Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.


Cities in Flight (1970)

by James Blish

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Cities in Flight: Chronological order (Omnibus 1-4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,621358,993 (3.67)77
James Blish's galaxy-spanning masterwork, originally published in four volumes, explores a future in which two crucial discoveries - antigravity devices which enable whole cities to be lifted from the Earth to become giant spaceships, and longevity drugs which enable their inhabitants to live for thousands of years - lead to the establishment of a unique Galactic empire.… (more)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 77 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
I bought this omnibus a few years ago, following some recommendation (here on GR, I think). 'Cities in Flight' is part of the SF Masterworks series, hailed as one of the must-read classics and what not. I had never heard of James Blish, let alone read any of his works.

There's a quote from [a:Terry Pratchett|1654|Terry Pratchett|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1235562205p2/1654.jpg] on the cover: "This is the real heady wine of science fiction.". I can only agree, because it's indeed science (!) fiction: You get enough mathematics, chemistry and physics thrown at you over the course of the four books. If you don't have enough (basic?) knowledge in those fields, it might be better to skip this/these book(s), even if it's science "fiction", meaning there's a story (or multiple) to be read.

There are four books, but they are related, even if the story time-line is spread over several thousands of years (from the Cold War, or 20th century, to somewhere in 4100).

Blish's writing style also doesn't allow to fly through the book(s), let alone the rather flat characters. It was hard to sympathise with any of them, although Mayor John Amalfi was, especially in the last book, becoming a real annoyance, stuck-up and what not.

The introduction is done by Adam Roberts, who wrote that, while the books are ordered chronologically (as they are to be placed on the stories' time-line), it's best to start with the first one that was written, i.e. book 3 ([b:Earthman, Come Home|1930281|Earthman, Come Home (Cities in Flight, #3)|James Blish|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1333473568s/1930281.jpg|1932627]). Since I didn't like to go back and forth, I decided to start from the beginning: [b:They Shall Have Stars|1930282|They Shall Have Stars (Cities in Flight, #1)|James Blish|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1315488887s/1930282.jpg|1932628].

The blurb mentioned longevity drugs and anti-gravity devices (spindizzies). The spindizzies were developed to set up space flight and discover new planets to conquer to establish a new empire, a new life away from Earth, where the Cold War had been going on far longer than it had in reality and Russia had kicked the West's butt. Hence the world looking totally different. Some US cities (no sign of anything European, though, or I must have overlooked it) then took to space, thanks to those anti-gravity devices and looked for income and settlement elsewhere. Of course, fierce competition arises, etcetera, etcetera. The thing is... I never had the impression a new empire was being built. It was more about exploring space, looking for new adventures, new settlements and enough resources to survive.

The longevity drugs are a consequence of the space flight. Instead of antibiotics, you take something to prolong your life for several tens of years. If you take the pills at 70, then you'll be 70 for a few decades, with your health staying like that. It's thus better to take the drugs at a younger age, obviously.

Learning is not done via traditional means, but through hypnopedia or sleep-learning: Computers stuff any required teachings, subjects, ... into your brain. There's also supervision of the city and internal political decisions with the City Fathers, which I think are large computers (server-like?) that hold a lot of information and can calculate certain events or provide background information on historical happenings.

There are, at the end, afterwords by Stephen Baxter (who gave his advice and background info on the books, content-wise and its historical value) and Richard D. Mullen (who gave a philosophical analysis, based on Oswald Spengler's book [b:The Decline of the West|801754|The Decline of the West|Oswald Spengler|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348519197s/801754.jpg|1081173], on the Earthmanist culture that was a main theme in the books). Or, added value that is always good to have with such books.

In short: I can see why it has been republished, why it's considered a "classic", as it deals with some interesting and "new" themes (at least at the time of writing), but I found it relatively hard to get through.

I will not go into further detail about the content. Other readers have done a very good job at that, so I'll just link to e.g. Sath's reviews, which are detailed enough. I also agree, on a general level, with her points of critique, although we differ in rating the books.

They Shall Have Stars: click here
A Life for the Stars: click here
Earthman, Come Home: click here
The Triumph of Time: click here ( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
"Cities in Flight" is hard science fiction, with hard science, chemical formulas and mathematical equations tossed in to clarify concepts the characters talk about. It's four related stories. One thing to remember while reading this is, it was written before Sputnik.

The first begins in the early 21st century, with the Soviet Union subtly winning the cold war by "sovietizing" the west, that is, the west is so secretive now, it's behaving like everything they're fighting in the Soviet Union. One rebellious, but powerful senator organizes a lot of scientific and engineering research knowing that the west will collapse soon and opening up the stars for travel and colonization.

The research culminates in a biological compound to keep people from growing old and dying, and in an antigravity device to move objects in space, with a long, engineering and political name, but which everyone simply call spindizzies.

The second story opens up about 1100 years later, when whole cities pack up as space ships, using spindizzies, and take off as migrant workers to look for work out in other star systems.

The third story gives a bit of history of space flight and the science behind it. Blish does get some future predictions wrong (again, written before Sputnik) about how the Soviet Union was against space flight as then the unhappy people would leave.

Overall the third story was the weakest. It was like a bunch of episodes of Star Trek mashed together as mayor Amalfi leads the Okie city, New York, on various adventures, from one narrow escape from disaster to another. They were all over the galaxy and I found it incredibly hard to keep track of time and distance.

Some aspects felt very out of date now, in the early 21st century. For instance, now we're used to all large air craft having identifying signals, but in this space craft as large as New York City have nothing like it.

For now it was all too much and I didn't enjoy the 3rd story, so I'll skip the 4th and come back to it in a few months. The first two were definitely the strongest, good characters and good plots. ( )
  KevinRubin | Aug 6, 2020 |
This is a review of the first two books of the quartet. The first is in a style I have come to expect from Blish; a rather high brow and deep philosophical discussion masquerading as an eventful piece of pulp. Dubious science fiction is carried off by a presentation indebted to a knowledge and understanding of real science, unlike many modern approaches where any attempt to explain the nature of advanced technology is not forthcoming. The book does take oblique looks at two common Blish themes: religion and the search for knowledge, which are closely interwoven in Black Easter, A Case of Conscience and Doctor Mirabilis.


See the complete review here:

http://arbieroo.booklikes.com/post/335149/post ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Enjoyed it years ago. On my list to read again ( )
  jamespurcell | Jun 8, 2020 |
I'm giving this 5 stars for the heavy ingot of pure pleasure this tetralogy gave me when I read it as a young guy ... it really formed one of the peaks of my early science fictional reading, when I was going through my own "golden age" of wonder and there were a few books -- like this one -- that stood out taller than the rest.

I'd love to re-read this thing but that is a journey fraught with ... little perils. I survived my re-read of the Foundation Trilogy, though -- and even enjoyed it! ( )
  tungsten_peerts | May 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Blish, Jamesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, MarcCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ballantine, BettyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baxter, StephenAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holland, BradCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mullen, R. D.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
They Shall Have Stars
And death shall have no dominion
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot ...
Dylan Thomas
They Shall Have Stars
"...While Vegan civilization was undergoing this peculiar decline in influence, while at the height of its political and military power, the culture which was eventually to replace it was beginning to unfold. The reader should bear in mind that at the time nobody had ever heard of the Earth, and the planet's sun, Sol, was only known as an undistinguished type G0 in the Draco sector. It is possible -- although highly unlikely -- that Vega knew that the Earth had developed space flight some time before the events we have just reviewed here. It was, however, the only local interplanetary flight; up to this period, Earth had taken no part in Galactic history. It was inevitable, however, that Earth should make the two crucial discoveries which would bring it on to that starry stage. We may be very sure that Vega, had she known that Earth was to be her successor, would have exerted all her enormous might to prevent it. That Vega failed to do so is evidence enough that she had no real idea of what was happening on Earth at this time ..."
--Acref-Monales: The Milky Way: Five Cultural Portraits
The Triumph of Time
Bismillahi 'rrahmani 'rrahim
When the day that must come shall come suddenly,
None shall treat that sudden coming as a lie:
Day that shall abase! Day that shall exalt!
When the earth shall be taken with a shock,
And the mountains shall be crumbled with a crumbling,
And shall become scattered dust,
And itno three bands shall ye be divided ...
Before thee we have granted to a man a life that shall last forever:
If thou then die, shall they live forever?
Every soul shall taste of death: ...
But it shall come on them suddenly and shall confound them; and they shall not be able to put it back, neither shall they be respited.
--The Koran; Sura LVI, Sura XXI
They Shall Have Stars
To Frederik Pohl
A Life for the Stars
To L. Sprague DeCamp
Earthman, Come Home
To John W. Campbell, Jr.
The Triumph of Time
To Lester and Evelyn del Rey
First words
They Shall Have Stars
The Shadows flickered on the walls to his left and right, just inside the edges of his vision, like shapes stepping quickly back into invisible doorways.
A Life for the Stars
From the embankment of the long-abandoned Erie-Lackawanna-Pennsylvania railroad, Chris sat silently watching the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, preparing to take off, and sucked meditatively upon the red and white clover around him.
Earthman, Come Home
Space flight got its start as a war weapon, amid the collapse of the great Western culture of Earth.
The Triumph of Time
... Thus we have seen that Earth, a planet like other civilized worlds, havng a score of myriads of years of manned local space-flight in approximately her own year 1960, did not achieve importance on a galactic scale until later in her own year 2019.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

James Blish's galaxy-spanning masterwork, originally published in four volumes, explores a future in which two crucial discoveries - antigravity devices which enable whole cities to be lifted from the Earth to become giant spaceships, and longevity drugs which enable their inhabitants to live for thousands of years - lead to the establishment of a unique Galactic empire.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Collects these novels
They Shall Have Stars
A Life for the Stars
Earthman, Come Home
The Triumph of Time
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links


Average: (3.67)
1 5
1.5 2
2 14
2.5 9
3 76
3.5 21
4 88
4.5 13
5 49

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 173,825,636 books! | Top bar: Always visible