Customer Reviews


77 Reviews
5 star:
 (51)
4 star:
 (20)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Graceful Work of Supreme Vision.
I never thought I'd find myself describing a book in such terms, but Arthur C Clarke's "The City and the Stars" is simply a beautiful work of breath-taking vision and insight. It's beauty resides in the gentleness with which he submerges the reader not only into the flow of the story but into a way of thinking that makes us understand profound issues which confront the...
Published on 3 Jan 2008 by Dr. Robert Fisher

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Old classic
I read this first when I was a teenager,now it reads as rather dated.The characters are hardly likeable but Clarke as always made up for this with his descriptive skill.
Published 22 months ago by Melanie


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Graceful Work of Supreme Vision., 3 Jan 2008
By 
Dr. Robert Fisher (Oxford, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I never thought I'd find myself describing a book in such terms, but Arthur C Clarke's "The City and the Stars" is simply a beautiful work of breath-taking vision and insight. It's beauty resides in the gentleness with which he submerges the reader not only into the flow of the story but into a way of thinking that makes us understand profound issues which confront the human race as we head into the future.

In part, what is remarkable is the book itself - written in 1956, it anticipates many of the problems and conflicts which the rise of technology presents us with today: in particular, how human beings themselves interact with and then become shaped by the machines they create. But what is even more remarkable is that Clarke's style does this in a way which takes the reader back to the early days of almost childhood innocence when everything is strange and new; the reader becomes a child again, looking at the world with eyes filled with wonder and asking the simplest of questions all over again. This is Clarke's critique of the main city - Diaspar: in effect, he is saying that with the rise of technology we become at first reliant on and then indifferent to the world. Machines do it for us - and then what is left for us to do or think? Diaspar is the city of the future - along with the stagnating human beings who fill that world.

The plot itself is breath-taking;in 255 pages we are unbelievably taken across a barren world millions of years into the future, across a long forgotten galaxy - and then back to Earth again, all with amazing precision, speed - and above all, stylistic grace. At no point are we forced into assumptions or presuppositions. The story unfolds quite naturally and without haste. The grace of style accompanies the beauty of the perspective we are invited to share.

In the end, you put the book down and are happy to sit quietly for a long time just wondering - wondering about the future of humanity, wondering about what the future could bring, wondering whether we are already on a path it is too late to turn away from. This is simply a fantastic book, a tremendous story and a very rare opportunity to have our eyes lifted above the mundane and the normal to consider wider issues and to appreciate bigger pictures. At the end you really will look lovingly at this book - and, I suspect, anticipate with fondness the day when you will pick it up and read it again.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Twilight Years, 5 Sep 2003
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Grand ideas of great scope were the hallmark of 'The Golden Age of Science Fiction' and this book certainly fits that mold. Set in the very far future, so far that many main sequence stars have started to die, this is a story of two very different paths that two different groups of humans have taken to the puzzle of existence and life. In the city of Diaspar, we have a totally enclosed and static society, where people live for a thousand years, then store their memories for some later computer controlled reincarnation, where anything outside the city is not only totally ignored, its very existence is practically denied. At the other extreme is Lys, where man is just one part of the world of living, growing things, where bio-engineering has been raised to such an art it is buried in the background, and humans have developed telepathic talents. These are the last two areas of civilization on an Earth that has otherwise become a desert, where even the oceans have totally dried up.
Against this background we find Alvin, the first truly new citizen in Diaspar in seven thousand years, born without any memories of prior existences, to whom, without any preset thought biases, all things are open to question. When he starts to question the origin of Diaspar and ask what exists outside the city, he is met with rebuff and ostracism. Persisting in his questions, he eventually finds a way to leave Diaspar and travel to Lys. The things he learns there and the additional questions provoked by this knowledge eventually lead to things far beyond the Earth and a complete revision of 'known' history, with the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance.
While Alvin and the other characters are reasonably portrayed, this is not the strong suit of this book, nor will you find a great amount of 'hard' science gadgets and plot devices. This is rather a book that will make you think about the long term purpose of man and his place in the universe. There is a painted picture here of just what the ultimate end point is of pure technological development and the stifling effects such an environment has on people, strongly contrasted with an alternative development line focusing on human mental capabilities and its negatives. Both thematic sides are held up beneath the strong lights of hope, pride, and ambition.
There is a feeling of near poetry, a total 'sense of wonder', that pervades this book, a feeling that will captivate and invigorate the reader, that will take him far outside the everyday concerns of today. In certain areas, the great weight of not just millennia, but billions of years of history will press upon you, where the discovery of ages old items will be as much of an adventure as watching our first manned lunar mission.
This book was a near total rewrite of "Against the Fall of Night". While the basic scenario is the same between the two books, the endings are dramatically different, and actually present a different outlook on man’s purpose and his part in the grander scheme of things. I have never been able to decide which of the two versions is better – but that just means you should read both, as they are both fully deserving of your time and attention.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Just Wow, 17 July 2011
There are very few books you read, and go wow. And go back and read again. And say wow again.

The book is about a boy stuck in a city- a perfect city, where there is no disease, people are immortal(sort of), you can have anything you want just by thinking about it. But there is one problem- you can never leave the city, even thinking about leaving gives most citizens cold fear.

The hero is someone who doesnt have this fear and wants to leave- but cant, as the city is closed. Why is it? Whats the secret of the city? What happened all those years ago that scared the people of the city so much they decided never to leave again?

This book has many layers of suspense- you keep reading, and you keep going, "Aha!", all to the very end, when the final secret is revealed.

Brilliant. One the best books Ever.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The City And The Stars And Much More, 15 Aug 2009
There is a reason Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008) is considered one of the greatest Science Fiction writers of all time. For so many other authors, a book like "The City and the Stars" would stand out as their greatest work, but with Clarke one has to consider novels like "Childhood's End", "2001: A Space Odyssey", and "Rendezvous with Rama" among others, and so this is merely one of his greatest works. Published in June of 1956, it is a rewrite of his novella "Against the Fall of Night" which was published in "Startling Stories" in November of 1948.

Set millions of years in the future, the story focuses on Alvin, a citizen of the city Diaspar who is unlike any other citizen at the time in that he has not lived before, though we do learn that there have been other "Uniques" (as they are called) in the past, they have all disappeared. As the others of his generation are coming of age and recovering the memories of their past lives, Alvin is left to pursue his own course. He, unlike any other citizen of Diaspar, wants to see what lies outside of the city.

Clarke's story is complex and layered and he builds a future which captures the reader's interest. The society of Diaspar is one based on fear, they have fear of "The Invaders" who at some time in the distant past forced humanity from the stars and back to Earth to live in the single city of Diaspar. Thus they also fear leaving the city, but at the same time, the Central Computer seems to be aiding Alvin in his attempts to leave the city, and he is also aided by Khedron, the Jester, who fulfills the role in society of stopping it from completely stagnating through his stunts or jests.

Needless to say that Alvin succeeds in his attempt to leave the city, but the story goes much further than that. He finds another human society, Lys, which is agrarian based and whose inhabitants want nothing to do with those in the city (who are unaware of Lys) and look down on them. Even though this other society is outside of Diaspar, many of the same traits which have stagnated humanity for all this time are the same between the two.

Clarke touches on numerous themes, such as the evolution of humanity, futuristic societies, the powers of the mind, and even the engineering of a new type of life. The story covers a lot of ground, and becomes something far more than what one would expect at the start. Though I would not rate this as highly as "Childhood's End", it is certainly an excellent novel and well worth reading for those who love science fiction and for fans of Arthur C. Clarke.

This novel tied for 22nd on the 1956 Astounding/Analog reader's All-Time poll for Science Fiction books and finished 7th on the same poll when it was retaken in 1966. It also was tied for 17th on the 1975 Locus All-Time poll for novels, 32nd on the 1987 Locus All-Time Poll for SF novels, and 34th on the 1998 Locus All-Time poll for novels written before 1990.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A myth for the future, 18 Oct 2005
By 
Graeme Buckley (Wellington New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I first read this when I was 7 or 8, and it was one of the books that made me a sf fan. This is one of the novels that perfectly capture that 'sense of wonder' that is the heart and purpose of SF, sweeping vistas of the imagination, but still at a human scale. It is not a fautless work, Clarke's future humans are basically too nice, (I would recommend Tanith Lee's "Don't Bite The Sun / Drinking Sapphire Wine" as a rather more realistic view of how humans are likely to act in Utopia), but the sheer pace of the quest as Alvin stretches the horizons of his culture from a self-imposed inward focused bubble like a medieval walled city to recover their heritage of deep space and deep time is a great trip.
It's a novel that bears re-reading, just for the images it can conjure up.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A work of impressive imaginative power, 11 Jun 2009
By 
J C E Hitchcock (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"The City and the Stars" is set many millions of years in the future in the city of Diaspar. During those years a great Galactic Empire has risen and fallen, destroyed, according to legend, by a mysterious race known as the Invaders. Most of the world is a barren, uninhabitable desert; even the oceans have vanished. The people of Diaspar believe that they are the last humans left on Earth. In many respects their society is a Utopian one. There is no poverty, as the all-powerful computers which control the city are able to supply them with anything they might desire. There is no disease, no crime, no war and very little conflict of any kind. Even death has been banished; after a lifetime of a thousand years, each citizen returns to the computer-controlled "memory banks" from which he or she can at some later date be resurrected, body and mind. At any given time only small proportion of the inhabitants are actually living in Diaspar; the rest are sleeping in the memory banks

The one great fault of Diaspar is that of intellectual conservatism. Clarke's message is perhaps that a Utopian society would also be a static, unchanging one and that Utopia is therefore undesirable even if it is achievable. The inhabitants believe that their way of life is perfect, and see no reason why anything should ever change. Their greatest taboo is against leaving the city or even wondering what might lie beyond the protective dome which seals it off from the outside world. The pattern of life in Diaspar, however, is altered for ever by a young man named Alvin (a surprisingly twentieth century name for a denizen of the twenty-millionth). Alvin is known as a "Unique", and is unique in two ways. Firstly, unlike all the other people of Diaspar, he has no memories of previous lives, Secondly, he dares to challenge the taboo about venturing outside the city. Alvin eventually succeeds in leaving Diaspar and discovers that another human culture, Lys, has survived.

Lys is a very different place, a green oasis on an otherwise barren planet. Its people do not live in a city but in small agrarian villages. They have largely dispensed with the advanced technology which governs life in Diaspar. They are not immortal but are conceived, are born, grow old and die in the normal manner. They do, however, have advanced mental powers of telepathy and mind control. They are well aware of the existence of Diaspar although the people of Diaspar are quite ignorant of Lys. In Lys Alvin meets and befriends a young man named Hilvar, and the two set off on a journey of discovery. They make some surprising discoveries about mankind's past, discoveries which will also have important implications for the Earth's future.

There were a few plot-holes; I could not, for example, understand how, on a planet without oceans, Lys could remain a green, fertile oasis where people were able to raise crops. (The inhabitants of Diaspar, apparently, can produce food and water by using matter converters, able to transform any form of matter into any other, but Lys relies on more traditional ways of feeding itself). I also found the characterisation rather perfunctory; neither Alvin, nor Hilvar, nor anyone else, emerges as a particularly interesting individual. Clarke obviously concentrated more on his grand themes than he did on his characters.

Those, however, would be my only criticisms of the book. Some reviewers, both on this broad and elsewhere, have criticised Clarke's prose style, but I found it fluent and well able to convey the scope of his ideas. At times his prose even takes on a poetic character.

Although Clarke's view of organised religion seems to have been a fairly negative one, his writings often explore spiritual concerns as well as the purely material aspects of science. Perhaps his most audacious claim is that science might be able to construct a disembodied being who is a "pure mentality", an immortal being who would have literally godlike powers. (Unfortunately if the experiment went wrong we might end up creating a devil as well as a god). Clarke therefore gives a new meaning to that old anti-religious sneer that "man created God in his own image", and implies that technological advance without spiritual growth is futile.

A novel of this type, which attempts to conjure up a vision of an unimaginably distant future is very different from more conventional science-fiction dealing with, say, the creation of intelligent robots or a manned voyage to Mars, something we can easily imagine even if we cannot yet accomplish it. In some ways "The City and the Stars", a work of impressive imaginative power, has much in common with imaginative fantasy like "The Lord of the Rings"; the main difference being that whereas Tolkien could rely upon magic and the supernatural, Clarke avoided such plot devices and confined himself to describing what he believed would be scientifically possible.

Nevertheless, such was the scope of Clarke's vision that there were very few things he regarded as beyond the abilities of science and technology to accomplish, given enough time. I suspect that some of the predictions he makes in this book will come true in a timescale much shorter than millions of years. Something akin to the "sagas", adventures in virtual reality, may well come to pass before the end of this century; although he was writing in the 1950s, Clarke presciently realised that computers had the potential to become far more than mere calculating machines. Other predictions, such as immortality, matter converters and faster-than-light space travel, may take a little longer to be realised. The creation of a man-made deity may take longer still.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 2 Dec 2012
By 
Mr Matt J Hanley (North-west, England) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The City And The Stars (S.F. Masterworks) (Kindle Edition)
This work is one of the greatest speculative science fiction pieces ever written. It isn't a character driven escapist sensation burgeoning with dialogue, which goes a long way to explain it's brevity.

The only way to read this book is slowly. Try to immerse yourself in the situations, revel in Clarke's descriptive prowess and sheer imagination. Vizualise yourself on the lip of Shalmirane, feel the soft and encompassing hum of the Central Computer.

The story can also be read as a meditation on self and identity, whether you gravitate to the emergent cultural currents or are more grounded in your immediate experiential existence. It's hard to convey the genius of Clarke's foresight.

Also, it has the COOLEST spaceship of any sci-fi work I've ever come across.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book on mind and man-made limitations, 10 Jan 2008
By 
Rupf Peter - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I really enjoyed this novel. Clarke paints the portrait of a possible future where man is stuck - again - in a mesh of conventions and taboos. Of course, man had willingly exchanged his freedom against the bliss of eternal life, comfort and security... just as we have been doing for the last 10'000 years of our own history. Fortunately, mind is bigger than the need for certainty, and mankind will be saved eventually by thinking out of the box. Lastly, it is amazing how Clarke anticipates virtual reality in 1956 alread, a good 30 years before the first PC was marketed. I won't say more and confine myself to simply recommending the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A classic of it's time..and all time!, 18 Aug 2014
By 
John M "John M" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was written back in the late 1950s, and unlike many SF books of its generation has aged well. This is largely because it is set in a very distant future, with a vision of Earth and the human race which has retreated into the sanctuary of the City of Diaspar, completely unaware of existence beyond the city. Diaspar is run by a central computer which controls the environment and lives of the inhabitants who are prevented from aging and can be reassimilated by the computer and reborn. The central character Alvin is however a 'Unique', individuals who occasionally emerge who do not passively conform and enquire about the world beyond the City. Alvin manages to break out and discovers a separate human population within Lys, and his travels lead him to discover a robot awaiting the prophesy of a long-dead religious, and the still functional spaceship on which the robot travelled to Earth. Alvin journeys to the stars and re-discovers Man's history and fate, eventually reuniting Disapar and Lys, and re-starting Man's reach for the stars.
The novel is wide-ranging in themes, with many interesting ideas from an active imagination. It starts well, but changes direction in a number of places. Perhaps there is just too much crammed in here; for example the journey to the Seven Suns and the worlds there seemed almost redundant to the main storyline. An example of grand SF from the so-called 'Golden Age'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sci-Fi Masterpiece, 20 Dec 1999
This review is from: The City And The Stars (Paperback)
I consider this book a masterpiece, in my opinion its Clarke's best book. It's as fresh and original today as when I first read it in the 1960s as a teenager - some achievement given recent technological progress . The breadth of Clarke vision is stunning. From the earlier reviews it is clear this book is gripping the imagination of a new generation of readers. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The City And The Stars (S.F. Masterworks)
£3.49
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews