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33 of 33 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

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2.0 out of 5 stars Stranger in a strange land...
Typically my issue with more modern SF is that the novels are so horribly swollen, needlessly expanded to a gargantuan number of pages that still fail to fully capitalise on the ideas therein. I’ve retrograded my tastes because it’s not generally a problem with the classics – lacking 'character' and 'psychology' as they do, but redolent in an atmosphere...
Published 1 month ago by Jim Noy


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33 of 33 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
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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.
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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.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Twilight Years, 5 Sept. 2003
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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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)
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and marvellous, 13 Jun. 2013
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The City and the Stars is a rather unusual book and makes me marvel, yet again, at the breadth of Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction vision. While all of the novels (at least the ones that I've read) focus on man's compulsion to explore the stars, man's relationship to those stars is very different in each. The City and the Stars likewise presents a new perspective but this time it's mankind that is unfamiliar. In this novel, man's exploration of space took place billions of years in the past and the universe is now out of bounds - not by force, but by choice. This is a vision of man's future in which the stars hold no interest for him. Except for that one individual, born ever so rarely, who is a Unique. Uniques question the physical barriers that keep mankind secure and non-changing. They usually vanish. The latest Unique, Alvin, though, decides he wants to take everyone with him.

Diaspar is a perfect, self-contained city on a mostly desert planet that has lost its oceans and much of life over the billions of years since it was the Earth that you and I would recognise. Humans now live for a thousand years or more. They are not born, instead they are downloaded in an organic adult state from vast memory banks that preserve all human life. Each person has lived before, countless times, and as they grow older their memories from past lives are restored to them. Uniques, as the name suggests, are different. They are new. But although the city is perfect and people have evolved into physical perfection (albeit without teeth or body hair), it still has its troublemakers. Jesters are regularly created with little apparent purpose other than to irritate or spoil. But surely no creation, whether it be a Jester or a Unique, is a mistake?

The legend has it that once mankind explored the stars but this brought the invaders to the planet who gave the people of Earth an ultimatum. In order to survive they must confine themselves, not just to Earth but to one corner of it - Diaspor. However, Alvin is as determined to explore beyond the walls of Diaspor as the people within are to stay there.

What Alvin finds on his journey, on Earth and beyond, takes us into more familiar territory for a Clarke novel. The descriptions are as vivid and enticing as anything else I have read by Clarke. But whereas the environments are fascinating, the character are far less real (or personable) than I've become used to in Clarke's books. These people are simply too odd to relate to! They have superficial relationships and think little about the wider scheme of things because there is nothing left to say. Existence has become indolent. As this novel was written in the fifties, and despite its assertion that sexism no longer existed, Diaspor's women still seem to have a secondary role to the men that they would seem to spend much of their time fancying, but otherwise, this is a bland society.

The past, so many billions of years ago, seems so much more intriguing. What drove mankind out of the stars? Who were the invaders? What happened to the rest of Earth? Of course, this is probably the point. Alvin, the Unique, wants to know the answers to these questions just as much as we do and it is this curiosity for what lurks outside the walls that drives him on and drives people like me to read science fiction.

Written more than fifty years ago, The City and the Stars is remarkably timeless, even in its descriptions of technology. I was troubled, though, by how the Earth, let alone a city on it, had survived for all these billions of years especially when indolence appears to be the chief personality trait of its inhabitants. Nevertheless, The City and the Stars is an extremely thought-provoking look at the role of mankind in space and the perils of turning one's back on the stars.
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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
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"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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vision upon humankind's twilight, 9 Nov. 2010
Humankind has endured hundreds of millions of years, expanding and colonizing space and ultimately returning to Earth for the dawn of its civilization. Having achieved complete domain over mind and matter, the last pocket of humans live in a completely sealed environment, a huge city, Diaspar. In the place that symbolizes the pinnacle of human evolution, where every need of its inhabitants is seamlessly taken care of, the only thing that troubles humanity in its golden dome is what's outside it...

Then, when an Unique is born (a human without any memories of previous lives), his questions and adventurous nature lead Diaspar to a turning point, forcing this stagnant society to face its ghosts and rediscover the history and place of Man in the Universe.

In the end, the narrative seems less important compared with the questions raised about the place of our race in the larger scheme of things.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 11 Nov. 2014
By 
M. Allen "m214463" (Exeter, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The City And The Stars (S.F. MASTERWORKS) (Kindle Edition)
I have been a scifi reader for some 50 years, and read the greats, Asimov, Heinlein and Clark. This book has always been in my top 10.
The story is simple, it tales place in the far future, Clark just uses numbers to give an idea of the age, but now there is only one city on the planet, where all of mankind now live. The city is Mans ultimate utopia, the city is run by robots and a master computer and every one is free to do what they want. A life span here is not specific, but can 1000's of years. There is no death, just a return to a form of data storage in the master computer, till sometime you revived in the future.
Like all good Utopias, there is a fly in the ointment called Alvin. He wants more then is available and to explore outside his city. As I'm not into writing spoilers, I won't tell you what he finds, but it makes up some excellent reading.
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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
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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.
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