ARTHUR C. CLARKE – The City and the Stars. Frederick Muller Ltd, UK, hardcover, 1956. Harcourt, Brace & Co, US, hardcover, 1956. Signet S1464, US, paperback, December 1957. Collected in From the Ocean, from the Stars (Harcourt, Brace & World, US, hardcover, 1961). Note: This novel is a revised and extended version of Against the Fall of Night (first published in Startling Stories, November 1948; then in book form from Gnome Press, hardcover, 1953).

   The city of Diaspar, a tremendous achievement of social engineering, stood isolated from the world for billions of years. Machines maintained mankind in a permanent environment, protected from their fears of invaders.

   Alvin, a Unique, the first child to be born in ten billion of those years, was designed for the welfare of the race and to return humanity to its place in the universe. He leaves the city for the community of Lys, and then to the stars. There he finds a mental being once created by man, and which has memories that will free Earth from the myths and legends of the past.

   The story has as a basic flaw the lack of any suspense, for in spite of the quite poetic style, there is little to persuade the reader to keep turning the pages. It is not a struggle to read, but a matter of indifference. One scene is rather sappy, that of Alvin’s first view of Lys, but the feeling of loneliness and smallness when he reaches the stars is overwhelming. Toward the end there is a most appropriate description of what makes an explorer.

Rating: 3½ stars.

– September 1967