Tuesday, August 16, 2016

City (Clifford D. Simak)

Clifford D. Simak
Open Road Media
Fiction, Collection/Sci-Fi
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: For thousands of years, around the fires at night, tales have been told of ancient times and lost worlds... but were they ever true? These stories are often considered cautionary tales or attempts by previous generations to give form to impossible concepts, but some argue that there is a factual basis, a hidden history wrapped in layers of storytelling, pointing to a lost, utterly alien species. Was there ever a time when Dogs had no speech, when they were just dumb beasts at the heels of the legendary, ultimately self-destructive race known as Man?

REVIEW: This classic collection by noted author Clifford D. Simak chronicles the rise of a Doggish race in the wake of humanity's failure, a fall triggered not by war or external catastrophe but by blind spots and flaws in our racial psyche. It's an odd conceit, one that takes a while to grow on the reader, especially as the pre-tale commentary (by Doggish authors, many of whom argue against the possibility of Man ever having existed outside a story) acts as partial spoilers for the tale that follows. (This especially wasn't helped by a long-winded introduction to this Kindle reprint, one that assumes I already know about Simak and the significance of City.) The stories themselves also show their age around the edges, and not just by having the last cities of modern civilization abandoned as obsolete a few decades before I read this: the tales all rely on outdated attitudes and cultural assumptions, including (but not limited to) the sexism. Women appear as wives or secretaries, and almost never else - and among the robots, Dogs, and other species, no females apparently exist at all. The tales themselves often wander into philosophical territory, bogging down now and again under the weight of their ideas. That said, the further I read, the more the overall themes started to gel, and the collection as a whole presents ideas and images that linger long after I met them. I can see how these were, and are, considered genre classics, even if the style and some of the tales themselves aren't quite my cup of cocoa.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Foundation (Isaac Asimov) - My Review
Childhood's End (Arthur C. Clarke) - My Review
A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge) - My Review

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