The City and the Stars Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
A journey of discovery that will shake the foundations of everything the people of Earth have ever believed...
Diaspar is Earth's last city - surrounded by deserts, on a world where the oceans have long since dried up. It is a domed, isolated, technological marvel run by the Central Computer. Diaspar has conquered death. People are called forth from the Hall of Creation; they live for 1,000 years and then are recalled, stored in the Central Computer's memory, to be born thousands of years later, over and over again, with memories of earlier lives intact.
No one has entered or left Diaspar since anyone can remember. Its people have an unreasoning dread of the unknown, of the world outside the city. And no child has been born for at least 10 million years.
Until Alvin. He is unique. He has no past lives, no past memories. He also has no fear of the outside world. In fact he has an overwhelming curiosity, a drive to explore, to see what lies beyond the sterile boundaries of the city.
When he finally escapes, he discovers a place he could hardly have imagined: a country called Lys. Its people are telepathic. They know life and death. In Lys, Alvin finds friendship and love. And he begins his fateful journey to the stars and back. On his return he brings with him something so strange, so alien and powerful, that it will change the world forever. But for better or worse, not even Alvin can guess.
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|Listening Length||8 hours and 32 minutes|
|Author||Arthur C. Clarke|
|Narrator||Geoffrey T. Williams|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||September 15, 2009|
|Publisher||Geoffrey T. Williams|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #53,746 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#1,362 in Adventure Science Fiction
#5,747 in Science Fiction Adventures
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Clarke’s story is set in the far distant future, when the Earth has turned primarily to desert. The story begins in an isolated, self-contained city, Diaspar. In this distant future, social structures, political structures, and even the biology of the characters has long disconnected from our own. Life is all too stable and idyllic in Diaspar. The people of Diaspar know little to nothing of the Earth outside the city, and, in fact, show little curiosity about it or even their own history. Their lives are cyclic, being electronically infused into new (fully grown) bodies in life after life, with a kind of hamster-wheel feel.
The plot involves the threat of destabilization. And here I liked very much the inherent monkey wrench that Clarke threw into the carefully planned life of Diaspar. Two elements — the role of a “Jester” and the role of “Uniques” assure that stability isn’t absolute, and that adaptation and change, while facing formidable barriers, can happen.
The distance in time, the artificiality of life, and the unfamiliar but neatly drawn social structures give the book a kind of fantasy feel that i didn’t expect from Clarke. By contrast with the books I’m more familiar with, like Childhood’s End or Rendezvous with Rama, as well as 2001 itself, there’s less continuity between our own current lives and the characters’ lives here. There are technological elements, as in those other books, that are prophetic — virtual presence is a prominent feature — but even there, this is farther from “hard science fiction” than what I associate with Clarke.
This is not my favorite of Clarke’s books. It ages well, but it doesn’t rate with the others I’ve mentioned — Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood’s End, 2001. The fantasy feel isn’t my thing, I have to admit. And there is, for Clarke, I think, an odd compression of the end of the story. The story really takes on an impressive galactic scale, but that vastly enlarging scale isn’t enacted or shown — it is actually told through one character’s speech. The speech outlines a story I would have liked to have read, as played out in a novel itself.
It's a billion years into the future, but people are still surprised when speech recognition works. I think that the billion years into the future thing is what I have the hardest time accepting, it's mentioned over and over again, but at the same time there is no reflection on how much would have had to happen over that time period. Mountains would have eroded and new continents would have formed, but it's as if everything has been on pause. A thousand years would have been enough to convey to the reader that a long time had passed, but instead it had to be the ludicrous number a billion.
In the end everyone blindly trusts the words of a stranger and decides to over night rewrite their history and change their way of life, they've only cemented it over a billion years, but whatever.
The City and the Stars is set a billion years in the future. Humankind—”Man” in the antiquated language of mid-century America—has ventured to the stars, built a galactic empire, and then retreated to Earth. The ten million survivors of the human race are housed in a single city, Diaspar. They are immortal, seemingly content to live century after century pursuing the myriad opportunities for entertainment and recreation that the city affords, their every need taken care of. Yet those simple facts don’t begin to tell the full story.
Immortality, at a price
In fact, there are not ten million but hundreds of millions of people in Diaspar. Nearly all of them reside in the Memory Banks alone, only to be reconstituted in bodily form in the Hall of Creation after many thousands of years. Those who grow weary of life return themselves to the Hall of Creation, broken apart into atoms and entered once again into the Memory Banks, only to be reborn many millennia later to maintain Diaspar’s population at a steady level. The citizens of Diaspar have bought immortality at a price, for they have eliminated not just death but birth as well. And it’s all managed with perfect precision by the Main Computer, which is buried deep underground.
A radical new departure for humanity
Nothing changes in Diaspar. The Main Computer’s Eternity Circuits guarantee the permanence of its creations. Yet now a young man named Alvin emerges from the protection of his guardians, threatening to upset the equilibrium. For Alvin is Unique in Diaspar: he emerged twenty years ago, wholly formed, from the Hall of Creation, like everyone else but without any memory of the past lives that are a living reality for all his fellow citizens in the city. Alvin is determined to find a way through the walls of the city to explore what lies outside. And that is the beginning of Alvin’s adventure—and a radical new departure for humanity.
Surprising though it may be to some readers, this fantasy from Arthur C. Clarke could hardly be called science fiction. In more ways than I can count, the story departs from scientific reality. But, above all, Clarke’s tale begs a fundamental question: how long will humanity survive? After all, given the self-destructive behavior of the human race over the past century, many of us find it hard to believe that our species will endure for more than another century, let alone a billion years.
Top reviews from other countries
The prevalent sexism of the time - even in one as forward looking as Clarke - doesn't age well. All the uniques are men, his 'girlfriend' is portrayed as silly and the only other female characteris powerful but to be evaded/beaten. Similarly in Rendezvous with Rama female characterisation is limited to multiple wives and a medical officer whose breast are mentioned in her introductory sentence.
I'm Sure ACC would be glad we've moved on!
The protagonist Alvin is an uncharacteristically inquisitive man, a glitch in the software perhaps. He wants to find out what is outside this world and so begin a remarkable series of adventures which at times feel like they may become Space Opera. One thing I personally like about Clarke`s writing is that he seems to give aliens a benevolent character and does not automatically look for conflict to generate excitement. However there is a certain melancholy underlying his writing.
The opening scene is breathtaking. It basically condenses cosmological history within one short paragraph. Alvin, the hero of the book, is actually a very flat character but he has an insatiable curiosity for what is outside of his familiar world. He finds a secret underground moving way to another city which is far away from his eternal city where death has long been banished and no natural birth of human beings, a fact which reminds me very strongly about the Superman movie, Man of Steel, when Karl was born.
But birth takes a very strange form in Diaspar. Alvin walks out of the Hall of Creation in adult human body. The only thing that marks his babyhood is his undeveloped mental faculties. He is a Unique while the rest are, in Alvin's eyes, cowards and incurious. Probably, the author's real meaning for the city is despair where human beings are as incurious as dead animals.
What lies outside the world where humanity cannot see? The Seven Suns. Yet, once there, our hero finds on intelligent life on the farthest stars of the galaxy. His loneliness or homesickness increases. But what he finds rather surprises him: a voice with no physical presence but not very intelligent being. Finally he heads back to earth and re-consider Man's place in the universe in the best of his knowledge. An eye-opening work.
It rightfully has a place in Masterworks.