Retro SF Thoughts : City by Clifford D. Simak

Retro Science Fiction and Fantasy has been a genre I’ve avoided since my teens. I read buckets of it as a young kid, it was all that was available to me in the library and so naturally I ate it like candy at the time. As I got older I got into the groove of wanting what I thought I should ‘have to have’ to make a story good – less said on that the better. I’ve come back around to reading it and appreciating it as no story is perfect and some of these reads are really fun. 

     City is one of those I somehow didn’t pick up, but had I seen the old cover that I stumbled on as an adult I most certainly would have. It’s structured as a group of scholars in the future, possibly in a different dimension, studying our past and how it ties into their past. They’re looking at the recorded stories they have and between each ‘myth’ they briefly talk about the validity of it and the common theories around it. The fun part is, the scholars are Dogs.

     Within these stories we see Man (which Dogs are not entirely sure really existed, in fact most don’t think they did) slowly move away from the idea of the City as a place to live, move into space, and eventually uplift dogs. Over the course of the eight stories (and one ‘Epilog’) we see Mankind slowly fade, and what is left is Dog, Robot, and one other which I won’t reveal (it managed to catch me by surprise). There as a slightly melancholy air to tales. They detail the fall of the human race of course, but it’s also not entirely a grim story. At least for me I found it more interesting as civilization continues through Dog. It also takes apart what Man’s goals were, what drove them and if you take it away what happens. There is also question posed to the reader of, since Dog is different from Man as it’s goals and culture does that mean that it’s superior? What is it that made mankind the ‘better’ race. 

      There is a lot more to it. The recurring character of Jenkins, the single family whose members over the years are the ones who facilitate the eventual disappearance of Man, and the idea of ‘Home’ explored through a single location. I really enjoyed it. It had it’s dated moments but surprisingly they were few and far between. If you’re interested at all in a classic author and story I say this is a great one to pick up. I really enjoyed it.

“Through telling and retelling, these words and phrases have become accepted…But there is no way of knowing whether or not this arbitrary values even approximate the original meaning of the words.”

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