Book Review: The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke

Book: The City and the Stars

Author: Arthur C Clarke

ISBN: 978-1857987638

Once, man had ruled the stars themselves in his greatest Empire. The Invaders had driven mankind back, back to Earth. The stars and planets were retreated from, leaving Man only resident on his final refuge and home world. Gradually, mankind retreated from the rest of Earth, until finally the last remnant of mankind dwelled in one last, eternal city, Diaspar, a city greater than any before, yet sealed from the outside world under its dome.

Diaspar’s Eternity Circuits and the Central Computer preserved the eternal City as the mountains themselves crumbled to dust and the oceans evaporated, leaving the Earth cloaked by deserts that swallowed all the other residences of Man under a diminished sky, the stars themselves only a shadow of their former glory.

For one thousand million years Diaspar has existed. Its citizens are ‘born’ from the Memory Banks fully grown. As they age, they remember the experiences of previous lives until finally, after about a thousand years, they become tired and return back to the Memory Banks to be reborn again, thousands of years in the future. Their life is occupied by entertainments and diversions, and they do not think of the lost legacy of Mankind.

The City and the StarsHistory before Diaspar, before Man was driven back from the stars, is only legend, that of the Dawn Civilizations. All the accomplishments of Man are collected together, from the origins of fire until the retreat from the stars. Diaspar has lasted longer than all the previous civilizations.

Into this unchanging city Alvin is born. A Unique, different from his peers, he asks unthinkable questions about the outside world, a world that no other resident has any interest in and a world which they actively fear. Alvin seeks to leave the City and reach the outside world; a journey that will shatter the foundations of belief and reveal the true nature of the Invaders.

This science fiction classic by the late Arthur C Clarke was originally published in 1956. It was first published as Against the Fall of Night in 1948, and then revised substantially and republished as The City and the Stars. Both novels can still be purchased.

Although much has changed and more knowledge of the universe has been discovered since The City and the Stars was first released, it is by no means obsolete. The City and the Stars is a haunting, somewhat melancholy novel of the far distant future.