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Cities in Flight (Cities in Flight #1-4)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  3,941 ratings  ·  97 reviews
One of the very best must-read SF novels of all time.
Paperback, 640 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Orion Publishing Group (first published January 1st 1970)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Robert
This is a review of the first two books of the quartet. The first is in a style I have come to expect from Blish; a rather high brow and deep philosophical discussion masquerading as an eventful piece of pulp. Dubious science fiction is carried off by a presentation indebted to a knowledge and understanding of real science, unlike many modern approaches where any attempt to explain the nature of advanced technology is not forthcoming. The book does take oblique looks at two common Blish themes: ...more
Roger
Mar 20, 2008 Roger rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teens+
I first read these books longer ago that I usually admit to being alive. I think they had a profound influence on me. Having said that, and having reread them recently I have to say they are really bad in places. Characters are cardboard stereotypes for the most part and the story really betrays that it was written as magazine serials so things pop up that really ought to have been mentioned earlier.

So what's good about them? Well this is 'hard' science fiction. You get formulae to describe the
...more
Kate Sherrod
Oh man, if I had known from the beginning just how literally this title, Cities in Flight, was meant -- I took it to feature the word "flight" in the sense of fleeing pursuit, rather than maneuvering through air or space -- I would have attacked this book a lot sooner. That's one of the disadvantages of scooping up a whole lot of ebook titles at once; if you don't examine the cover art, you're just going on author and title unless you take the trouble to look up the blurb. And the author.*

Cities
...more
The other John
This sucker is actually four novels collected into a single volume. The collection starts with They Shall Have Stars. The year is 2013 and humanity is out among the solar system while, back on Earth, a quiet struggle is going on between the West and the Soviets. It's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the two, however, as the Western governments seek to impose more and more control on their populace. Amidst this all is a scheme of Alaskan senator Bliss Wagoner, which is pla ...more
Jim
As a pure science fiction collection, this was first rate. I really enjoyed the science involved. The authors of the 60s really stick to what is plausible, even though it may not be probable. Today's science fiction involves too many impossibilities. For example, Star Wars and Star Trek gave us noisy explosions in space, ships and people rocked and shimmied in zero gravity. The vacuum of space became of none effect. The authors of the past adhered to physical realities and where those were bent, ...more
arkadyfalls
Big, swooping ideas, poorly realised and poorly written. After following these characters for, in many cases, several hundred years of life, I still didn't care whether they were happy or hurt, whether they lived or died. The women in particular are very thinly drawn, limited mostly to a scant physical description (always judgmental: she's pretty or she's not, and if she's not, then we won't see her again).
The pacing in places (especially book three, where this may be due to the book being cobbl
...more
Valerie
I'm not sure which of these I've actually read--when I was young, my father used to go to used book stores every week, buy about a dozen books, bring them home, let us all read them, sell them back, and get another dozen. This series was one of the ones he 'rented'.

I expect the social stuff to be dated--very few authors can manage to extrapolate social trends, or write things that don't dessicate and curl up at the corners. amd Blish wasn't one of the few.

What I'd like to find if I reread the t
...more
Anthony
Disappointing. Mr. Blish chose cities as his medium of exploring space but totally neglected to incorporate city information or life into his stories. To read Cities in Flight is to read about Mayor Amalfi, the City Fathers, and a few people around him. Otherwise there were only a couple of cops and that about represented the whole of Manhattan. I mean, if you want to stage a vast city as your base at least have a cast of one hundred drawn from various areas of Manhattan. For such a famous place ...more
Tim
Blish had some fascinating ideas. Though a lot of the scientific concepts seem very outdated now, it is interesting to track the possibilities embodied in the basic concepts of longevity drugs, and "spindizzies" to move entire cities and planets around the universe at hyper-speeds.

But a lot of the action falls flat, as the reader is expected to believe that the main characters have anticipated the actions of other people and cultures to an impossible degree. The assumption that the main characte
...more
Bill Wellham
James Blish’s Cities in Flight has been whispering ‘read me, read me’ for many a year. I remember being amazed by the cover of the book when I was a kid. After all this time, I have finally read it.

I was expecting great things from a book in the renowned SF Masterworks series. Most of these I have read have been great. Unfortunately, I was disappointed, and struggled to read more than ten laborious pages at a time. There are six hundred in all.

I don’t want to trawl out the plot here, only as muc
...more
Salimbol
Great concept (Cities. In. Space!), flawed execution. It has a genuinely epic scope, and it was quite fascinating to see which aspects of his vast future history the author chose to explore. Thumbs up also for including economics in this, and for intelligently considering some of the implications of humankind essentially conquering aging. Nevertheless, this is *extremely* didactic old-school science fiction, in which people stand around earnestly explaining political philosophy and scientific th ...more
Kevin Rubin
"Cities in Flight" is hard science fiction, with hard science, chemical formulas and mathematical equations tossed in to clarify concepts the characters talk about. It's four related stories. One thing to remember while reading this is, it was written before Sputnik.

The first begins in the early 21st century, with the Soviet Union subtly winning the cold war by "sovietizing" the west, that is, the west is so secretive now, it's behaving like everything they're fighting in the Soviet Union. One r
...more
Anthony Pacheco
Feb 19, 2013 Anthony Pacheco rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anthony by: A very attactivve librarian in a sundress.
The description for this omnibus states "For readers of a certain age, this was probably the 1st SF they encountered written from a mature standpoint & adult sensibility."

This was certainly true for me. For the longest time this was my favorite book, ever, but, as time as gone by, the latest re-read reveals this book is aging and is less sophisticated than I remember.

What still holds up is the characterization and the way the series ends. The last 1/3 of the last book is simply amazing. It's
...more
Aaron Doty
I took the advice of Adam Roberts in his introduction to this compendium and read the four stories in the order they were written, rather than in the chronological narrative order in which they are presented in the omnibus. This was good advice. "Earthman, Come Home" is the best of the four, full of spare narrative and boldly drawn characters reminiscent of a Saturday morning serial adventure or a B grade 50s sci-fi movie. The other books, while having their own points of interest, feel like aft ...more
William
This was published in the SF Masterworks series and is apparently a "classic" of science-fiction but I wasn't that impressed and gave up reading after about 300 or so pages (and it is very rare that I give up on a book). The science was interesting and some of his ideas were quite visionary considering when this was written, but as a story it was very poorly told. Just about everything important that happened seemed to happen somewhere else and we only
learned about via conversations between cha
...more
Erik Graff
Oct 16, 2008 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sf fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sf
Blish's Cities in Flight tetrology seemed to be quite a read at the time, its hundreds of pages characterizing the space-faring cities in general and New York and its mayor in particular leading to a substantial emotional impact as all prepare for the end of the universe.

Blish calls the space travellers "Okies", an allusion to the thirties in the United States and to Steinbeck's famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Read Steinbeck first, then see how good a job you think Blish does. I didn't and pr
...more
Tony
CITIES IN FLIGHT aka The Okies series is pure classic SF. While many of the concepts are dated, the stories have never lost their joy as an source of entertainment.
The tales primarily concern the space going city of New York. Many of Earth cities have literally left the planet, carried aloft by anti-gravity engines called "Spindizzies." The Cities become a force of migrant labor, selling their services where ever they can.
It is such a fanciful idea, and even now one that really sparks somet
...more
Angela
Good ol' boy sci-fi, where the rich vastness of the universe is nonetheless incapable of dislodging the narrative from narrow-minded white American male-ness.

In this, Protagonist is a stowaway on a massive (Miyazaki-esque) flying city contraption; almost a proto-steampunk visual. Too bad the city feels about as diverse as Pittsburgh. (I say this with much love and respect for Pittsburgh.)
Charles
This is actually 4 complete novels. Fairly short ones. And I originally read a couple of them unders separate covers. A collossal achievement really. In the future whole cities take flight through the galaxy and its very interesting to see Blish expand on this concept. Good works. Perhaps Blish's best.
Sean Randall
I think I should've read these as separate books. For some reason I sort of lost the thread, and, though I got a lot of Heinleinism out of Blish's style of writing, wasn't overly impressed. I got the same sort of "I expected more" that I had when finishing Asimov's Foundation.
Vivian
Read about 80 pages of this book, which is actually a collection of four short novels in a series. Maybe it was the wooden characters, maybe it was the outdated concepts (the first novel was written in 1957), but just couldn't find a way in to stay interested.
Anthony
I would say if I could I would go 3 and a half stars. This is a "Classic," and of course when you say a book - in this case a series of books in one omnibus - is a classic, with that capital letter, you have to judge it based on both the era it was written, and in the case of SF, the science as was known at the time.

As is often remarked about this book, it carries a huge feeling of the grand sense of wonder of golden age SF, with lots of hard science speculation, mixed in with what could be cal
...more
Ric Glowienka
Having re-read this series 40 years on, I found it startling how much of it influenced my world view. James Blish stated that Cities In Flight was inspired in large part by the thoughts of Oswald Spengler, who wrote "Decline of the West". The grand cycle of history that Spengler described is illustrated in action and adventure form in this group of four novellas.

The stories themselves are not particularly riveting, it's standard science fiction - I could see a series of movies made from the boo
...more
Stuart
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John
"Cities in Flight" is the collected name of four short novels. It was written by James Blish over the course of about 15 years in the 1950's and 60's. To me, it is one of the best science fiction books of the Campbell period.

In the early 21st century mankind simultaneously discovers the ability to control gravity, making faster-than-light travel possible, and drugs which eliminate all disease, thereby extending the life to thousands of years or longer. An initial wave of explorers set off from E
...more
Brenda
I'd like to give "Cities in Flight" -- an omnibus volume of four related novels that were themselves serialized stories -- a five star review. Certainly when I was young, I devoured the books; they alternately frightened me and inspired me. The nihilist ending of "The Triumph of Time", the last book in the volume, stays with me to this day. However, it's never able to escape being swamped by the social, political and technological advances since the book's publication.

In the very near future (ie
...more
Kolya Matteo
The first two novels (They Shall Have Stars, and A Life for the Stars) were the best. The third novel, Earthman, Come Home, was munged together from a variety of stories which were written years earlier than the other novels, which were written as novels. As a result, ECH suffers from a lack of plot arc, bad pacing, anticlimaxes, and is riddled with internal inconsistency. The author had some work to do on comprehending his scales, also (a major point is the difficulty of fitting 300 city-sized ...more
Brett
Cities in Flight is an omnibus edition of four novels published by James Blish in the late 1950's and early 1960's. The four novels present a future history chronicling the human race over a period of two millennia as human-kind becomes a race of intra-galactic travelers by conquering degenerative diseases and faster-than-light (FTL) propulsion. The FTL engine developed has the curious and important quality of becoming increasingly efficient as the mass of the propelled objects increase.

Both rev
...more
Scott Nash
Actually four books, centering around two technologies: immortality and the "spindizzy." The first book is interesting, but a little tedious. It's about the development of these two technologies and the "meta" politics surrounding them (basically metaphorical versions on the sides of the Cold War). I found it a little dull. The second book is about one of the earlier cities to take flight and leave earth (Scranton, PA). It's pretty interesting, about the economic advantages of moving your consum ...more
Nicholas Whyte
http://nhw.livejournal.com/370816.html[return][return]The full series in a single volume, containing They Shall Have Stars, A Life For The Stars, Earthman, Come Home and The Triumph of Time (aka A Clash of Cymbals).[return][return]The first book, They Shall Have Stars, is set off from the other three by being set in the near future, on a recognisable Cold War earth; I was slightly amused to note mention of Eritrea and Latvia as independent states, which must have seemed rather less likely than t ...more
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James Benjamin Blish (East Orange, New Jersey, May 23, 1921 – Henley-on-Thames, July 30, 1975) was an American author of fantasy and science fiction. Blish also wrote literary criticism of science fiction using the pen-name William Atheling Jr.

In the late 1930's to the early 1940's, Blish was a member of the Futurians.

Blish trained as a biologist at Rutgers and Columbia University, and spent 1942–
...more
More about James Blish...
A Case of Conscience (After Such Knowledge, #4) They Shall Have Stars (Cities in Flight, #1) Star Trek 1 Spock Must Die! (Star Trek Adventures, #1) Star Trek 3

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