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Year 2018! by James Blish
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295538,041 (3.3)5
Member:maclean25
Title:Year 2018!
Authors:James Blish
Info:Avon Books (1957), Edition: T193, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Science fiction

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They Shall Have Stars by James Blish (1956)

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This book has sat on my shelf for about 20 years before I actually got around to reading it. I had known Blish from his adaptations of the original Star Trek shows into short story form that were published in the 70s. I was a fan of reading his Star Trek books in grade school since I was a fan of all things Trek but due to those books I never thought his original stories worthy of reading.

The "Cities in Flight" series of stories is a vision of the future in which gravity has been mastered and almost any object can be transported at speeds greater than light and whole cities are now migrating across the galaxy in search of work. Blish makes many predictions about the future and almost all never came true. Blish makes predictions about the end result of the cold war, future of medicine, physics, and society and is far from correct in almost every respect. The characters and feel of the novels also seem hopelessly trapped in the 70s. (Did Blish honestly think we wouls still be using slide rules 1000 years in the future?). The only thing that rescues the stories is the rather neat technology of the "spindizzy" and its implications. The storytelling is uneven in places and mundane side stories go on for far too long. The characters also seem 2 dimensional even though they are supposed to be hundreds of years old. I'm not disappointed I finally read the book but it could have remained on my shelf for another 20 years.
  joeteo1 | Mar 12, 2013 |
Reapproaching the Cities in Flight stories, after first reading them in the late 1960's, I wondered if my memory of them would stand the test of time. This first book in the series (chronologically, but it was the second to be written) was a disappointment. It felt like a book the author had to write to fulfil a contractual commitment. Whilst covering the origins of the anti-agathic drugs and 'spindizzy', albeit in very general terms, the plot line was very contrived. There were long dialogue passages used instead of story development, and some of the characters barely sketches. I was disappointed. ( )
  JenIanB | Jul 29, 2011 |
In an alternative present, the Cold War has gone the other way. The West has become more socialized to mirror the Soviets, and science has bogged down into stasis for lack of anyone's ability to share data and research. A few mavricks in the West decide to buck the system, funnelling government dollars into two related projects that will finally revolutionize Earth's future. The story is told largely from two perspectives: Col. Paige Russel, a Western astronaut whose curiosity gets the better of him as he discovers the nature of the research being done; and Robert Helmuth, an engineer working in Jupiter's orbit with the rest of his team on an enormous, mysterious construct. Both men come to terms with the enormity of what they're grappling with, amidst prying federal watchdogs and the pressures of their work.

As usual for sci-fi become this aged, the author's foresight was hit-and-miss regarding life in 2010, so I have to make allowances for that when reading about a scientific world far more advanced than ours that still believes itself critically sluggish. But the novel also lacks for tension and suspense. While the narration tells me the West has become rigidly security-tight, nothing I was shown supported that. It just seemed like the typical USA government to me; possibly more lax, if anything. This novel is a far cry from capturing the feel of a rigidly controlled socialist society as I'd imagine it. Meanwhile Helmuth's storyline, where he's supposedly in danger of becoming insane, doesn't convey that sense of danger. He's working in a pretty comfortable VR environment that presents no physical danger to anyone, with an understanding boss and the option of taking leave whenever he needs it. Air traffic controllers have it worse.

The novel compensates with some interesting science. How plausible it is I don't really know, as it travels well beyond my personal knowledge of medicine, chemistry, etc. The author certainly makes it sound good for a layperson. I also liked the characters. I found myself relating to the curiosity of the two leads and their yearnings to find answers. I also know this novel is the prelude to some books about floating cities, which is just, like, cool. It's a very short novel that sticks to the point and doesn't wear out its welcome, with a snappy ending. After reading the sequels I'll have a better sense of whether reading this prelude to the trilogy was necessary, but I can already say it wasn't painful. ( )
  Cecrow | Aug 27, 2010 |
I wanted to like this book, and I found things to like about it, but ultimately it left me a bit disappointed. I thought Blish's take on politics and science (and how they interact) was thought provoking, I found the direct story telling refreshing, and I liked just about everything about the gravity research on Jupiter storyline. On the other hand, the whole Paige/Anne/anti-death research storyline unconvincing on several levels, and the final climactic scene on and around one of Jupiter’s moons felt rather clunky. ( )
  clong | Jan 24, 2009 |
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