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

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  5,238 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
One of the very best must-read SF novels of all time.
Paperback, SF Masterworks, 640 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Orion Publishing Group (first published January 1st 1970)
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Community Reviews

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Aug 17, 2008 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
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
The other John
Mar 13, 2009 The other John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, discarded
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
Mar 08, 2008 Roger rated it liked it  ·  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
May 28, 2013 arkadyfalls rated it it was ok
Shelves: broadly-sf
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
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.*

Feb 27, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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
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
Anthony Pacheco
Feb 19, 2013 Anthony Pacheco rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Al "Tank"
Feb 05, 2016 Al "Tank" rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the benchmark books in the world of "hard" science fiction and Blish did a superb job of creating one of the most unusual, but believable, cultures in the genre. I've read this book 3 times and, if I live long enough, will probably do so again in a few years.

I have one caveat, and it's something that many SF writers did in the early years. Too much scientific 'baflegab". And not simple baflegab, but stuff that would challenge the attention span of an advanced nuclear scientist. Fo
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
Aug 08, 2009 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
Sep 10, 2013 Tim rated it liked it
I bought this omnibus a few years ago, following some recommendation (here on GR, I think). 'Cities in Flight' is part of the SF Masterworks series, hailed as one of the must-read classics and what not. I had never heard of James Blish, let alone read any of his works.

There's a quote from Terry Pratchett on the cover: "This is the real heady wine of science fiction.". I can only agree, because it's indeed science (!) fiction: You get enough mathematics, chemistry and physics thrown at you over t
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
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
Aug 17, 2016 Kara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi

The problem with science fiction is that you can create new technology, customs, food, fashions, transportation, slang, games, and more – but it is really hard to have your characters act like they are in the future and not from your own time.

And while not always immediately apparent upon publication, it can become more noticeable over time, as seen in a lot of sci-fi from the mid-twentieth century that features characters supposedly in the far future, but with now-unpalatable attitudes about t
Benjamin Thomas
Like many people, I first read this collection of four novels when I was in High School. Long out-of-print I was very happy to see them repackaged for a whole new generation. This is high-quality science fiction from the golden age. I was suprised that so little of the technology is out-of-date (vacuum tubes excepted) that it reads as fresh now as it did before.

But this is more than just the superficial sci-fi that we sometimes hear about. Much more than spaceships and aliens, these novels dig d
Apr 26, 2009 William rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bryan Pentelow
Jun 21, 2016 Bryan Pentelow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a Sci-Fi classic, the first book of which I read at college too many years ago. All the books are now in a single collected volume which has the advantage of reading them in order as apposed to when they become available in the library.
Earth is finished. Out of raw materials and industrial opportunities. The great manufacturing cities equip them selves with combined anti-gravity and shield generators called Spin-dizzies and leave the doomed planet to find materials and business like hig
Erik Graff
Oct 16, 2008 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Aaron Doty
Jan 23, 2014 Aaron Doty rated it liked it
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
Daniel Burton-Rose
Why did I just read a 600 page Spenglerian sci-fi tetralogy? Because it was there, I guess. The promise of Lotus Sutra scale cosmic urbanism intrigued me; of a rust belt Midwestern town "going into space, to become a migrant worker among the stars." The books themselves, alas, I found too conventional in racial, gender, and plot conventions.
Jul 20, 2011 angela rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.)
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.
David Melbie
Jul 18, 2016 David Melbie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sci Fi Fans
Recommended to David by: Library suggestion
May 25, 2017 Dee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a poetic name! Apt and several ways.

My criticism of much older science fiction is the quality of the writing, often the dialog, sometimes the way the structure of the tale is stitched together, well, all sorts of things are frequently awkward or even painful. But this criticism is secondary to the poetry, adventure, whimsy, and high concept which expressed through the ungainly vehicle of mediocre science fiction prose.

Cities in Flight is whimsical and poetic in its imagery, adventurous and
Patrick Scheele
May 25, 2017 Patrick Scheele rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The premise is great: a way to travel in space that is so cheap whole cities are using it to travel the galaxy. But that's also where it ends. These four books are all boring and make very little sense. Here are some of the reasons:

* Somehow the cities end up in a role similar to that of hobos. They go all over the galaxy to... do odd jobs. And they're constantly being harassed by the police. Seriously, with all the vastness of space, they still manage to get chased around by the police for brea
Oct 27, 2015 Sable rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cities in Flight is an omnibus edition of four related books written by James Blish in the 1950s and 60s. Each one is a stand-alone story but they interconnect. The essential premise of the plot is that three factors -- the Cold War, the discovery of anti-aging drugs, and the invention of anti-gravity technology -- results in a mass exodus of entire cities from Earth, who then spread out among the stars as independent city-states. Some colonize planets; others, called "Okies," wander from planet ...more
Bob Wolniak
Jun 18, 2017 Bob Wolniak rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Overall, the writing and character development are uneven between the four books. Some characters span across the majority of the narrative (Amalfi) while some other compelling characters do not. The style of each book is different also. They are sometimes loosely connected novellas and short stories within an overall "Okie" universe. Blish is great with the big ideas and inventions, enjoys equations, and certainly has a vast imagination. But his storytelling is sometimes lacking and I felt the ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover 2 12 Apr 28, 2017 05:15PM  
Sci-Fi Group Book...: Cities in Flight 16 18 Mar 24, 2017 04:34PM  
Sci-fi and Heroic...: Cities in Flight by James Blish 8 24 Apr 13, 2016 02:43AM  
Interstellar Flight 1 4 Nov 21, 2014 10:24AM  
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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 about James Blish...

Other Books in the Series

Cities in Flight (4 books)
  • They Shall Have Stars (Cities in Flight, #1)
  • A Life for the Stars (Cities in Flight, #2)
  • Earthman, Come Home (Cities in Flight, #3)
  • The Triumph of Time (Cities in Flight, #4)

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“[T]he end cannot justify the means; but if there are no other means, and the end is necessary...” 7 likes
“Then I’ll wind it up as fast as I can,” Wagoner said. “What it all comes to is that the whole structure of space flight as it stands now is creaking, obsolescent, over-elaborate, decaying. The field is static; no, worse than that, it’s losing ground. By this time, our ships ought to be sleeker and faster, and able to carry bigger payloads. We ought to have done away with this dichotomy between ships that can land on a planet, and ships that can fly from one planet to another.” 0 likes
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