. Yet it had exactly the same resonance as driving a familiar road;. no shocks, no surprises but no excitement either.

Along the way, I noticed odd things. The dialogue is very 1950s; the one major female character is sort of well-drawn for the time but plays the role of the newcomer to the Okie city who needs everything explained to her. I had completely missed the fact that a black character is introduced towards the end of the book, and he is moderately well done, although the plot requires him to play the role of stupid serf, though Amalfi, the main protagonist, knows that this is deliberate, so we might let the author off a bit there. (But what happened to New York's black population between 1956 and the distant future?) I still have the images I had of the main characters from my youth, but there were a lot of expository lumps (though not as bad as in the first volume of the series), and some surprisingly cyberpunkish dropping of trade names (although they are all future trade names and so mean nothing to us - Dinwiddie pickups and Bethé blasters). Amalfi seems to take a cavalier attitude to loss of life, whether it's his own citizens or others. And a lot of the plot seems to happen because Mayor Amalfi guesses lucky, or even just plucks the right answer out of thin air.

The technology is badly out of date, of course - one minute, we're talking about anti-gravity devices and instantaneous Dirac transmitters, the next Amalfi is putting down what sounds like a very 1950s Bakelite telephone whilst his navigators are picking up their slide rules. Yet there's a bidding session for a work contract that is done by video link which was very easy to visualise in 2015 terms, and by and large the obsolete tech didn't get in my way. And there is an AI, the 'City Fathers', though they are not so much a character as a plot device, as they only seem to advance information or advice when asked, although later on, when the Okies have mobilised the planet Hern VI, it turns out that the City Fathers are actually doing most of the flying, though this is not reflected elsewhere in the novel - they are not credited with running that much of the city's autonomous systems. Oddly, most of the rest of the Okie cities appear to have equivalent systems, but there is little penetration of computerised systems into everyday life.

There are humourous asides - the so-called 'Emperor of Space' who appears to have learnt his English from Liverpudlians is particularly smile-provoking - but what really surprised me was the extent of Blish's erudition on a range of subjects, from literature and history to economics and (some of the) science. My teenaged self must have done a lot of skimming in this novel, though I'm not conscious of that - or perhaps what I thought was super-science in the late 1960s/early 1970s was actually sound knowledge that I hadn't yet discovered.

So not too bad a brush with the Suck Fairy, that magical creature that touches all the things we loved in our youth and makes them awful when we pick them up again as adults. The invention makes up for many of the faults, and the style of the writing itself has no major infelicities. But I suspect I'll leave a further re-read for a good few years, because too much further exposure would most probably make things go seriously bad for me and this book. ( )
  RobertDay | Nov 16, 2015 |
This third volume of the Cities in Flight series focuses on the Okie City New York, New York as it crosses the galaxy on a profiteering venture, seeking out employment wherever such may be found in order to find its fortune - or better yet, to find a home.

What a strange bird this is. As the first written in the series, I expected this progenitor to be a bit different than the preceding two. I wasn't ready for quite this large a difference in writing style or approach to story. The plot here is very episodic, a series of loosely interconnected adventures. Some of these stretch the boundaries of credibility, although it never comes entirely off the rails and the story always obeys its own rules. Many of the action sequences left me a bit lost as to what exactly was happening. Transitions seemed to be entirely missing in places, and scene breaks went entirely unmarked. I wasn't always sure whether it was a fault of the text or a fault in my attentiveness that kept throwing me off. Regardless, I stayed for the whole ride and found it satisfying, even if some of the bad scrapes the city found itself in were resolved a little too easily.

The story largely follows the city's mayor and his city manager. The mayor receives a sympathetic portrayal, and yet between the lines you'll see an odd disdain for the lives of his citizens that I couldn't quite reconcile with the rest of his character. Mr. Blish goes downhill in his portrayal of women over the course of this series. The first book featured a strong (though unattractive) female character. The second had no women at all. Here in the third, he drifts almost into Heinlein territory, I'm sorry to say, especially during one segment in particular on the planet "He".

This volume isn't the standout series highlight that I assumed it would be, but for entertainment quality it's at least on par. ( )
  Cecrow | Sep 21, 2010 |
I'm gradually making my way through the Cities in Flight tetralogy, and just finished Earthman, Come Home (third in sequence, but first published, I believe), winner of the 2004 "retro-Hugo" for best novelette (since the whole thing is definitely novel length, I can only assume that this award went to the last of the four sections that make up the novel--the book certainly has the feel of a "fix-up" of previously published novelettes).

It tells a series of four only vaguely related stories about a nomadic space-going Manhattan that flits from star to star in a distant future, looking for work and trying to avoid entanglements with the cops. Frankly the stories all fell into the "moderately entertaining, but awfully dated and not even remotely thought-provoking" category. I didn't find Mayor Amalfi to be a particularly likable protagonist, and the Amalfi-Dee-Hazleton romantic triangle was far from convincing. Add to that lots of "surprises" that were not particularly surprising, and you have a fairly ho-hum read.

In many ways, it's hard to avoid a comparison to some of the not particularly compelling episodes from Star Trek, the Original Series. But, just as I will occasionally devote my time to watching exactly such episodes, I suppose I will move on fairly soon to the final book of this series. ( )
1 vote clong | Feb 7, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Blish, JamesAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moser, Lida.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To John W. Campbell, Jr.
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Space flight got its start as a war weapon amid the collapse of the great Western culture of Earth.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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There are at least 3 versions of this story: a short story/novelette, a novel, and an abridged novel published by Avon (T-225) that does not have the chapters "Utopia" or "Gort".
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099086905, Paperback)

2nd impression edition paperback, vg+

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:16 -0400)

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