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Cities In Flight (S.F. MASTERWORKS) [Paperback]

James Blish
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 Feb 1999 S.F. MASTERWORKS (Book 3)
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.


Product details

  • Paperback: 620 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (11 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857988116
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857988116
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 319,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

One of the grandest, and certainly one of the best written, of wide-screen space operas, Blish's Cities in Flight takes us from the collapse of American civilisation at the moment of its greatest scientific success to its final transfiguration at a moment of cosmic disaster. New York, enclosed in a vast dome, and powered by anti-gravity and hyper- drive, wanders among the stars, a labourer for hire, and yet also the seed of humanity's brief ascendancy in a hostile galaxy. This is the story of people as well as vast historical moments-- of Wagoner, the Senator who gives his life and good name for humanity's future; Chris, the naive youngster to whom New York gives everything, and from whom it will take everything away; and above all John Amalfi, who starts as Mayor of New York and ends up as a sort of god. And along the way, we meet some of the strangest of the shapes human society takes among the stars. Crackling with ideas about the progress of history, and passionate in its evocation of the deep reaches of time and space, Blish's sequence is intelligent and visionary, a true classic of the genre. --Roz Kaveney

Review

'This is the real heady wine of science fiction -- exciting, intelligent galaxy-spanning stuff that these days would require six brick-thick volumes' -- Terry Pratchett 'An outrageous imaginative coup ... Crammed with high adventure yet illuminated by a searching intelligence, this four-part epic completely reinvented the traditions of space opera' -- Paul J. McAuley

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is 4 novels, originally published independently( from the late 50s to early 60s), the first 2 being self-contained, although serving as prequels (potentially, originally, but explicitly here, in this edition). These are: 'They shall have stars' (also published as 'Year 2018'), 'a Life for the Stars', ' Earthman come home', and ' a Clash of Cymbals'. They were originally published out of sequence, although the fourth novel, a Clash of Cymbals, was explicitly a follow up to 'Earthman, Come Home'.

The third novel, 'Earthman come home', is the place to start and, frankly, stop if you don't like it, or even if you do, but find it enough to be going on with - I read it three times, over many years, before I was aware of the others. Don't look for any refinements of style - in fact, it's wincingly awful sometimes. Blish is definitely 50s cold war American comic book in outlook and depth of characterisation, but that has it's attractions for me - simplicity and focus on a story, and an easy read. I read all his books I could find when I was younger, for all that. I think Blish, like many of the early SF pioneers, became a regular contributor of scripts to Star Trek. Anyway, 'Earthman, Come Home' is an amusing flight of fancy. Earthmen had long ago spread throughout the home galaxy. A technology (spindizzy drives) had been developed, which enabled entire cities to lift into space ( Blish obviously had a background in engineering or physics - there's a sprinkling of plausible, if dated, technological language). Earth's cities had long ago been deserted by its cities, which traveled the galaxy looking for work amongst the settled planets, contracting for work as needed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Denis Vukosav TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
'Cities in Flight' by James Blish is collection of his four short novels that were written in period of 15 years in the 50's and 60's.

At the beginning of 21st century humankind discovered the possibilities to control gravity which enabled interstellar travel. Also, due to development of medicine, powerful drugs were invented that prolonged human life to thousands years or even more.

As it could be expected, lot of people went to space looking for promised land, establishing human colonies all across the universe. On the other hand, Earth started slowly decaying, wars and chaos erupted and lasted for several centuries. As solution that will provide better life for Earth citizens, the spindizzies were invented. These machines which are able to control gravity were mounted under the cities enabling whole shielded cities to leave Earth.

First story of Blish collection is "They Shall Have Stars" which is telling the story how the original discoveries happened - it's year 2013 and on Earth war is still raging between West and the East, although there are no real difference between war parties, both trying to impose complete control over their population. American senator Bliss Wagoner is working on the major construction project on Jupiter and due to his research, whole humankind future will be changed...

The second story "A Life for the Stars" is happening several centuries after the first, when humans discovered powerful gravitronpolarity generator, colloquially called "spindizzy", enabling whole cities to abandon Earth in search for better life somewhere else among the stars. The main character called Chris deFord is one man who is also departing Earth when Scranton, one of the last remaining cities on Earth, will take flight...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfull piece of post golden age Sci Fi. 10 Aug 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
As a lover of older sci fi, i have to say that this is a fantastic book. Looking at it now, i can see how it may have influenced generations of sci fi authors, concepts such as aikira, and the ship in 'close encounters' are startling realisations of some of the smaller implications of this groundbreaking book. Just the concept of turning a city into a spaceship is awesome. The cultures mentioned in this book are also well observed, and with the fall of the USSR, but the rise of big brother, how far is earth from his predicted future :) Classic and imagination provoking.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent though confused subplot to an epic 30 Aug 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Cities in flight is actually four books, that were written quite far apart, and out of sequence. Blish uses a small number of crucial characters in the rise and fall of a Terran galactic empire, apparently based on the excellent "Rise and decline of the West", by Spengler.
The characters are interesting, and involving, though not very consistant or credible. Blish's major failing is that sometimes his situations are very very derived and incredible, to the point that you wonder "Why did they do that" ?
The overall feeling of the series is one of ineviibility - you can see the decline of empire after empire, though they only view of the empire itself is through the lives of a small number of people. Though I did enjoy reading it, many of the ideas that Blish has shoe-horned into the plot are strange and dated...or maybe just innovative, but from a different time.
The SF Masterworks series is an excellent cross section of SciFi books. This is a masterwork in it's own way, but like many of the series, I can see it missing the mark with some people. If you like SciFi - buy it. If you just like some scifi books, don't.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for the true believer of SF-possibilities.
One of the Biggest SF-stories written with the capital SPACE OPERA on it. truly a masterwork. Especially for the internet-generation: you have to read it slowly to absorb the... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Dieter Mooyer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece
Having read the cities in Flight many years ago, I was pleased to see them all in one book, and was certainly not disappointed on re-reading. Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. Glenister
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A classic work.
Published 2 months ago by Harry Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars Cities in Flight Omnibus
Great SF classic(s).Book 1 a bit slow but the susequent 3 books continue to astound today.Well worth buying.The SF Masterworks series is first rate.
Published 3 months ago by BRIAN D McNULTY
2.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps I was not in the mood, but
I didn't read much past the first chapter, finding the general tone of the book boring. I have enjoyed other books by this author but the whole scenario left me cold.
Published 5 months ago by J. N. Melone
5.0 out of 5 stars present for my father
great item bought as a present for my father after much searching for a book he had read when he was a teen
Published 14 months ago by Marcus Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars A Clasic from my youth
I read all these out of sequence when I was cutting my teeth on SF as a teenabger and found it exciting and difficult to put down. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Jonathan Greenyer
3.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia
I read these books when I was about 15 or 16 in the 1970s.

I bought this omnibus to read again for nostalgic reasons, and because I had enjoyed them. Read more
Published on 1 Aug 2012 by Ransen Owen
3.0 out of 5 stars Full-bodied red wine when all you want is a crisp rosé
I knew from the on-set that I couldn't digest the entirety of Cities in Flight in one sitting, as it was composed of four separate but chronological books. Read more
Published on 11 Oct 2011 by M-I-K-E 2theD
2.0 out of 5 stars A Difficult and Confused Book
I have been working my way through the SF Masterworks and suchlike for many years and have yet to be disappointed. That is until now. Read more
Published on 5 Feb 2011 by Pedro The Fisherman
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