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City Come a-Walkin'

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  515 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Stu Cole is struggling to keep his nightclub, Club Anesthesia, afloat in the face of mob harassment when he's visited by a manifestation of the city of San Francisco, crystallized into a single enigmatic being. This amoral superhero leads him on a terrifying journey through the rock and roll demimonde as they struggle to save the city.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 4th 2001 by Running Press (first published 1980)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Before reading this book I would have said that Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) was the first true piece of cyberpunk, because it introduced the aesthetic that has defined the subgenre more so than any common story elements. But John Shirley’s City Come A-Walkin' (1980) had the cyberpunk aesthetic even earlier, a different strain of it perhaps, but cyberpunk nonetheless.* The ways in which this work serves as the origin of many cyberpunk elements and also breaks from some of the most common c ...more
May 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Really, just...holy shit. This book takes "amazing" to a whole new level. Aside from one typographical error (a capital A following a comma), not one piece of this novel was out of place.

Forewarning, I may just write "holy shit" a lot to convey my love of this book.

First off, if you read it, make sure you get an edition with the intro by William Gibson. I was hooked just from that, I didn't even need the narrative. It also provides a bit of context, not that you'll need it.

Now, just...
Joachim Boaz
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Full review:

“It’s the gestalt of the whole place, this whole fuckin’ city, rolled up in one man. Sometimes the world takes the shape of gods and those gods take the form of men. Sometimes. This time. That’s a whole city, that man” (18).

John Shirley’s City Come A-Walkin’ (1980), an early cyberpunk novel, succeeds as a surreal and earthy paean to diverse urban community and punk rebellion. A club owner and angst rocker join forces with a physical manifestat
Bart Everson
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of action-oriented sci-fi, people interested in punk and cyberpunk
Recommended to Bart by: Octavia Science Fiction Reading Club
Shelves: octavia-sf
Four stars for seminality. (Is that a word?) Two stars for my actual reading pleasure. So I split the difference for this rating.

This book really puts the "punk" in cyberpunk. In fact this is the first cyberpunk novel ever written. Future entrees in the subgenre tended to stress the "cyber" element more. But City Come a Walkin' is one of the most punk books I have ever read. That's a good thing. It's got punk attitude and one of the main characters is a rocker.

It's got a hard, tough edge, depi
McGrouchpants. McGrouchpants!
John Shirley's breakout work — now back in print — presages a lot of "cyberpunk" fiction (even this review just draws off the Wm. Gibson introduction, the case is so obvious), albeit in a way that still is hard to pin down, quantify, categorize ... barring that it's rip-roaring, punk-rock, many-layered Fiction pleasure!

City — as realized, as a "character" — isn't your prototypical bad guy, good guy, or "anti-hero", either; rather, as a sort of Faustian bargain-maker for a world too sanguine abou
Justin Howe
Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Oddly prescient while also dated -- I read this trying to remember what it was like reading SF at 16 years of age. A simple straightforward SF read in the same vein as Matheson's I AM LEGEND, Leiber's OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, and Dick's MARTIAN TIME SLIP.
Duane Poncy
I love this book for its raw creativity. While it is as much urban fantasy as cyberpunk, it has been very influential in the cyberpunk genre, inspiring no less than William Gibson.
Peter Landau
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
William Gibson in his introduction to CITY COME A-WALKIN’ says that with this novel John Shirley all but invented cyberpunk. Gibson even admits unconsciously stealing from the book when he wrote his groundbreaking sci-fi. All this is true, I just wish I’d come across Shirley’s weird tale of San Francisco as a sentient being when it was first published in 1980 or even when this reprint was reissued in the late 1990s. The story is fun to read if ridiculous and even the rock-and-roll color added bo ...more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-very-good
I can see why this was on a list of must-read sci-fi. At times, it's so prescient it's spooky. At other times, it manages to highlight how the more things change, the more they stay the same -- much of the book could be written in 2018 without sounding out of time in the least. If anything, I was left wanting more of the big picture, more of the story after The Sweep, rather than everything leading up to it. I enjoyed the storytelling style, and the big questions it includes (but doesn't answer) ...more
Nov 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I was really hoping for this to kick ass. Unfortunately, it's just mediocre. People (William Gibson) claim that this is the 1st cyberpunk book. I'm not sure it really qualifies. There are a few ideas that might be considered proto-cyberpunk, but mostly it's just a book about violence and the mafia. Meh. Decent writing, but a waste of time.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cyberpunk
When a book really makes me take a step back and think, "what the fuck am I reading?", it tends to leave a good impression. City Come A Walkin' does that as well as anything I've read in a while.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very particularly punky kind of cyberpunk novel. It has some of the flaws common in the genre but is a high-paced thriller with some really interesting takes.
The ur-source of cyberpunk. Semi-mystical, surreal, and bizarre, this is not an easy read, but well-worth reading.
Andrea D. McCarthage
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly strong prose. I'd like to expand on this review when I have more time, but for now I'll just say I recommend it.
Charles Dee Mitchell
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mid-century-sf
In the introduction to the 1996 edition of Shirley's original 1980 novel, William Gibson refers to Shirley as the Patient Zero of Cyperpunk. I'm in no position to contest that assertion, and it goes a ways towards explaining why the novel, while never seeming dated, seems so familiar. Shirley's imagined San Francisco of 2008 has the post-punk feel, vigilante dangers, and cynical corporate plots that are now the mainstay of sf in books, movies, and television. Shirley does seem to have gotten the ...more
Phillip Dunham
Jan 12, 2014 rated it liked it
This is the second one of John Shirley's books I've read. This and Transmaniacon. I really liked them both. (He references Blue Oyster Cult in both novels, and actually wrote lyrics for some of their later music. Much later, like post-2000.)
The characters in both novels fall into and create a series of violent and chaotic situations. It's like cyberpunk Tarantino.
Some of the sci fi elemts in this are a little dated (one of the charactres walks by a music store that cells CD-ROMS) but that's inc
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Aneel by: Aerik
The book felt dated in plot points, but the themes are still current. I imagined Anesthesia as being the DNA Lounge.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Great atmosphere and some interesting ideas handled a bit less elegantly than his protege William Gibson did a few years later. Shirley's future San Fran oozes that cobalt-colored future-noir feeling that became the trademark of CP, but the prose in City is brusque and often clumsy when compared with Gibson's more polished style. You can really see where Gibson (and Sterling and others) jumped off from City, and for pioneering these ideas Shirley probably gets an extra half star or so. It's defi ...more
Jim Jewell
Jun 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jim by: A.hageman
Wow. How did it, why did it, take me so long to come to this book.

That from which all cyberpunk evolved. A damn fine read, compelling, and one that hooked me from the moment the City's overmind strode into Stu's club in his mirrored shades.

My edition has an intro by Gibson that I saved until after I finished the story, and nothing I can say about the book can compare to Willy.

Just go read this book if you have any shred of urban sci-fi interest in ya.
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A classic. One of the books that inspired cyberpunk, considered by some to be the first cyberpunk novel. Set in San Francisco, with the city itself as a character, also with other great characters that come from the authors background as a punk rock musician. The idea that a city could be sentient was a completely cool notion, probably what inspired the sentient computer network in Gibson's Neuromancer. Great prose, compelling characters, great story.

A must read.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Really neat take on the sentience and personalization of cities. Set nearly exclusively in San Francisco with brief excursions to Santa Cruz and Sacramento. Plays with ideas of humanity, sentience and agency. Engaging, but not the best read in the world, the plot seeming a little stale at places.
Stew Weiss
Jul 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Often described as patient zero for cyberpunk, this tale of the City of San Francisco mustering itself into an ass kicking Travis Bickle type avatar is classic early 80's sci-fi punk rock in its purest form.
Carolyn Chriss
As the first pre -dystopian, cyber - punk, sci -fi novel, it's amazing. It's prescient tech predictions are amazing. It was written in 1980!! The story doesn't hold up but no matter. that's not why this is an important book. The man created a genre here. How often does THAT happen?
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stylish, colorful, compelling, and quick, like a rough neighborhood glanced from the window of a moving car. You can see the foundations of cyberpunk being laid in the text here, as William Gibson's foreword asserts.
Florin Pitea
Mar 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
For a review of this proto-cyberpunk novel, please visit my blog: ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matt Maxwell
Jun 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
More magical realism and less cyberpunk, but worth the trip all the same. The spirit of San Francisco takes hold of a fractured nightclub owner in a dark, near-future.
Speaker Stelios
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
super cool pre-cyberpunk book. Very joyful and energetic. I just loved it!
Jul 10, 2012 marked it as to-read
?? I dont know why I wrote this?? Brave New World, which also featured Virtual Light by William Gibson, City Come A Walkin by John Shirley, and Tea from an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan. [note]
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
very cool book - highly recommended if ya like the punk variety
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John Shirley is the author of more than a dozen books, including Demons; Crawlers; City Come A-Walkin’; Really, Really, Really, Really, Weird Stories; and the classic cyberpunk trilogy A Song Called Youth: Eclipse, Eclipse Penumbra, and Eclipse Corona. He is the recipient of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award and won the International Horror Guild Award for his collection Black But ...more

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