City Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Here is a masterful tale of an Earth overrun by ants, a series of parallel worlds ruled by dogs, and a Jupiter where the human race finds its Gold Age - if "human" it could still be called.
BONUS AUDIO: City includes an exclusive introduction by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Mike Resnick.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 45 minutes|
|Author||Clifford D. Simak|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||July 09, 2008|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #43,989 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#2,489 in Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#3,606 in Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#11,723 in Historical Fiction (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on August 29, 2004
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Like several other Science Fiction novels, this one is actually a collection of short stories written earlier. Unlike some other novels built from stories, it appears that these stories were always strongly linked together, and the linking premise of scholars looking back at ancient mythological tales, works extremely well. The amazing thing about this book is the number of science fiction themes that it touches upon, and yet it still maintains a steady pace, and moves forward.
The stories are as follows:
"City" is a novella, first published in Astounding in May of 1944. It is this story that gives the book its name, and it is an unusual name since there are no cities in the rest of the book, and in fact they are dead even in the first story. The first story is about the death of cities, and introduces the reader to the Webster family with the character John J. Webster.
"Huddling Place" is a short story, first published in Astounding in July of 1944. In this story we meet Jerome A. Webster M.D., a man who in his younger days traveled, but now in the later stages of his life he suffers from Agoraphobia. Prior to that, he had become friends with Juwain, a Martian philosopher. Juwain is working on a philosophy which will advance Earthmen and Martians alike by hundreds of thousands of years in just a couple generations. When Juwain needs an operation that only Webster can perform, he is forced to make a choice between the safety of his own home, and saving a friend. This story introduces the character of Jenkins, who is a robot that serves the Webster family, and appears in most of the stories. This is the only story in which there are Martians, although the lost of Juwain's philosophy is very important to many of the stories.
"Census" is a novella, first published in Astounding in September of 1944. This story is about a census taker, who is traveling around to get an understanding of the Earth's population, and also to learn about the Mutants. He learns about a mutant (Joe) who is able to fix things easily, and tries to get him to finish Juwain's philosophy. This story introduces the reader to several important characters and events. First there is the dog Nathaniel, who is the first talking dog, as well as Bruce Webster, the man who performed the operation to allow Nathaniel to talk, and Thomas Webster who invented the space ship drive that is allowing man to travel outside the solar system. The character Joe is important, as are the mutants. Joe's stealing of Juwain's philosophy, and his work with ants that allows them to evolve is also important to the overall tale.
"Desertion" is a short story, first published in Astounding in November of 1944. This is the story of Kent Fowler, who is trying to find out if man can survive in a different form on Jupiter. The problem is that the people he sends to find out are not returning. Finally he decides that he himself must go, and he takes with him his faithful dog, Towser. This is perhaps the most unusual of the stories, as it doesn't include a Webster character, or Jenkins. However, the transformation to a Jovian life form is very essential to the story.
"Paradise" is a short story, first published in Astounding in June of 1946. Kent Fowler decides to give up paradise, and leave behind Towser, so that he can let humanity know of what he experienced as a Jovian life form. Tyler Webster tries to conceal Kent Fowler's story, so that man will not abandon Earth and instead fulfill his destiny. This story is important, because it leads to the exodus of man from Earth, and the decision by Joe to turn over Juwain's philosophy to humanity, which ultimately serves his own ends.
"Hobbies" is a novella, first published in Astounding in November of 1946. In this story Jon Webster sees the end of man's reign on Earth. Most of humanity has left for Jupiter, and those that remain are engaged in various hobbies that do nothing more than pass the time, and the Juwain Philosophy makes it impossible for them to ignore their fate. Jon Webster journeys to see Jenkins, and learns that man must leave Earth to the dogs and the robots so as to avoid dominating them.
"Aesop" is a novella, first published in Astounding in December of 1947. Peter, one of the few remaining humans, creates a bow and arrows. When he uses them to kill a bird, accidentally, Jenkins is forced to seek help from the Mutants. This story is important to the story, because we learn that the Mutants have left Earth, and this is also the first we see of travel between dimensions.
"The Simple Way" is a novella, first published as "The Trouble With Ants" in Fantastic Adventures in January of 1951. In this story, we learn the ants that Joe helped advance way back in "Census" are still around and taking over Earth. Jenkins seeks help by awakening Jon Webster, but when the only solution he can offer is killing the ants, Jenkins realizes that he cannot allow the ways of man to return.
"Epilog" is a short story, first published in Astounding for the John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology in 1973. This last story, written so long after the others, is a wrap up of Jenkins' life. He outlasts the ants, and then only he and the mice remain. The dogs return in a spaceship, and Jenkins realizes he has no reason to stay any longer on Earth.
These stories chronicle thousands of years of history in relatively brief glimpses of a total of nine short stories and novellas, and the "notes" that tie them together and provide added context, to make them a novel. We follow the men of the Webster family; the Webster family's robot and household retainer, Jenkins; and the dogs. Or, as they start to become beginning in the third story, the Dogs, the uplifted species that will succeed Man.
The first two stories show the start of the unraveling of human civilization, due to, in fact, its success. Nuclear power as an energy source, creating wealth and independence from the need to gather in cities, combined with the existence of nuclear weapons, making cities fatal places to be if there's ever another war, leads to people dispersing into the countryside. Land is cheap outside the cities, and every man can buy acreage and build a luxury estate for his family. (And yes, the use of gender and possessive in that sentence is deliberate. As noted above, Simak's a good man, but not a man of even the late 20th century.) As technology develops (largely undescribed, but we see what are videophones more advanced than we have but entirely recognizable, as well as robots with AI that's still just a happy daydream for us), no one needs to leave home for any of the essentials or luxuries of life, and many don't. Agoraphobia becomes a significant and common problem, which has crucial plot implications in one of the stories, with consequences that reverberate down the centuries.
Seeing the flaws in human beings, one of the Websters, Bruce Webster, starts to work on the dogs, giving them the ability to speak, and the ability to read--including the physical modifications necessary to make these things physically possible for them, not just intellectually possible. We learn of, and encounter, the mutants, humans with far greater intelligence, and lacking the human instinct to gather and connect with each other. In each story we see the dogs on the road to becoming Dogs, advancing in intelligence and understanding. A crucial turning point is the story, "Desertion," where humans on Jupiter are sending out exploratory missions of humans transformed into lifeforms able to live on Jupiter outside the human domes--for the purpose of reporting back, with the awkward complication that none of them do. Finally the head of that project goes out himself, with just his dog, Towser, leading to the complete upending of the progress of humans toward dominating the solar system and expanding to the stars.
The notes frame these stories as the myths and fables of Doggish civilization, in a time when Dogs are pretty sure that Man is only a myth, a tribal legend from the early days of their race, before civilization developed. The one continuing character who ties all the stories together is Jenkins, the robot who served the Websters, and then inherited their responsibility to help the Dogs along their own path. There's an underlying sadness in these stories, a certain pessimism about humankind, intertwined with a love for both humans and dogs.
What's missing, almost entirely, is women. Women are mentioned from time to time, but there's only two women who become in any way real characters with their own personalities and views, and only one of them is outside of the roles of wife, girlfriend, daughter, secretary. I love these stories; I don't love that aspect of these stories. These are still fine and much-loved stories, but they are also period pieces, and should be approached with that in mind.
Still very much recommended.
I bought this audiobook.