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Město by Clifford D. Simak
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Město (original 1952; edition 1992)

by Clifford D. Simak, Václav Kajdoš

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1,665464,317 (3.98)89
Member:jitka.zidkova
Title:Město
Authors:Clifford D. Simak
Other authors:Václav Kajdoš
Info:Praha : Odeon, 1992
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:SF&F

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City by Clifford D. Simak (1952)

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» See also 89 mentions

English (42)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All (46)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
I'm giving this book three and a half stars mostly because I'm more of a literary type than a science fiction fan, and there are stretches in "City" where it feels like the author is more interested in making an argument than relating a story: telling instead of showing, in other words. But "City" is still full of interesting ideas, and once in a while, especially in the book's latter stories, the author manages to communicate them in a way that might leave the reader feeling spooked and perhaps saddened. "City" is a good example of how science fiction can help answer both literature's most important question -- what does it mean to be human? -- and one of science's central imponderables -- will the human race survive?

"City was written in the shadow of the Second World War, and it shows: Simak's view of human nature is exceedingly bleak. He sees humanity as fundamentally self-destructive, the bearer of an ineradicable tragic flaw. The book spends much of its time wondering what sort of civilization might have better chances of survival in the long term. A race of mutant humans? Dogs? Robots, perhaps? The idea that humans might be replaced by some other civilization seems not to trouble the author at all, which suggests a commendably clear-eyed view of things, considering the fact that the book was written in the late nineteen forties, and shows an excellent understanding of what often calls deep time. What's a thousand years to a robot, after all? The author's literary executor notes in the introduction, "City" was perhaps one of the first works of science fiction to shift its focus from humanity to a more inclusive view of life in all of its forms. Simak deserves credit for putting real effort into imagining into a society run by these other beings might be like and what its values might be. In other words, he writes these non-human races from the inside out, which takes real imagination.

The author's not afraid to blur his categories, either, which sometimes makes the book truly fascinating. Throughout the book, and even as millennia pass, some traces of values and practices that their human creators imparted to the races they created -- super-intelligent dogs and robots -- remain. Like Brian Aldiss's "Galaxies Like Grains of Sand," "City" imposes a eons-long plot structure on what was originally a collection of stories, and it's a much better book for it, and not just because a text written hyper-intelligent canines arguing about whether the human race ever existed is slyly humorous in its own right. In "City," dogs and robots pass down myths and stories whose origins are unknown to them. They keep traditions and protect places and things whose original purpose has been forgotten. Simak seems to be asking how history turns into myth and how the values that myth creates can help hold a society together. Robots take on human attributes, while dogs, try as they might, struggle to eradicate their past roles as pets and helpmates to humans. Simak shows how cultural tendencies might echo down the centuries. The prose may be workmanlike, but there's a lot of food for thought in these stories. Recommended to readers who, like myself, are trying to escape the carefully delineated preserve of literary fiction to see what's out there in other genres. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Mar 26, 2017 |
For me there is always a rich taste in classic Sci Fi which I can’t find in recent stories. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy modern sci-fi books as much but there is always a nostalgic feeling in reading classic Sci Fis. City is no exception. Eight different but related stories told in a future time which there is no sign of man on earth. As stories proceed we see how earth become what it is then.
Dogs has inherited the earth and they have these stories as historical documents and there theories to believe them or not….

"So long ago, thought Jenkins. So many things have happened, Bruce Webster was just starting to experiment with dogs, had no more than dreamed his dream of talking, thinking dogs that would go down the path of destiny paw in hand with Man… not knowing then that Man within a few short centuries would scatter to the four winds of eternity and leave the Earth to robot and to dog. Not knowing then that even the name of Man would be forgotten in the dust of years, that the race would come to be known by the name of a single family." ( )
1 vote ardvisoor | Oct 4, 2016 |
The storyline deserves 4 stars, but it was dragging a little slowly and just not written in a very engaging manner, so I'm afraid it will be only 3. But I liked nearly all the ideas.

This book, however, gives me a certain existential horror. I've always found comfort in the thought of death, in the sense that, sometime or other - it all ends. Eternity is scary because eventually you'll run out of goals, of ambitions. Yet here, some of the characters are extremely long-lived - thousands of years. And goals are presented as goals of entire races, not so much of only certain individuals. Then there's the despair.. All the despair about how all of them eventually run out of potential and dwindle, but things STILL GO ON. I find this chilling to the bone.. Perhaps of the underlying notion that eventually every race will fail, and then it all just feels like a pointless thing, and yet it still goes on and there's no end to it.. ( )
1 vote avalinah | Sep 11, 2016 |
'City' is a novel which is actually made up of nine stories, originally published separately, but later strung together with a series of 'notes' explaining that these stories are part of the mythological heritage of the civilisation of Dogs, who believe that the existence of Man is most probably only a legend.

· City · May 1944
Occasionally, you read an old science fiction story and are just blown away by the remarkable prescience of the author and his or her ability to predict future events.
Well, in this case... Simak sure got it wrong!
According to the United Nations, "Today, 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050. Projections show that urbanization combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban populations by 2050." [http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/world-urbanization-prospects-2014.html]
However, in Simak's 1980's, the opposite has happened. With the energy crisis utterly solved by atomics, personal planes becoming ubiquitous, and hydroponic advances eliminating the need for farmland, the concept of the city has died. Most people have gotten the hell out of Dodge, and commute to their jobs from distant, expansive estates. Without cities to serve as targets for bombs, world peace has finally arrived.
However, as with any radical social shift, there are a few kinks to be worked out, and some dissatisfaction to be dealt with... perhaps in an uncomfortably totalitarian way.

· Huddling Place · Jul 1944
Two hundred years after the events of the previous story, the descendants of the characters in 'City' are still living on their country estate - similarly to most of humanity. Martian civilization has been discovered, and friendly relations are in effect.
However, an unfortunate side effect of humanity's new lifestyle is just emerging: served by robots and with access to what seems just like the Internet, people don't need to physically 'go' anywhere - and have developed extreme agoraphobic tendencies.

· Census · Sep 1944
This third segment definitely works better in the context of the whole than as a standalone. A census-taker comes out to the old estate. Another couple of generations have passed. The government is interested in any anomalous events - and the census taker indeed finds them here. A scientific tinkerer has created talking dogs; and a mysterious mountain man who doesn't seem to age is reputed to show up, fix things, and disappear 'without waiting for thanks.'

· Desertion · Nov 1944
I believe I read this one before, years ago. It's by far my favorite Simak short that I've read so far.
On Jupiter, an experimental program is in place to transpose men into the bodies of Jovian native fauna in order to allow people to go out into the hostile environment. The procedure seems to work perfectly - but something is going wrong. So far, the first four test subjects have gone out into the wilds of Jupiter - and have not returned.
The head of the program may have no moral option but to change tack.

· Paradise · Jun 1946
We're now a thousand years from the time of the first story.
This one ties in elements of the previous stories: mutants without a social instinct, the promise of an unfinished Martian philosophy (which may actually have been completed by said mutants), robots and intelligent dogs. But the main focus is on the possibility of a Paradise on Jupiter - the attainment of which might involve giving up something intrinsic to the human identity.

· Hobbies · Nov 1946
The dogs have begun to rise, forming their own society. The vast majority of human have opted for what, today we'd call the singularity - joining the transcended on Jupiter. Only a few thousand humans remain on Earth, and of those, many have opted for a virtual reality of dreams, not planning to come out of their hibernations for hundreds of years. The few left awake while away their time pursuing non-essential hobbies.
I thought this segment was a bit over-long - it dragged in parts. But many of the ideas it contains feel very ahead of their time.

· Aesop · Dec 1947
Again, this piece works in the context of the novel, but wouldn't be that strong on its own. The dogs, now ascendant on Earth, have established a society of peace and non-violence, 'raising up' all the other animals to intelligence is a world where the lion does indeed lie down with the lamb. However, there are cracks in this perfect facade, and undercurrents of the animal nature of these creatures.
Meanwhile, with the elimination of the predator/prey relationships, overpopulation is becoming a serious issue. The answer may lie in the recent discovery of parallel worlds.

· The Simple Way [The Trouble with Ants] · Jan 1951
The subtitle says it all. Harking back to a by-the-by bit mentioned in one of the early stories, the dogs, still the dominant species on Earth, have noticed a disturbing phenomenon: the ant civilization, long ago 'uplifted' (to steal David Brin's term) casually by a tinkering mutant, is now expanding rapidly. Are the ants, whose thought processes are opaque, planning on taking over the planet?
The fate of the Earth may come down to a moral choice.
[Interesting, that choice is, once again, in the hands of a robot. It's a recurring but unexamined trope in this cycle that a lot of the 'hinge-points' rest on robots - one robot, to be precise.]

· Epilog · 1973
Written over 20 years later, this story was not originally included in 'City.' It also lacks the entertaining fictional 'notes' that precede the other stories, instead having a serious 'note.'
Here, yet another civilization has fallen, and it's time for Jenkins, the robot, who's been the constant throughout all these stories, to decide whether it's time to close up shop.
It's very similar in fee to Simak's 'All the Traps of Earth,' I thought.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for the opportunity to read this book. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
A book to make one wonder if maybe the robots and dogs will inherit the earth... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (71 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clifford D. Simakprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bing, JonAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bringsværd, Tor ÅgeAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daisy SchelderupTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gabbert, JasonCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ganim, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, GwynethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Resnick, MikeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valigursky, EdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 188296828X, Hardcover)

The cities of the world are deserted and automation has invaded every aspect of human life. The robots make spaceships, the ants create huge buildings on the remains of old towns and the dogs take over the earth. The award-winning author's many other novels include "Catface" and "Off Planet".

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:46 -0400)

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"On a far future Earth, mankind's achievements are immense: artificially intelligent robots, genetically uplifted animals, interplanetary travel, genetic modification of the human form itself. But nothing comes without a cost. Humanity is tired, its vigour all but gone. Society is breaking down into smaller communities, dispersing into the countryside and abandoning the great cities of the world. As the human race dwindles and declines, which of its great creations will inherit the Earth? And which will claim the stars ...?"--Back cover.… (more)

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