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The City and the Stars

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Clarke's masterful evocation of the far future of humanity, considered his finest novel.

Men had built cities before, but never such a city as Diaspar. For millennia its protective dome shut out the creeping decay and danger of the world outside. Once, it held powers that rule the stars.

But then, as legend has it, the invaders came, driving humanity into this last refuge. It takes one man, a Unique, to break through Diaspar's stifling inertia, to smash the legend and discover the true nature of the Invaders.

255 pages, Paperback

First published January 27, 1956

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About the author

Arthur C. Clarke

1,256 books9,919 followers
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke was one of the most important and influential figures in 20th century science fiction. He spent the first half of his life in England, where he served in World War Two as a radar operator, before emigrating to Ceylon in 1956. He is best known for the novel and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-created with the assistance of Stanley Kubrick.

Clarke was a graduate of King's College, London where he obtained First Class Honours in Physics and Mathematics. He is past Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society, a member of the Academy of Astronautics, the Royal Astronomical Society, and many other scientific organizations.

Author of over fifty books, his numerous awards include the 1961 Kalinga Prize, the AAAS-Westinghouse science writing prize, the Bradford Washburn Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for his novel Rendezvous With Rama. Clarke also won the Nebula Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1972, 1974 and 1979, the Hugo Award of the World Science Fiction Convention in 1974 and 1980, and in 1986 became Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was awarded the CBE in 1989.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
October 13, 2021
The City and the Stars, Arthur C. Clarke

The City and the Stars is a science fiction novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke, published in 1956.
The City and the Stars takes place one billion years in the future, in the city of Diaspar.

By this time, the Earth is so old that the oceans have gone and humanity has all but left. As far as the people of Diaspar know, theirs is the only city left on the planet. The city of Diaspar is completely enclosed.

Nobody has come in or left the city for as long as anybody can remember, and everybody in Diaspar has an instinctive insular conservatism.

The story behind this fear of venturing outside the city tells of a race of ruthless invaders which beat humanity back from the stars to Earth, and then made a deal that humanity could live—if they never left the planet. In Diaspar, the entire city is run by the Central Computer.

Not only is the city repaired by machines, but the people themselves are created by the machines as well. The computer creates bodies for the people of Diaspar to live in and stores their minds in its memory at the end of their lives.

At any time, only a small number of these people are actually living in Diaspar; the rest are retained in the computer's memory banks. All the currently existent people of Diaspar have had past "lives" within Diaspar except one person—Alvin, the main character of this story.

He is one of only a very small number of "Uniques", different from everybody else in Diaspar, not only because he does not have any past lives to remember, but because instead of fearing the outside, he feels compelled to leave.

Alvin has just come to the age where he is considered grown up, and is putting all his energies into trying to find a way out. Eventually, a character called Khedron the Jester helps Alvin use the central computer to find a way out of the city of Diaspar.

This involves the discovery that in the remote past, Diaspar was linked to other cities by an underground transport system. This system still exists although its terminal was covered over and sealed with only a secret entrance left.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و هفتم ماه سپتامبر سال 1993 مسلادی

عنوان: شهر و ستارگان؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی کلارک؛ مترجم: محمدرضا عمادی؛ تهران، هرم، 1371؛ در 261ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

عنوان: شهر و ستارگان؛ نویسنده: آرتور سی کلارک؛ مترجم: حسین شهرابی؛ تهران کتابسرای تندیس، 1394؛ در 331ص؛ شابک9786001821790؛ چاپ دوم 1397؛

در این داستان «کلارک» گام به دورانی میگذارند، که در آن دوران بشر به اوج توانایی‌های علمی، و پیشرفت‌های تکنولوژیک خویش رسیده، و به دورترین نقاط فضا، دست یافته است؛ اما خودپرستی و جاه طلبی بیمارگونه ی انسانها، آرامش کرات آسمانی، و ساکنان آنجا را نیز، سلب کرده؛ تا آنجا که اتحادی از موجودات فضایی، انسان را، وادار به بازگشت به زمین خویش میکنند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 20/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
797 reviews3,631 followers
May 24, 2020
One knows the situation: Just as one has found an interesting area, someone else comes and hunts one way. A great pity if the area is the whole universe and one humankind and the other overlord aliens and any violation could lead to extermination.

It doesn´t really matter if it´s done to protect the incarcerated from themselves and self-extermination, everyone from them, to build an intergalactic zoo attraction or just for fun, it sucks if you can´t go out for a spaceship ride, terraforming, and total galactic domination. Stupid aliens.

But to make the best out of the bad situation, the alien or in this case human civilization can try to deal with the situation as good as possible what opens many trope options and questions.
Do they go the green or the technological way and develop a Gaia or techno core civilization?
Ignore the problem and do as if there was nothing outside or try to get rebellious.
Focus on hard science and enable an AI to become the master or stay human and use tech to build the ultimate and never-ending voting process in the directest democracy possible by mixing humanities with Psitek.

One main, underlying question is where the perfect balance between total technocratic logic optimization cult and ultra hippie back to the routs alternative sustainability may be.

Clarke chooses immortality, super entities, mind uploading, claustrophobia, ecotopia, telekinesis,... but it can and will go so many other routes both in fiction and reality, because one thing is sure in space, no matter if the isolation is enforced or just caused by the vast distances: Anything that can be done will be done. ( I am very biased towards an AI overlord with a green thumb because I don´t trust humans as much as machines, sorry dear reader, but nevertheless thanks for reading.)

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Baba.
3,562 reviews860 followers
December 15, 2022
SF Masterworks 39 - a full reworking of his first novella/novel Against the Fall of Night, is an astounding piece of future fiction reality building set aeons in the future where man has conquered and then lost space and resides in a massive automated city, where people essentially live forever with every need and want at hand. So why just Two Stars from me? Clarke's later great work was astounding because it had reality building + tension and/or mystery bound issue that needed to be resolved; in this we have an outlier resident of the City looking to get outside of the City and ultimately try and find out the truth about what lies outside The City and the Stars and how mankind came to rest there. The world building was astounding, the story was not worthy of it! 5 out of 12, Two Star read.

2022 read
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews781 followers
August 4, 2015
I have neglected Sir Arthur C. Clarke for far too long. Way back when I started reading science fiction I tended to read more of other two authors from the group commonly known as "Big Three of science fiction", these other two being Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. I felt their works were somehow more flamboyant and entertaining. As for Sir Arthur I read may be three of his books as I found his writing a little too dry and his science was beyond my ken. Now decades later other sf readers are still going on about him and popular contemporary sf authors still cite him as an influence, clearly I must have made a mistake and shortchanged him (or myself) terribly.

While reading The City and the Stars I had a sort of epiphany, I realized that great science fiction does not need to have great character development if other aspects of the book is good enough to compensate for this shortage. This is probably not a universal truth but it works for me. Nobody on their right minds would say Clarke is a writer of beautiful lyrical prose but his writing has a clarity that much better suited for the hard SF stories he wanted to tell. The immensity of his imagination and the grandness of his vision compensate the reader aplenty for any shortcoming in the artistic department. Unless I am very much mistaken this book is highly influential for more recent titles which have also become classics in their own right. I am thinking of Iain M. Bank's Culture novels where the A.I. characters seem to have been inspired by this book, Richard K. Morgan's Altered Carbon which uses the concept of immortality through digitization of people , Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer where machines can create furniture and object out of thin air (well, molecules), not to mention the epic scale of Alastair Reynolds's works which seem to be a direct descendant of Clarke's epic galaxy spanning concept.

The story of The City and the Stars is almost a A Tale of Two Cities or even The City and the City if not for the fact that it has nothing in common with these two books except that the main part of this novel is focused on two cities, Diaspar and Lys. The former is a post-scarcity super high-tech society where the citizens are immortal while the other is less reliant on technology and the citizens are all telepaths. The scale of the story expand very far beyond these two cities later in the book, but I am not in a synopsizing mood today so I will skip this part and get on with the review. Clarke's world-building talent and attention to details is seriously awe-inspiring, the only possible complaint is that the characters tend to be a little flat. There is a character called Khedron who is the official jester of Diaspar, his job is to cause little mischiefs to unstabilize the city just a little bit so it does not stagnate. Great idea except this Khedron does not seem to have a sense of humor and is even described as having an "astringent personality"! I can only recall one little humorous passage from the entire book, here is Sir Arthur describing a futuristic penis:

"It was merely that his equipment was now more neatly packaged when not required; internal stowage had vastly improved upon Nature’s original inelegant and indeed downright hazardous arrangements."

This is not to say that book is all doom and gloom, there is a feeling of lightheartedness and optimism to the proceeding in spite of the lack of actual jokes. The protagonist Alvin is also a little less flat than the other characters and is almost sympathetic and likable by the end of the book. The twist at the end is ingenious and I closed the book with satisfaction.

I feel like I am just scratching the surface here of Arthur C. Clarke's works, perhaps it is just as well I have neglected his books until now, give me a lot more to look forward to.
Profile Image for Kevin Kuhn.
Author 2 books567 followers
August 5, 2020
Clarke wrote (or rewrote) “The City and the Stars” in 1955 and it was published in 1956. Interestingly, it’s a complete rewrite of his first novel, “Against the Fall of Night” which was rejected by John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding Science-Fiction. I have mixed feelings about this book, but overall, it was a wonderful read.

Let’s start with the positives. When I said it’s a wonderful read, I mean that literally, it’s full of wonder. The hallmark of the Golden Age of science fiction is the focus on the prediction of an imaginative future and that’s what make this book an important work of that age. The book begins with some sort of fully immersive video game. When the game ends, we find we are in a city a billion years in the future. The city is fully automated, matter can be materialized by thoughts. Humans are no longer born but are resurrected over and over again. People want of nothing and spend their time creating art, socializing, and exploring philosophy and scientific problems that will likely never be solved.

I think Clarke may have riffed on Huxley’s “Brave New World,” although the themes are quite different. What Clarke does well in this story is in creating questions in the reader. Yes, there is a continuous onslaught of future ideas and creations, but what really drives the story is the questions. Why is our main character, Alvin, the first to be born in over a million years? What’s beyond the city walls? Why did mankind abandon the star? What’s the purpose of this never-ending city named Diaspar? The combination of wonder and the intrigue that Clarke creates is masterful. I say this because the book has some significant shortfalls.

To begin with, the conflict is tame in this story. I never really felt concern for the characters. Alvin does embark on an interesting quest, but he is arrogant and often protected in his journey. In fact, I didn’t really like him for much of the story. I suppose part of Alvin’s issues were in place to show growth in the character, but in the end his brashness is rewarded, and he never really pays a price for his flaws. The biggest issue I had with the book, is that the ending is an ancient story. We don’t get to experience the climax. It’s relayed to us as historical record which held no excitement or emotional appeal for me. Based on these items, you think it’s a disappointing book, but back to my earlier point, there is so much wonder and intrigue that I found it an excellent read. In my opinion, it’s not Clarke’s best, but it’s an intriguing tale, especially considering it being a rewrite of his debut.

An inventive story of a city one billion years in the future, and one man’s quest to understand the past and future of humanity.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.7k followers
January 10, 2014
In Higher Speculations, a book I unsuccessfully keep recommending to people, Helge Kragh has an exasperated chapter on the subject sometimes referred to as "physical eschatology": the so-called scientific forecasting of the very distant future, where people, apparently seriously, discuss whether life will be possible 10 to the something or other years from now, when all the stars have run down and the black holes have evaporated due to Hawking radiation or whatever. The problem, of course, is that our picture of the universe changes radically every couple of decades (dark energy was identified in the late 90s), so projections of what's going to happen in an illion zillion years' time are rather unlikely to have any contact with reality.

At least it's no easier for science-fiction writers. Here, Clarke tries to imagine Earth one billion years from now, but it's more or less the 50s with slightly better technology. Oh well.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,977 followers
May 29, 2018
Classic fifties SF by Clarke. Widely regarded as one of his best works. So what do you know? I have to check it out.

First of all, its 50's feel for SF is quite noticeable. It's mostly straight adventure with travel and discovery and a few interesting locations, notably two last cities of mankind after a LONG retreat from the galactic scene. Most of them don't even realize that they were pushed back into a self-sustaining lethargic existence without change or hope, relying on a massive computer that basically has everything they are hard-encoded for reuse. And I mean people. With memories, reincarnation, the works.

Sound stagnant? It is. So Alvin, the "unique" boy that was created without any kind of reusable information, gets a hankering for adventure and finds the other city full of mentally superior types and the real situation gets explored. As in the galactic situation. And the only way to truly survive is mixing it all up. :) Nice? Sure!

The characters are the weak point but they're not all that bad. The real strength is in the outright imaginative SF world including domes, robots, virtual reality, interstellar communities, and especially the extrapolation about what we'd become a billion years down the line. :)

It's like a more traditional take on an Olaf Stapleton extravaganza adding some real plot and story to an idea fest. And I'll be real here. There are more ideas and a better plot going on in this novel than I usually see in contemporary SF of that day and age. It's solid even if this particular style has become a bit stale for our modern sensibilities.

Definitely worth reading.
Profile Image for Ivan Lutz.
Author 29 books122 followers
March 8, 2017
Nevjerojatno koliko je ovo romantično čitati. Pisana 1956. i dok sam ju čitao(4. puta) kroz glavu su mi letjele sve one knjige koje su napisane poslije ovoga. Svaki veliki SF pisac barem je malo maznuo iz Grada i Zvijezda. Prolazak Alvina kroz ne razvijene svjetove, čarolija je inspiracije.
Kakva pionirska knjiga!
A zadnja rečenica: "Ali negdje drugdje zvijezde su još bile mlade i jutarnje rumenilo se ukazivalo; a putem kojim je nekada hodao, Čovjek će jednog dana ponovno zakoračiti." pokazuje Clarkovu vjeru u čovječanstvo. Malo mi je i drago što danas nije živ da ne vidi svu silu i govana, i ratova, i mržnje koja se obasipa svuda oko nas.
Sigurno ću se vratiti ovoj knjizi još koji puta. Meni je ipak bolji "Kraj Djetinjstva", ali rame uz rame s ovom. Stvarno, čitajući ovaj roman, pred oči vam iskače cijela jedna epoha SF romana koji je stavljaju kao temelj svega onoga što je nekada vrijedilo; i u knjigama i u ljudima.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
September 16, 2022
Brilliant, classic science fiction.

Long known as being part of the “Big Three” of Golden era SF, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, Sir Arthur C. Clarke came up with scores of great works, some rising high in the speculative fiction stratosphere to rank as SF masterpieces – Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood’s End – and this well may be another, telling a FAR future story that is able to nonetheless be connected to our time as distant legend in his world building.

Set a BILLION years in the future this made me think of the dying earth stories of Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe, but mainly the ridiculously far future world of Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero. If I think about it, we need to add HG Wells’ The Time Machine and MAYBE, Robert Silverberg’s Man in the Maze to this list of great SF that is set in the LUDICROUS speed realm of distant futures.

A million centuries from now, Earth is a barren landscape of sand dunes and wasteland, except for the eternal city of Diaspar, where what is left of humanity (who I imagine looking like Area 51 aliens) go about their long lives in peace and tranquility. Each person may live for thousands of years and then their consciousness returns to the Central Computer’s memory banks.

Or do they?

And is Diaspar the last refuge of humanity? Maybe not, gotta read to find out.

What Sir Arthur has for us is some first-rate SF. First published in 1956, this demonstrates his great ability and imagination. This has actually aged very well and it is amazing to read his vision of the future from the 50s.

Also noteworthy is his message of leaving fear behind. A ubiquitous theme in his canon is the cultural abandonment of fear – as superstition or culturally embraced taboos. Fans of his great book Childhood’s End will pick up on this aim also and it was a joy to read.

A must read for fans of the genre, and this would be a good introduction to his work for a first-time reader.

Profile Image for Daniel Bastian.
86 reviews145 followers
September 7, 2022
"When beauty is universal, it loses its power to move the heart, and only its absence can produce an emotional effect." (p. 32)

In Diaspar, the echoes of the past permeate the present. According to the legends, man had traipsed across the galaxies and conquered the stars. Our spread across the cosmos, aided though it was by technological marvels unfathomed in earlier ages, eventually was terminated by a tragic encounter with an advanced race known only as the Invaders. After a series of devastating conflicts, a Carthaginian peace ensued by which humanity retreated from the stars and promised never to leave Earth again or else risk extinction. Or so the legends claim.

For a billion years the surviving population has lived out its existence in Diaspar—a kind of sprawling, hermetic, techno-spiritual paradise run entirely by computers. The city is self-organizing and self-repairing, with the ability to bathe physical environments in holographic constructs. Only neural signals are required to call up digital, if unfailingly lifelike, projections with which one wishes to interface. Through genetic engineering, humans have further banished aging, the threat of disease, the need for sleep and even the capacity for reproduction, with sex serving only recreational purposes.

In this far-future refuge, immortality through longevity comes at a steep price: the level of control extends down to an individual's personality and predispositions. Men and women are created by the Central Computer according to templates preformulated by Diaspar's designers. After living for thousands of years, their physiological "patterns" are moved to the city's memory banks in order to make room for others. These patterns can then be reconstituted at any time with memories of previous lives and experiences fully intact.

The designers chose to guard their secrets by programming an element of fear into the citizenry. This carefully cultivated, almost pathological dread of the past, is the regulating force that defends against a reconfiguration of the designers' preset goals.

Like the puppeteering portrayed in Orwell's 1984, such exhaustive measures have ultimately led to a society in stasis. The people of Diaspar shrink away from any and all thoughts of reasserting the kind of former glory that made room for spaceflight and interstellar voyaging. Diasparians know of only one, last city—their own. Outside the protective dome that closets them, it is fervently believed, lies only barren desert and the rotting remnants of humanity's merciless defeat at the hands of the Invaders. There is nothing more, and yet the people want nothing more. It is as if curiosity has been bred right out of the human race.

But every once in a long while, Uniques are "born": individuals with a blank slate and with a set of preferences and impulses that fall outside the usual constraints. One might think of it as the "Red Pill" protocol—a means of shaking things up from time to time. In this cycle, that Red Pill is Alvin, the first of his kind in more than seven thousand years. Unlike his peers, Alvin's sense of wonder and intrepidity motivate him to buck the stultifying norms of his culture. It isn't long before he is able to break free from Diaspar's conditioning and learn the truth about humanity's past and the world beyond its walls.

I hesitate to share too much more, but it will suffice to say that what Alvin finds in his pursuit of the facts changes the course of Diaspar forever, resulting in a total redraft of the reality they once knew. Welcome to one of Arthur C. Clarke's first full-length novels, The City and the Stars (adapted from his earlier novella Against the Fall of Night), originally published in 1956.

Acquaintance and Anticlimax

For all of the tension and intrigue in the opening sections, one gets the distinct impression that Clarke burned through his narrative fuel earlier than expected and spent the remainder of the novel trying to make up for it. Once we learn of the true origins of Diaspar and Alvin makes it outside the city, the momentum stabilizes and the plot begins to meander in several unspecified directions without ever quite making it back on the road.

Moreover, Alvin is able to fulfill his deep sense of wonder without so much as a hiccup along the way, and this allows little room for character development. Progress isn't achieved so much as it merely occurs. Alvin's escape from the city despite a thousand million years of prior failings is managed within a couple chapters. His trip to the Seven Suns at the other end of the cosmos is intercut with so few obstacles as to make the experience trivial. Other than more insight into what's "out there", Alvin and his companion return from the stars no different from when they left.

Though the worlds Alvin visits and the assorted entities he meets are extraordinary and lyrically captured in a way only Clarke can, it's not clear how they factor into the story you started out reading. We are briefly introduced to an enigmatic machine race that fell victim to religious indoctrination. An extended section in the middle has Alvin caroming from planet to planet and is essentially a distillate of the planet-hopping feature in Mass Effect. A chance encounter on one such world showcases an ambiguously sized creature that is simultaneously omniscient, telepathic and capable of moving at FTL speeds. Interesting as they are in isolation, there's little working in the background to tie these threads together.

Might Sir Clarke have realized this himself and decided to let the story peter out? At one point he seems to channel this sentiment through his main protagonist:

"When I first left Diaspar, [Alvin] said, "I did not know what I hoped to find. Lys would have satisfied me once—more than satisfied me—yet now everything on Earth seems so small and unimportant. Each discovery I've made has raised bigger questions, and opened up wider horizons. I wonder where it will end..." (p. 190)

I, too, wondered how it would all end and felt let down when the big bang of an ending I craved never came. So much time is spent in rote, context-free exploration, too little time moving the story forward. Equally frustrating is that the many disparate elements of the story are never internally resolved or even satisfactorily explained. What were the fruits of the other fourteen Uniques who came before Alvin; did they accomplish nothing? What was the fate of the waggish Jester? Who was and what became of the "Master", and were the "Great Ones" entirely fictional? The concluding pages are silent on these questions and instead uncork a steady stream of additional mysteries that fail to clarify the muddled story line.

Closing Thoughts

Arthur C. Clarke famously remarked, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." In The City and the Stars, we are treated to a world brimming with a technological vision guaranteed to make even the fussiest of sci-fi fans gush—from virtual reality and AI to interstellar travel and bioengineering. While much of the futurism is still inconceivable today, Clarke was ahead of his time in many ways, particularly with respect to the level of control humans have invested in computers and machines. You may find yourself, as I did, periodically checking the front flap to confirm it was indeed written in the 50s, before the most basic computers existed.

If only Clarke had reined in his potent imagination to focus more on refining the narrative, this volume might be considered a masterpiece of the genre. His panoply of inspirations unfold in rapid-fire fashion—like a series of "and then" moments strung together—with little regard for overall coherence. Too much of the plot is too nebulously described, and Clarke fails to carry the entertainment level of the first half of the book through to the end. With no small irony, it's the point at which humans return to the stars that the story begins to flag. The City and the Stars is still a good place to glimpse Clarke's literary talents that come of age in Rendezvous with Rama and Childhood's End, but the near-biblical prose isn't enough to rescue the disjointed plot, uneven pacing and weak characterization.

The faults notwithstanding, Clarke's interest is in the big ideas, and he gives us something as relevant to ponder today as it was sixty years ago: where are we headed with technology, what do we want from it, and how should we use it?

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Note: This review is republished from my official website.
Profile Image for David (דוד) .
297 reviews143 followers
April 25, 2017
Such a nice written book, this, by Arthur C. Clarke !! The ideas, and their intensity, even the language at several places, used in this book surpasses at least fifteen of his other titles that I have read so far !

Having published this book in 1956 is a great achievement I would say considering the imagination involved that passes a billion years into the future, by not involving simply humanity, but goes as wide as outside of space and time at one moment. This one surpasses everything ... there are just no limits here !!

Involving mystery, adventure, and several times in the story where the reader can be held up in high contemplation to reflect our world as we read.

Some of the ideas dealt with, amongst others, which pushed my thinking were: fear in Man and its possible collective long-term effects; evolution (or devolution) in an isolated civilization; machine-managed civilization vs. a human mind developed living; the capabilities of unique beings born in a social system; importance of truth in history, and how it is distorted by embedding legends and their formation; realizing the essence of the sense of belonging in community living; and several other such thoughtful content.

The story is full of extremely futuristic technology, a few different forms of alien entities, future earth and its landscape, an artificial stellar system, legends and myths, etc.

I did feel the story being dragged a bit somewhere in the middle, but was compensated for it, by its later justified explanations.
This book is a great achievement from the 1950s, and is certainly recommended. :)
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
June 11, 2010
4.0 to 4.5 stars. Another superb novel by one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. One of Clarke's earlier works, this is actually a re-write of [book:Against the Fall of Night|33841 and thus does not read like an early novel. Well written and full of BIG, BIG ideas it is classic Clarke. Set billions of years in the future, this is the story of a stagnant society, disconnected from the rest of the galaxy that, with the help of the main character, rediscovers it's place in the universe. Along with Isaac Asimov, no one writes better about big concepts and big ideas. This book is a true treasure for any fan of Clarke or any fan of "big idea" science fiction. Recommended!!!
Profile Image for Monica.
594 reviews622 followers
December 23, 2017
The City and the Stars has tremendous personal appeal in my universe. This was the first Science Fiction book I can remember reading as a young girl. Science fiction soon became a genre that I enjoyed and Arthur C. Clarke had become a mainstay. I have wanted to reread this book for several years since joining gr to see how the book stands up to the test of time and forming minds.

Clarke is cerebral. In his writings I continue to find him incredibly prescient. At the beginning of the book Clarke talks of "sagas", basically his word for virtual reality or "holodeck" where characters experience adventures without actually being in danger. This was suppose to keep their lives from being banal. I kept thinking MMORG. He made gender equality a non-issue in the future declaring it as normal (then writing a book where female characters are marginalized, but baby steps). The following quote feels to me like a very modern take.
"He ignored the moving way, and kept to the narrow sidewalk—an eccentric thing to do, since he had several miles to travel. But Alvin liked the exercise, for it soothed his mind."

Clarke's imagination lies in the philosophical concepts, he's not much interested in character development or world building or writing style. This particular book is about the journey and the concepts explored are complex really: immortality, faith, nature of mankind, gender equality. His take on immortality was interesting where he had the "tricksters" (human) in the the population to generate a little uncertainty so that days would have differences. By the end of the book Clarke has pronounced some pretty harsh judgements. Here's a taste:
"When beauty is universal, it loses its power to move the heart, and only its absence can produce any emotional effect."
"His expulsion he blamed on vindictive enemies, but the fact was that he suffered from an incurable malady which, it seemed, attacked only homo sapiens among all the intelligent races of the universe. That disease was religious mania."
"When the reality was depressing, men tried to console themselves with myths."
"Faith in one’s own destiny was among the most valuable of the gifts which the gods could bestow upon a man, but Alvin did not know how many it had led to utter disaster."
"they were the creations of a sick culture, a culture that had been afraid of many things. Some of those fears had been based on reality, but others, it now seemed, lay only in the imagination."

I'm still trying to recapture what my 12 or 13 year old mind must have gleaned. I remembered nothing about the book. For some reason I had this vision of a young boy exploring caves in an underground city. Ha! Not even close. But reading it I can see the sense of wonder it generates. I could feel the main character Alvin's sense of restlessness and youth. Alvin's behavior appropriately is very young and naïve.
"Alvin was an explorer, and all explorers are seeking something they have lost. It is seldom that they find it, and more seldom still that the attainment brings them greater happiness than the quest."
He is a hopeful character rather than a cynical one. At one point Alvin mused
"A truly intelligent race is not likely to be unfriendly."
Ha! That would be the opposite of cynical but does bespeak of naiveté. My 12 year old self thought this was wildly imaginative and hopeful. But make no mistake Clarke has passed judgement on mankind and it is not very kind. It's almost reminiscent of Simak in his cynicism.

I would say that the book rates a 3.5 Stars, but Clarke remains a 5 Star author. Some 60 years later than when the book was first published, the visionary still shines through. But this 50+ woman has no idea what was in the mind of that 12 year old girl so many years ago...

3.5 Stars rounded up because it's Clarke

Read on kindle
Profile Image for Scott.
291 reviews302 followers
December 2, 2018
How do you plan to spend the impeding eco-apocalypse?

Personally, I'm looking forward to roaming the toasty-warm desert wastes of Australia, eating rat-on-a-stick and tracking down former politicians to have, uh... conversations about their inaction on climate change.

The reason I ask is that if you read much SF then this is something you've probably thought about. I seem to come across apocalyptic scenarios every few books I read - its a common setup in the genre and speaks to a widespread interest in (or strange acceptance of) our world turning into a Mad Max style dystopia.

So many writers - Ballard, Houllebecq, McCarthy, Atwood, King (the list is endless) have produced work of this type, and Arthur C. Clarke too had a vision of a wasteland Earth. His scenario is, however, a little more optimistic than most, and in The City and the Stars Earth has not been destroyed by human pollution or weaponry- rather it is the steady, temporal hand of millions of years that has worn fertile plains into deserts, dried Earth's oceans and ground once mighty mountain landscapes to nubs.

On this wasted and barren Earth there is a city - Diaspar. The last city. And in this city live the last human beings, people who have redesigned themselves to live a thousand years at a time, and then be reborn millennia later in new bodies.

The residents of Diaspar know that eons ago humanity was forced back to Earth by the near unstoppable force known as 'The Invaders', and that they are the leftovers of what was a once great civilisation. The psychological impact of this war has echoed through the ages and the people of Diaspar fear the outside world and have a not entirely natural aversion to even thinking about leaving their walled city.

Diasparans not only fear the outside, but generally don't even consider it, living lives tied up in the minutae of their complex social lives. (is this an analogy for the coddled lives of developed nation citizens? If the people of Diaspar were obsessed with preventing 'illegals' from migrating to and enjoying their gilded lives it would seem very close to the attitudes of several present day nations)

As a result of this fear, their cycle of rebirth and the very design on their environment the culture of Diaspar is static, remaining unchanged for millions of years, on one hand being laudably stable, on the other oppressively stagnant.

Into this fixed culture comes Alvin, a man known as a 'unique' - a person who has had no prior lives, has no memories of any life but the one he is living. Alvin does not fear the outside. On the contrary, it calls to him, and his need for exploration and discovery both set him apart from his fellows and make him the most important person to have ever existed in his city.

His explorations will change Diaspar beyond recognition, and expose the truth behind humanity's decline.

I loved this setting, and the buildup as the reader follows Alvin on his attempts to get beyond the borders of Diaspar. Clarke had a singular gift for creating wonder and curiosity in the mind of his reader, and The City and The Stars is true to form. The spectre of the invaders, the mystery of what happened to the human empire and the tantalising truth behind the unevolving culture of Diaspar all sucked me along through the narrative, and while it has a 1950s SF feel this book was pure pleasure to read.

It isn't perfect however. The wonder and mystery of the first part of the story is, to my reader's eye, a partly unfulfilled promise.

Towards the end of the story Clarke introduced what to me felt a lot like a deus ex machina, and he explains away the Invaders and what happened to the once great galactic civilization all too quickly for my liking. I was left feeling that this book could have been so much more, and wondering why Clarke rushed to an ending instead of drawing out a fuller and more satisfying conclusion.

Still, The City and the Stars is an enjoyable novel, and while the ending isn't perhaps what you might hope for, the journey to get there is damned compelling.

3.5 Stars
Profile Image for Maria Dobos.
108 reviews44 followers
September 16, 2016
Ceva lipseşte.

În acest Univers se lăsă noaptea. Umbrele se lungeau către un est ce n-avea să mai cunoască alţi zori. Dar altundeva, stelele erau încă tinere şi lumina dimineţii zăbovea; şi într-o bună zi, Omul urma să pornească iarăşi pe drumul străbătut cîndva...
Profile Image for Cybercrone.
1,763 reviews14 followers
January 11, 2021
What a great story. Characters you could be friends with or who could live on your street. Well written.
It's one of those stories that make you wish you were there, joining in on the adventure.
I definitely have to go back over the Clarke list and see what else I missed.
Profile Image for Simon Mcleish.
Author 3 books122 followers
February 6, 2016
Originally published on my blog here in June 2008.

I had the impression that in my teenage years I read pretty much all of Arthur C. Clarke's output to that date. Yet I managed to miss The City and the Stars, one of his best known novels, until I picked up a copy in a secondhand bookshop recently. (I went off Clarke after a while, which explains not picking up on this omission earlier.)

Far in the future, when humanity's galactic empire has risen and fallen, and alien invaders have pushed us back to the Earth alone. Those who remain live in the eternal city of Diaspar, living lives of everlasting leisure, docile and without interest in the universe beyond the city walls. After a thousand or so years of life, the citizens return their "patterns" to the computer banks while others come back to life from these same memory stores. Diaspar has remained essentially unchanging for millennia, but then Alvin, the central character of The City and the Stars, comes along. Alvin is a Unique, a person who has never before been activated, and he is different from all the other people in Diaspar. He finds that he needs ot know what the outside is like, and eventually finds a way to leave the city.

The story is effectively a polemic for two of Clarke's philosophical positions: that what makes us human is our curiousity about the world, and that organised religious belief holds back our ability to understand the universe. To Clarke, these ideas are related, as he believed that the certainties of faith extinguish the desire to find out. In The City and the Stars, Alvin's quest to escape the city is a version of Joseph Campbell's hero's journey, complete with guru figure in the form of the "jester" appointed to shake Diaspar's complacency through practical joking. But Alvin is contrasted so strongly with the other citizens that the hidden agenda becomes blatant, and the story less interesting: it seems unlikely that he would ever have been able to live in the city for as long as he does.

When Clarke died recently, one of the pieces I read about him was by Michael Moorcock, not really an author with whom he might be expected to have had much in common, even if they were both writers in the same genre. However, that they knew each other in Moorcock's early days as a professional writer in London appears not to be the only link between them, for there seem to be definite connections between The City and the Stars and one of Moorcock's best known series, The Dancers at the End of Time, which is also one of my favourites from the whole science fiction genre. Moorcock's trilogy is better, as far as I am concerned, for several reasons. (I should point out that Moorcock says he was unfamiliar with most of Clarke's writing, so may well not have read The City and the Stars.) The decadence it portrays is more convincing than that of the dwellers in Diaspar. Moorcock's characters party desperately to stave off world weary boredom worthy of Huysmans, while the inhabitants of Diaspar are far more conservatively portrayed, as effete artists as opposed to the vigorous Alvin. Given the resources at their control, the actions of the Diasparans are really too rooted in the twentieth century: a little virtual reality on top of conventional art. This is, to me, a major failure of the imagination at the centre of the book when compared to Moorcock's baroque creations. Clarke's attitude to sexuality also causes problems, though of course the limitations placed on genre authors in the fifties were much stricter than those faced almost twenty years later by Moorcock; a book as explicit as The Dancers at the End of Time would never have been published. But even so, prudishness is taken to an extreme. There are just two or three minor female characters, and The City and the Stars is even more male dominated and asexual than The Lord of the Rings, another novel where almost all the significant relationships are about male companionship. Women are pretty obviously excluded from the heroics of scientific discovery about the universe. Moorcock is able to have a more egalitarian background, in which lust (if not love) is commonplace. Moorcock also introduces an extra theme with time travel. But the most important difference is that Moorcock's writing has a sense of humour, a concept which is alien to the earnestness of much fifties science fiction.

The worst fault of The City and the Stars is that the second half of the book, when Alvin escapes the city, is less interesting than the beginning. The thesis that curiousity about the universe is what makes us human, and Clarke's consequent need to make the scientific endeavour heroic, should mean that Alvin's exploration of the universe is made really gripping. Yet the puzzle of how to get out of Diaspar is much more interesting, and told in such a way that it is clear that Clarke found it more interesting himself. Alvin's trip is hackneyed space exploration from the pulp era, complete with outlandish monsters, and would have been old fashioned even in 1956, particularly as it isn't accompanied by character development: Alvin and his companion travel across the galaxy, yet remain just the same as they did before they set out.

The parallels with on of my favourite books make me sure I have not read The City and the Stars before, because the similarities are such that I am convinced that I would remember it. It's not, to my mind, one of Clarke's best, particularly given the second half. What it does remind me is why I had no particular urge to return to Clarke after binging on his stories in the early eighties.
Profile Image for Anne.
403 reviews76 followers
February 27, 2022
” Each discovery I’ve made has raised bigger questions, and opened up wider horizons. I wonder where it will end…”

The City and the Stars is a 1956 Golden Age science fiction novel by a British author whose essays, novels and screen plays distinguished the genre and won him awards.

Diaspar, a planned, controlled, subterranean, self-contained community, was founded on a deep-seated fear of the Invaders and had survived this way on Earth for billions of years. People were no longer born here, they walked out of the Hall of Creation formed like adults but were under the guidance of parental guardians for the first twenty years of life. Alvin (20) was different than the rest of the ten million human beings in Diaspar. “He was always wanting to go outside, both in reality and in dream. Yet to everyone in Diaspar, ‘outside’ was a nightmare that they could not face.” Being Unique, Alvin did not have the genetic trait to fear going outside. There were many things that Alvin was curious about and this drive for knowledge was force behind this story.

Not until Alvin met key characters did, he begin to find answers. Khedron had an uncommon purpose in Diaspar as the Jester; His job was to create mild havoc in an otherwise crimefree utopia. This job granted Jester access to areas Alvin needed to begin his quest. Once Alvin meets a new friend, Hilvar, his way of life being so different, it fuels Alvin’s motivation to challenge the opposition. Together the friends discover a robot that will unlock a pathway where their findings will alter everyone’s way of life.

This summary is so minimal, yet I don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away the world building and plot points that I feel are the strength of the book. It is understandable why this book was an influencer of the genre; and even as a sci-fi novice, I can relate its concepts to contemporary shows I have seen. For instance, in the Marvel television show Agents of Shield, the last several seasons especially, share elements with this book.

The story had more of a philosophical viewpoint, asking the important questions like how you got here or what your purpose is. It was soft on technology and science about how things in the story worked. Being a science and technology fan, I felt the book left my curiosity hanging in that aspect. And I had a tough time imagining a billion years in the future based on our knowledge of a billion years in the past. Also, I could not tell you how much time past within the story from the beginning of Alvin’s quest to the end of the book. It may have been months, years, or decades. The biggest issue I had with the book was its initial young adult feel that was dropped after the first 20%. Reading this part of the book seemed liked it took forever (and I kept falling asleep lol). I did not understand the purpose of these early characters as they did not impact the story overall, and only one of the characters was briefly mentioned again.

The City and the Stars is part coming-of-age, part adventure, and seeks to answer the bigger questions about humanity. Recommended for readers who enjoy sci-fi not laden with science and technology details.

Profile Image for Stuart.
718 reviews268 followers
April 25, 2015
The City and The Stars: Restless in a perfect future city
(Also posted at Fantasy Literature)
This a rewrite of his first book Against the Fall of Night (first published in 1948 in Startling Stories). There are plenty of adherents of the original version, but the revised version is pretty good too. As one of his earlier classic tales, this one features many familiar genre tropes: A far-future city called Diaspar, where technology is so sophisticated it seems like magic, a young (well not exactly, but close enough) protagonist who curiosity is so strong it overcomes the fear of the outside that all the other inhabitants share, and a gradually expanding series of discoveries by our hero Alvin (actually, would anyone really have a name that is shared by an animated chipmunk, one BILLION years in the future???) as he strives to discover the reality of his world, and the larger universe around him.

Arthur C. Clarke’s specialty is “sense of wonder”, and he does a pretty good job here, gradually giving us the bigger picture, and expanding his scope to the larger universe, with his protagonist always driven by the desire to know more and refusing to settle for a comfortable existence. The writing isn’t particular eloquent and the characters are fairly flat, but hey, this is not China Mieville or Gene Wolfe we’re talking about. So if you’re willing to accept that, you can certainly enjoy the story.

As I’ve said before, Arthur C. Clarke owes an enormous debt to another British pioneer of science fiction, Olaf Stapledon, who wrote on as grand a scale as any SF writer ever has, even including more recent writers like Vernor Vinge, Alasdair Reynolds, and Peter Hamilton. In fact, I think Stapledon deserves much more credit than he has received (you gotta read First and Last Men, Star Maker if you consider yourself a serious SF fan), and the ending of City and the Stars was actually a bit of a letdown for me.

I’ll close this review with a couple images that basically sum up the story:



Profile Image for Dalibor Dado Ivanovic.
355 reviews22 followers
April 3, 2017
Zbog ovakvih sam knjiga nekada davno zavolio sf...nekada sam ju citao u nekoj kracoj formi i bila mi je isto dobra ali sad me bas pravo obgrlila. Citajuci knjigu, prolazilo mi je kroz glavu u kako sjebanom vremenu sad zivimo i kako se nekada vjerovalo u Covjeka, i onako pravo te deprimira, al eto mozda je zato sf ovdje, da i dalje vjerujemo u Covjeka...
Profile Image for Mohsen M.B.
226 reviews31 followers
May 5, 2017
خیلی داستان جالب و درگیرکننده‌ای داشت، نویسنده چنان فضای پیچیده‌ای رو خلق کرده که مدتی طول میکشه تا فضاسازی کامل بشه اما همین که میایید به محیط عادت کنید با تجربه‌ی دنیایی متفاوت رو به رو می‌شید و فرایند تطبیق از سر گرفته میشه
به نظرم زیبایی این کار در به تصویر کشیدن حالات انسانی و ویژگی‌های بدیهی‌اش است که در محیطی متفاوت دگرگون شده ومخاطب با خوندنشون به فکر فرو میره. دوست داشتم به این اثر پنج ستاره بدم اما پیچیدگی بیش از حد بعضی قسمت‌های داستان کمی از جذابیتش کاست؛ شاید دفعه‌ی بعدی که خوندمش نظرم عوض شد
فقط کاش ناشر یه کم زحمت میکشید و اشتباهات تایپی کمتری در این اثر به چشم می‌خورد و مسئله‌ی دیگه‌ اینکه احساس کردم بیش از حد لزوم سعی شده از کلمات ثقیل استفاده بشه، مثلا متنفذ به جای بانفوذ! چرا ؟ نمونه‌های دیگری هم بود که الان به یاد ندارم
پ.ن: خدا میدونه چقدر دلم برای علمی‌تخیلی تنگ شده بود
Profile Image for Leo Robertson.
Author 38 books436 followers
August 4, 2015
Clarke uses the classic A-B-A storytelling format for two different cities, A and B. A- ennui. B- learning!. A again- add learning to ennui equals stuff!! We see this often in literature. Rude Vile Pigs by Leo X. Robertson is another shining example.

So good that I'll let him off with telling me his protagonist's feelings like EVERY TIME or ending chapters with stuff like "She just made a promise she couldn't keep", like, okay- are you telling me the twist in the coming chapters is that she doesn't keep the promise? Just twist it later, mate! Don't tell me you're gonna!

They should really make this into a film. And I mean properly- they shouldn't steal from this and others and call it Interstellar. MUUUUURRRPPHHH (omg guys, this film is super serious. Take it super seriously. Like, all humanity seriously. So serious. Guys, don't joke about Interstellar. It's really, really, seriously serious. Seriously. Do you think that, like Looper, it was partially funded by the Chinese and that's why the end of humanity was, um "crop blight" (what the fuck) and not global warming? Okay clearly it was funded by someone. For the love of god, don't make the thing in your film everyone's going to see the actual pressing global issue! Don't educate them ffs- make it something lame, I beg you!!) Because later on some descriptions would be awe-inspiring on the big screen. Don't you think the latest sci-fi films have been fucking lazy? This book is from the 50s and has more ideas than 50+ Insterstellars and Ex Machinas. It's true that FILMS haven't done what those films did yet (or have they? I bet they have, even!), but the stories they told were told better in novels 60+ years old! Don't let them get away with it: they're not contributing anything to speculative fiction! I know I just asked for this novel to be made into a film, but then you're outright stating that this book was written when it was written- you're not claiming to have contributed anything new. It's just like all these comic book films too: their success is testament to just how many idiots don't fucking read. No such idiot is reading this text, though, so good for you. And hey! You! Don't you think there are so many fucking idiots about? I mean, Jesus!

An aside (and not that Clarke did this here but) don't you hate it when novelists write films? JANUARY, 2006- THE WHITE HOUSE (uuummm this is a page. Not a screen. Just put me there you lazy hack bastard.) pew pew pew! They're shooting each other! Um, I don't care. These are just words. Do an emotion or two instead.
Profile Image for StefanP.
163 reviews75 followers
March 24, 2019

Ljubav bez umjetnosti predstavlja samo puko utaživanje želje, u umjetnosti se ne može uživati ako joj se ne priđe s ljubavlju.

Ovom knjigom Klark potkrepljuje ono što je iznjeo u Kraj dijetinjstva koja objavljena tri godine prije ove. U svom ne tako skromnom pogledu Klark pokušava da ilustruje jedan grad koji bez premca treba da predstavlja personifikaciju raja na zemlji. Diaspar je taj raj. On predstavlja svijet za sebe. To je mjesto vječnog dana gdje se noć javlja samo u obližnjem parku. Što može predstavljati divan kontrast istovremenosti dana i noći. Tako čovjek u Diasparu ne zna za san. Čak i u trenutku smrti ljudi Diaspara bivaju utisnuti u zidove čekajući svoje konačno uskrsnuće u novom životu. Zbog toga se dosta izgubilo u biološkoj reprodukciji stanovništva gdje fertilitet ni ne postoji. Takav grad bazira se na Bankama Sijećanja (računari) i ukoliko se one unište čitav grad pada kao kula od karata. Jer one pružaju mrežu mitova koje treba da omoguće život u Diasparu. Naime, Klarkovo potkrepljivanje ogleda se u tome da koliko god bila idealna pozicija za život, sa sve njemu pruženim pogodnostima koje svijet omogućuje, duh uvijek želi da istražuje, a srce i dalje čezne. Tako Alvinova radoznalost kreće na Sedam Sunaca van zidina Diaspara u potragu za novim svijetovima.

Ono što karakteriše Grad i zvijezde jeste bajka i avantura potpomognuta tehnološkim unapređenjem. Klark u ovoj knjizi ništa ne otkriva. Već štaviše kako se kraj priče bliži postaje sve zamršenije, pojedine karakterizacije nimalo nisu dobile prostora. Što možda jedino predstavlja manu knjige. Svjedno, Klark je ovdje pokazao jezgrovitu maštu, ljepotu naracije i predstavio ljudsko biće kao homo viator.
Profile Image for Claudia.
954 reviews535 followers
August 12, 2016
To be honest, I am a little disappointed. Mr. Clarke’s works usually are brimming with ideas, which here were not the case, unfortunately. It felt like a cartoon for children – the way characters are shaped, the environment, the robots, the city, the universe…

Maybe I did not get the message right; maybe this is how it was supposed to be – all the above to be just a blurred background for what the author wanted to transmit us: in isolation and without progress we regress and disappear but also too much progress means losing identity. To summarize, conservatism is good but with progressive influences is way better.

Well, the thing is the story left me cold… I did not get any emotion whatsoever reading it. Nor do I consider it wasted time. It was just a book which for me didn’t bring anything new.
Later edit about the lack of ideas: one of my GR friends pointed out to me that “it has, among many others, the first ever depiction of a virtual reality and this in 1948” and he is right. Because this novel (appeared in 1956) is an extended version of a novella published in 1948. And yes, for those years it’s really visionary. Only on GR it was written that it was first published in 1987 and I thought that for those years didn’t seem to bring anything new.

So, taken into consideration when it was written, yes, it does have a lot of innovative ideas. However, my feelings on it remain the same. I guess that’s because some books must be read at a certain point in life and especially in sci-fi, when recent ones are full of technological wonders, it is hard to be amazed now by a work written more than 50 years ago.
Profile Image for Pat the Book Goblin .
423 reviews124 followers
June 13, 2019
Classic 50s Sci-fi at its best! The City and the Stars is considered Clarke’s best novel and I agree. I loved this book!

The fact The City and the Stars takes place a billion years into the future completely grabbed my attention! What would be going on a billion years into the future? Well…nothing I expected! Earth is a desert wasteland except for the super technologically advanced city of Diaspar. The city was encased inside a protective dome, which kept the city cool and kept its citizens protected from the outside elements—even from viewing the stars... The city was run by a mother-brain-like-entity called the Central Computer, which organized all human life in Diaspar. Humanity found immortality in something called memory banks. This reminded me of the vampires in Underworld who were frozen and took turns coming back. Everyone had a cycle in which they would eventually be awakened and begin life anew with the memories of their previous existence.

Alvin, the main character, is a Unique. This means that he was the first human being born in over a few million years. Alvin’s “uniqueness” prompts him to seek life outside the city limits.

This book was just as unique as Alvin and full of adventure. I love Clarke’s work but this book is his best in every way. I loved how the story progressed and how the city of Diaspar was set up. This was a great story and I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Ignacio.
1,067 reviews201 followers
March 19, 2020
Llegar a este libro con 45 tacos y bastantes, muchas, imaginarias a las espaldas no son las mejores condiciones para leerlo. Más cuando no aprecias a Clarke como escritor de novelas porque sobre todo tienes en el recuerdo las peores. Tampoco es que las primeras páginas me hayan ablandado la mirada. En las correrías del joven Alvin por Diaspar no podía dejar de ver una versión juvenil de Titus Groan pasada a fuego por el rotoscopio. Sin embargo, en cuanto el chaval abandona la ciudad y empieza a ver mundo, la maquinaria de la evocación ha hecho efecto en mi y me ha ido ganando hasta tenerme pegado a sus últimas 100 páginas. No como Hacedor de estrellas, que eso son las grandes ligas (del recuerdo, claro), pero sí lo suficiente para hacerse un hueco en mi corazoncito. La historia del futuro que plantea, esa vista hacia atrás desde dentro de mil millones de años, estimula la imaginación y el vértigo... siempre que puedas sobrellevar sus personajes de aglomerado y sus diálogos de melamina.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,080 reviews108 followers
December 10, 2021
This is an early example of far future SF by one of the Grandmasters, Arthur C. Clarke. The novel, published in 1956 is a remake of his early (but not his first published book as erroneously stated in several sources, the first being Prelude to Space, 1951) novella (from 1948) Against the Fall of Night. I read it as a part of monthly reading for December 2021 at The Evolution of Science Fiction group.

The story starts in the last city on Earth, named Diaspar, with remaining a planet-wide desert. Diaspar is inhabited by long living, but not eternal humans, who can upload their memories (and conscious) to be implanted millennia later into their clones. The protagonist, who starts as a young boy, Alvin, is a unique one, born without earlier memories. And this is not his only difference – unlike everyone else, he wants to know what is behind the city. Everyone else is happy to remain within, as they did for the last billion (book usually uses thousand million) years, after the earlier galaxy-wide human empire almost lost a fight against ‘invaders’ about which almost nothing is known.

Alvin gets his dream to get outside realized and his quest brings a lot of changes as well as the memory of the past.

The book intentionally is written in a fantasy-like style, reminiscent a bit of Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth. Some of the tech like an immersing virtual reality called sagas or self-repairing triple replicate hardware and some other concepts look quite modern. The author also tried to be progressive in a social change, stressing equality between genders, but then sometimes falling in conformity with his period (e.g. men-only councils or gendered roles like nursing younger kids mentioned only with mothers). However, he definitely tried and overall the story is a success, a great example of a SF book that younger readers may find interesting.
Profile Image for Nikola Jankovic.
550 reviews109 followers
January 13, 2021
Kad razmišljamo o antičkom Egiptu, otprilike su nam isto i Kleopatra i Keops. Tu su negde, živeli u isto vreme, gradili piramide, zavijali mrtve u mumije. Ali kad bolje razmisliš, Kleopatra je vremenski bliža nama nego graditeljima piramida. Za nju su Keops i Sneferu bili davna prošlost.

Ovako nas vide stanovnici Dijaspara, grada milijardu godina u budućnosti. To jeste mnogo, ali vreme kad je čovek izmislio točak ne bi trebalo da je baš toliko blizu godinama kad smo poleteli u svemir. Ali tako je kako je, kajak i atomsko doba u jednom trenu, svi smo mi zora civilizacije. Dijaspar je izgrađen u vreme kad su došli osvajači iz svemira i naterali ljude u ovo poslednje utočište. Grad je postavljen i sve što se promenilo u njemu, promenilo se u prvih 1.000 godina, postavljeni su zidovi i krov i onda je stalo.

Ne samo da se ne menja grad, ne menja se ni život u njemu. Nema spavanja, nema prirodne reprodukcije, nema ni smrti. Ali nema ni smelosti - ljudi žive ispod tog staklenog zvona i ne pada im na pamet da izlaze. Zašto bi izlazili? Ko zna šta je napolju, a ovo je raj na Zemlji. Dijaspar je kao Platonova pećina (Država), svi njeni stanovnici posmatraju senke na zidovima, misle da je to to - barem dok se ne pojavi pojedinac koji želi da izađe i da im kaže: "Ljudi, nije ovo sve, ima sveta i izvan pećine, možda nešto propuštamo."

Ovo je sve otprilike uvod, razjašnjava se kroz priču dosta stvari, ima i finih ideja o razvoju i kraju razvoja civilizacije, putovanju i prestanku putovanja u svemir, vanzemaljskoj inteligenciji... Moj prvi problem je - milijarda godina je baš mnogo. Koliko se civilizacija promenila u prethodnih 200 godina, da li je realno da iko uopšte piše o životu za milijardu? Klark je tu napravio foru, život se ne menja, pa ni svet, ali opet... Drugo, sva ta priča je napisana pomalo dosadno. Ne znam kako da se suočim s tim problemom naučne fantastike - nekad sam uživao u idejama, u pričama i u načinu kako su napisane. Sad čitam Ilijadu, gde me oduševe dva reda kad Ahilej psuje Agamemnona. Stanem da ih pročitam nekoliko puta. Uhvatim se da to radim otvorenih ustiju. A onda se vratim na Klarka, gde... Ništa.

Da li je problem u čitaocu?
June 21, 2021
Postoji samo jedan grad koji je naseljen ljudima i zove se Dijaspar. Sve ostale gradove na Zemlji uništili su Osvajači vekovima unazad. Od tada je nauka dosta napredovala. Životni vek je produžen na hiljadu godina, starenje se odvija sporo, a iskorenjena je i potreba za spavanjem. Čovek je konačno pronašao lek za "besmrtnost", ali taj pronalazak ipak nije uspeo da usreći svaku osobu. Momak po imenu Alvin je znatiželjan da proviri izvan zidina Dijaspara i da otkrije šta se nalazi sa druge strane. Međutim, članovi veća i njegovi prijatelji se ne slažu sa njegovom odlukom i uporno pokušavaju da ga odvrate od ludih snova. Uprkos njihovom suprotstavljanju, Alvin pronalazi način da napusti grad i ubrzo dolazi do saznanja da su stanovnici Dijaspara vekovima živeli u zabludi. Pronalazi još jedan grad po imenu Lis u kome su ljudi sličniji svojim precima, prvenstveno zbog životnog veka koji je ostao nepromenjen. To neće utoliti Alvinovu glad za odgovorima, već će dobiti još veću motivaciju da nastavi istraživanje koje će ga odvesti daleko.
Ovo je knjiga gde nema previše akcije, ali zbog toga ništa manje nije zanimljiva. Priča je usmerena na borbu pojedinca koji se izdvaja od mase ograničenih ljudi koji ne žele da rizikuju tako što će napustiti svoje dvorište i krenuti u potragu za odgovorima, nego su umesto toga izabrali sigurnost u depresivnom gradu gde se sve beskrajno vrti u krug. Klark mi je sjajnim opisima Dijaspara stvorio osećaj klaustrofobije i potištenosti, jer su me stanovnici grada uznemirili svojim stavovima. Shvatio sam da se ne razlikuju puno od stanovnika današnjih gradova kojima smetaju oni ljudi koji su drugačiji i žele promene. Kao i u njegovoj knjizi "Kraj detinjstva" i ovde ima dosta filozofije i religije, što ovu priču izdvaja od onih avantura koje služe za odmaranje mozga, pa je neophodno da se maksimalno koncentrišete dok budete čitali, kako biste i vi poput glavnog junaka pronašli skrivene odgovore koji se kriju unutar korica.
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