The City and the Stars
"Like a glowing jewel, the city lay upon the breast of the desert. Once it had known change and alteration, but now Time passed it by. Night and day fled across the desert's face, but in the streets of Diaspar it was always afternoon . . ."
This is a classic science fiction novel from one of the masters. Arthur C. Clarke has written more popular sf novels (see 2001: A Space Odyssey), but many including myself consider this novel from 1953 his best. There is a clarity of style and a sense of wonder about how and why the Earth has begun to decline in spite of the beauty and brilliance of the City where people live their lives. Perhaps it is the simplicity and fairy-tale like setting that makes it one of my favorites, since I read fairy tales at an early age before I discovered science fiction.
The story tells of Diaspar, the last city on Earth and one which has endured for a thousand million years. The citizens, while earthlings, are in many ways alien when compared to contemporary humans. The culture is stultifying and the urge to explore and discover new worlds or even to leave Diaspar has disappeared long ago. The legends tell of terrible invaders from beyond who destroyed the galactic empire once ruled by Earth and banished humans to this city. However, into this world, where humans are made and not born, a new man, Alvin, is born. He is the hero of the story and with his "newness" comes an inner urge to leave the city and explore. How he deals with this urge, his journey and the results of his decisions make this sf story a bold, exciting and interesting read. Like other sf novels that I have enjoyed the story ends on a hopeful note:
"Elsewhere the stars were still young and the light of morning lingered; and along the path he once had followed, Man would one day go again."
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