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City by Clifford D. Simak
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City (original 1952; edition 2011)

by Clifford D. Simak

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1,568434,666 (3.98)73
Member:G.vanderHeide
Title:City
Authors:Clifford D. Simak
Info:Gollancz (2011), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:S.F. Masterworks, genre: science fiction, @amazon.co.uk, acquired in 2011, read in 2012

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City by Clifford D. Simak (1952)

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English (39)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
'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.
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
A book to make one wonder if maybe the robots and dogs will inherit the earth... ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I've read about this book many times, as it finds its way onto many science fiction "best of" lists, so I was glad to find myself with the opportunity to read it in the space of a leisurely day. Though I knew the basic premise (dogs sitting around telling ancient tales of when humans are said to have ruled the Earth), I was impressed with the sweep and the insights Simak could draw from that premise. Not perfect by a long shot, and Simak--known for his heartland, rural approach to sf--can get carried away with the "dadburn" style of writing, but there were some fascinating (if erroneous) speculations about what would happen "if this goes on" and some important reflections on the condition the human condition is in...Think of some of the best Twilight Zones and you may catch a little of the flavor of this one. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
A very well written and interesting collection of short stories. They tie together well, making a very cohesive book. Recommended for all and well worth the read. ( )
  MathMaverick | Jan 17, 2016 |
The novel describes a legend consisting of eight tales the pastoral and pacifist Dogs recite as they pass down an oral legend of a creature known as Man. Each tale is preceded by doggish notes and learned discussion.

As the tales unfold, they recount a world where humans, having developed superior transportation, have abandoned the cities and moved into the countryside. Hydroponic farming and decentralized power allow small communities to become self-sufficient. In the beginning the driving force for dispersion is the fear of nuclear holocaust, but eventually humans discover they simply prefer the pastoral lifestyle.

The tales primarily focus around the Webster family, and their robot servant, Jenkins. The name Webster gradually becomes "webster", a noun meaning a human. Similar themes recur in these stories, notably the pastoral settings and the faithful dogs.
Each successive tale tells of further breakdown of urban society. As mankind abandons the cities, each family becomes increasingly isolated. Bruce Webster surgically provides dogs with a means of speech and better vision. The breakdown of civilization allows wandering mutant geniuses to grow up unrestrained by conventional mores. A mutant called Joe invents a way for ants to stay active year round in Wisconsin, so that they need not start over every spring. Eventually the ants form an industrial society in their hill. The amoral Joe, tiring of the game, kicks over the anthill. The ants ignore this setback and build bigger and more industrialized colonies.

It is notable that over time the past is forgotten by the dogs. In the penultimate tale entitled, ironically, Aesop the narrative says "there wasn't any past. No past, that was, except the figment of remembrance that flitted like a night-winged thing in the shadow of one's mind. No past that one could reach. No pictures painted on the wall of time." (p 188) The memory of the past is beyond the stage where it could be reconstituted by the taste of a madeleine. Not even Proust's creation Marcel would be successful here. (In Search of Lost Time: "And as soon as I had recognised the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine.")

By the end of the last story even the man-made robots begin to wear out. And the word man is reinvented to be defined as "an animal who went on two legs". The story becomes so animal-centric it reminded me of a shorter and different story that shared a similar perspective, Orwell's Animal Farm. Simak's work is another literary masterpiece. ( )
  jwhenderson | Dec 20, 2015 |
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Clifford D. Simakprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, GwynethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valigursky, EdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Gramp Stevens sat in a lawn chair, watching the mower at work, feeling the warm, soft sunshine seep into his bones.
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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)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"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)

(summary from another edition)

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