The City and the Stars: Brief Book Review

“Like a glowing jewel, the city lay upon the breast of the desert.”

Film allows us to visualise vast alien landscapes that defy comprehension. To imagine what the city of the gods might look like, and what it would look like to burn that city down.

Asgard, the city of the gods, engulfed in a hailstorm of fire in Thor: Ragnarok

We’re becoming so desensitised to cinematic spectacle that it’s remarkable when a book, a non-visual medium, makes you sit back and go ‘wow’.

The City and the Stars presents more other-worldly wonder than 10 on-screen Asgards. Set one thousand, million years in the future, Arthur C. Clarke presents a world where our sci-fi future is ancient history. Human kind has conquered the stars and ruled the galaxy, only to be been beaten back into eternal retirement within a domed city that never changes.

This perfect city of Diaspar peers so far into the future so as to shrug off the chains of contemporary science fiction. Whereas near-future space adventures bear the endless scrutiny of science boffins judging for ‘accuracy’, one billion years is too far for anyone to project. In Diasapr, technology, society and what it means to be human is abstracted to the nth degree, leaving you to wander around the city with eyes agog.

The City and the Stars joins the ranks of Asimov’s Foundations and Huxley’s Brave New World as top tier 20th Century science-fiction that has only ripened with age.