City Paperback – 1965
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City Summary: With a structure and tone similar to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, CITY is made up of eight loosely connected stories that are told in the form of "Legends" by the narrator, who prefaces each tale with a bit of commentary and academic notes on the story to come - and who also happens to be an intelligent dog. These legends provide an episodic recounting of the twilight of mankind and the emergence of dogs as the dominant species on the planet. Speaking from some point in the far future, the narrator, in recounting these oral legends to the next generation of pups, makes it clear that, while the stories make mention of a creature called "Man" and a thing called a "City," there is no proof that they actually existed. In fact, the narrator even mentions that most dog scholars who've studied these legends actually believe that idea of Man is simply a literary device used by the original authors to account for the existence of dog culture, much the same way that our human legends and origin stories mention gods and beings who no longer exist.
Top customer reviews
City is a novel broken down into eight 'stories' which span about ten thousand years. Each story tells a chapter about Mankind's future, with a preface to each chapter written from the perspective of a cannine race that takes over Man's dominant place and looks back upon the 'fable' of Man debating whether he is fact or fiction. The result is a fascinating, if bleak prediction of the future. Some of the psychological and metaphysical themes that characterise Simak's work are apparent. I'd certainly recommend reading 'City' and other novels from Simak, some of which may hopefully achieve a deserved revival.
Nevertheless, this novel is far from that: he portraits a world in which technology has made Earth useless, the struggle for life is over, and so society falls apart. Through succesive generations of a family (all of them fail their high mission) he describes Earth's decay: first society as such, then the planet itself is abandoned for Mars or Jupiter where men become Jovians, a more gifted race, then the last humans go back to the stone ages. Only robots and gentically modified and speaking dogs stay behind to prepare a better future to those men, a task which seems nearly doomed to failure due to our intrinsic violence. On the other side, some of those misfits left behind turn into mutants with extraordinary mental powers (telepathy, superior intelligence, extravagant whims) and create a new breed of ants which in their turn take the same menacing trait as men.
Dogs and the last of the robots are left to wonder what could be, what will be...
Not all together an optimistic tale. There are robots, there are stars, but Simak is not Asimov and there's not a happy ending but a melancholic one.
I enjoyed this book tremendously. The ending did not provide a sense of closure, but such a work of fiction as this would be hard to wrap up tightly with no loose ends. Simak presents a valuable viewpoint on society and mankind in general, and the unique viewpoint offered through the eyes of the Dogs serves to highlight the points Simak makes. My favorite part of the book is the section of notes before each tale, wherein we learn about the debate among Dog scholars as to whether or not these stories have any basis in fact, with the stubborn Tige dissenting from the majority opinion of Bouncer, Rover, and others that these are just myths and legends with no basis in fact, that Man is effectively the anti-Dog and was created by ancient storytellers for satirical or educational purposes. From now on, when I hear someone say the world is going to the dogs, I will think to myself that such a happenstance would not really be that bad, all things considered.
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