Skip to main content

#BookReview: City by Clifford D. Simak (2015 Edition)


It's always wonderful when you discover a wonderful new author. But this author I've found is hardly new and he is hardly obscure, having won three Hugo awards as well as a Nebula. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the SFWA. No, far from obscure, Clifford D. Simak is one of the masters of science fiction who wrote and published his stories during the hallowed Golden Era of SF. And the book that I've discovered by him is the fantastic, far-reaching and truly epic novel, City.

Like many SF novels of that period, City is a novel that is patched together with previously published unconnected short stories, very similar to what Bradbury did with The Martian Chronicles and what Asimov did with I, Robot. What makes City unique--I'd go so far as to say fascinating--are the interstitial "notes" that tie the stories together into one continuous narrative. And these notes are often equally as intriguing as the stories they introduce.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. City tells a legend that has been passed on via oral tradition by intelligent, sentient dogs of the future. The legend consists of eight tales (with a ninth added to the canon in 1974) following the adventures and trials of the Webster family, their dogs and their loyal robot butler, Jenkins. The notes* that tie the stories together are written as academic research essays by dogs who are skeptical that Man ever existed, and they often assume the stories are mere fancy, legends to entertain little pups before they go to sleep.

And indeed, the novel tells of how the Websters had their hand in giving the dogs their sentience, getting Man to leave Earth and ascend to another kind of existence and what happened when the dogs took over as caretakers of the planet. From the perspective of a dog who has never had the chance to meet a man or to witness the wonders of Man's creations such as rockets that fling into space, how else but to take these stories as mere fancy?

The stories are heartfelt and are a great commentary of the human condition. I especially love the story, "Desertion", which tells the story of what happens when a group of human explorers are sent to Jupiter, never to return. It's a great story by itself but it also provides the novel a pivotal moment that changes everything for humanity.

On the whole, a great read by someone who's not mentioned enough by the SFF circles. City is now available in a new edition which not only includes the newer ninth tale but also an essay by his close friend David Nixon. I highly suggest you check it out.

This book review was possible thanks to an ARC provided by NetGalley.

* Are they... Cliff Notes? Heh heh heh. Okay. Sorry. I'll get my coat.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

HOWTO: Get Rid of Silverfish

The bane of every book collecting person: the Silverfish. DUN DUN DUNNNNN!!!

How to get rid of them?

If one book has been infected, place it inside an air-tight plastic bag along with some silica gel desiccant. The silica gel is important to get rid of moisture, because you will now place the sealed plastic bag with the book in it inside the freezer. Leave it in there for a couple of days so that those bugs catch their death of cold.

If you're feeling particularly paranoid, (like I usually am) feel free to leave the plastic bag in there for a week. If they're not dead, then you might likely have an infestation of zombie silverfish, which is out of the scope of this blogpost.

But what if a whole colony of silverfish decided to invade your whole bookcase? Then you have to make sure you're ready for war.

Place a generous amount of silica gel (or if you can find it, diatomaceous earth) behind your books at the back of the shelves so that moisture levels remain low. Silverfish l…

Hitting 1000.

Last night Sharon quoted Raman of having said to writers when they bring him their manuscripts for publishing, "How many books have you read? Have you read a thousand books? If not, get out and go read a thousand books, then come back with your manuscript." His point being, you've got to have read a lot if you want to be a writer.

And I thought to myself, a thousand books isn't so bad. I've probably read more.

Er...Wrong.

After some quick calculations, we determined that if a person read a book per week, it would take around 20 years to reach a thousand. I'm a slow reader. I'm only 25. There's no way I've read 1000 books my whole life!

When I got home I counted the books in my house. I estimate I own around 300 books, probably another 300 left at my parents's house. That's only around 600 books that I own... and a lot less that I've read!

So with that number in mind, I have resolved to start keeping track of my book reading. I need to know …

Happy New Year!

So, 2018 already huh? Time for some resolutions!

Write a short story every fortnight
Lol. I don't even know if this is possible, because my usual resolution every year is to write a short story every month and I've failed every year I've attempted it. Writing a short story every fortnight means writing two short stories a month. How is that even possible? Well, I have a plan mapped out, aaaaaand if I stick to it, it should work out. Maybe. Anyway the goal here is to keep writing, and from there, to keep submitting, which I was lax on in 2017.

Focus on writing English short stories
I spent a lot of time in 2015, 2016, and 2017 reading and writing in Malay. My goal back then was to get good at writing in my native language, and have it be up to my standards writing in English. I think I have succeeded in that aim. After all, I did get published in Dewan Sastera, Tunas Cipta, and even had two Malay novels published (after winning a novel-writing competition no less) so I will, …