|Submitted by Frank W. Campbell AIA |
(Jan 21, 2005)
The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke is a serious and obviously hard fought effort by the author to tackle several ideas and themes. Ultimately sad and melancholic the story deals primarily with endings and decay and hints at possible re-birth.
The story is set at the very end of human history when mankind has attained what is essentially perfect and apparently eternal stability or stagnation in a city which cares for and rejuvinates its inhabitants. People live as long as they like and edit their memories at the time of thier death. They then are re-born centuries later to live again. The fabric of thier bodies and the structure of thier city preserved for all time in perfect rigid harmony.
Into this seemingly perfect and perfectly stagnant world is born an man with no previous memories. A man with no past and a man who does not posess the other city dwellers inate myopia regarding life outside the city.
Our adventurer begins a journey of discovery to learn about Human history, its past, its present and a glimpse of its future.
To see humanity awake from stagnation and begin to journey back towards the stars.
This is ultimately a sad and melancholic tale. It is however extremely interesting and highly detailed. Clarke's vision of the ultimate in technical / and biologial perfection is quite sturdy and many of his concepts have been picked up on by later authors from the "moving ways" to the "eternity circuits" to the overmind / gaia concepts in the closing chapter.
A highly imaginative and rewarding read it is a rework of an earlier Clarke work Against the Fall of Night.