Free ePUB Cities in FlightAuthor James Blish – Wildlives.co
Big, swooping ideas, poorly realised and poorly written After following these characters for, in many cases, several hundred years of life, I still didn t care whether they were happy or hurt, whether they lived or died The women in particular are very thinly drawn, limited mostly to a scant physical description always judgmental she s pretty or she s not, and if she s not, then we won t see her again.The pacing in places especially book three, where this may be due to the book being cobbled together from short stories is appalling, with pages being given to a half hour episode, then decades being glossed over in the next two paragraphs, without a section break I found this very jarring.There are certain scenes in this volume technically comprising four separate books which are breathtaking, and would give any recent Hollywood sci fi blockbuster a run for its money Sadly these are largely drowned out by the noise that is the interminable remainder of the book. Oh man, if I had known from the beginning just how literally this title, Cities in Flight, was meant I took it to feature the word flight in the sense of fleeing pursuit, rather than maneuvering through air or space I would have attacked this book a lot sooner That s one of the disadvantages of scooping up a whole lot of ebook titles at once if you don t examine the cover art, you re just going on author and title unless you take the trouble to look up the blurb And the author Cities in Flight is actually an omnibus edition of four novels Blish published in the 1950s They Shall Have Stars, A Life for the Stars, Earthman Come Home, and The Triumph of Time I could have read them discretely as I often do with such collections, but I found the central conceit of these stories that a pair of technologies developed in the early 21st century allowed entire Earth cities like New York and Los Angeles and Pittsburgh and Scranton to lift themselves bodily, buildings, subways and all, from the planet s surface and go into space as giant spaceships so compelling that I just kept right on going after the first novel, which detailed the development of the twin technologies, a gravity defying harnessing field called the spindizzy and anti aging drugs, that would allow this weird feat to be possible Rather than just function as an elaborate prologue to the real narrative of the spacefaring cities, though, They Shall Have Stars is a great novel all on its own, as I ll get to in a bit.But first, I want to share this cool fan made video by Charlie McCullough Just because it sells the concept so marvelously, and is cool in its own right Cities In Flight from Charlie McCulloch on Vimeo.But so anyway, the novels These span from the political budgetary machinations that made the spacefaring Okie cities possible, to a tale of a young man kidnapped by the departing city of Scranton, Pennsylvania who later rises, out in the galaxy, to become a man of some importance after he is traded off as useless to New York, NY, to the story of the mayor of New York s thousand year reign and the tribulations faced by a city whose motto Mow your lawn, lady encapsulates its willingness to do any crappy job, anywhere in the universe, in a universe whose economy is collapsing, to that same city s final establishment as actually being the center of the universe that many of us assume New Yorkers think it to be anyway Heh.So, this one has a lot in common with Olaf Stapledon s Last and First Men, except its eons of time are spanned by a single generation of essentially immortal human beings, which means it has characters of a kind, but don t go looking here for people you ll love or hate or feel like you know Blish is interested in charting a vast future history, just as Stapledon was he just chose to give it a slightly human scale for the benefit of his readers So Senator Bliss Wagoner s story of secret research projects and financial shenanigans bleeds into Chris DeFord s rise to prominence bleeds into John Amalfi s tribulations at the helm of the city so nice they named it twice bleeds into Amalfi and a bunch of pseudo cosmologists doing pseudo cosmology until the reader s face melts They could just as easily all be the same guy Why they re not is anybody s guess But that s okay What these novels lack in character they make up for in grandiosity, imagination and occasional goofiness as well as the odd and I do mean odd moral dilemma of a kind that could only occur when big industrial cities are out in the universe doing odd jobs, planet by planet, solar system by solar system.And hey, if you re going to do science fiction, might as well really freaking do science fiction, right I have mostly known Mr Blish as the constructor of novelizations of episodes of Star Trek original series He did this very competently, no complaints, but since the reader already knew the story from having seen it enacted by Shatner and Nimoy et al, his skill and imagination were eclipsed by memories of Shatner and Nimoy et al At least they were for me But then there was Spock Must Die And Spock s Must Die was than a bit brilliant, and it was on the strength of this and the inclusion of two Blish works in the SF Masterworks series that made me want to read the man s own work Doctor Who fans will be hopping up and down and screaming about The Beast Below, and surely that episode owes a lot to these novels No starwhales, though. I first read these books longer ago that I usually admit to being alive I think they had a profound influence on me Having said that, and having reread them recently I have to say they are really bad in places Characters are cardboard stereotypes for the most part and the story really betrays that it was written as magazine serials so things pop up that really ought to have been mentioned earlier.So what s good about them Well this is hard science fiction You get formulae to describe the physics and the organic chemistry It isn t a text book and the oft mentioned Blackett Dirac equation that describes how the spindizzy space drive works is simply wrong But it almost could be right Lots of the science is very convincing But this is also the first only SF book I ever read that considers economics as well as science Blish has come up with a whole society of space faring cities and how they would work He misses a lot of stuff, but remember he was writing for a magazine And how many SF writers even think about serious navigation issues when crossing the galaxy at many times light speed Then there s the philosophy I still quote stuff from the last book in the series not that anyone listens.And finally there s the timeline Blish has mapped out 2000 years of future history This is reminiscent of Tolkien, although it s the future not the past It starts in the not too distant future and assumes the cold war situation in the 60s doesn t improve.I can t resist mentioning the bridge on Jupiter A vast structure made of ice built by people stationed on Jupiter s moons by remote control They wear virtual reality helmets that give them control over the construction machines He wrote this stuff way back in the 60s. This sucker is actually four novels collected into a single volume The collection starts with They Shall Have Stars The year is 2013 and humanity is out among the solar system while, back on Earth, a quiet struggle is going on between the West and the Soviets It s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the two, however, as the Western governments seek to impose and control on their populace Amidst this all is a scheme of Alaskan senator Bliss Wagoner, which is playing out in a lab on Earth and a gigantic construction project in the atmosphere of Jupiter They Shall Have Stars was entertaining enough The 1957 story seemed dated in many ways, but in others it seemed eerily prescient A Life for the Stars is the second tale in the collection, set centuries after the first Humanity has discovered the gravitronpolarity generator, or spindizzy and over the years, first factories, then entire cities have used this gravity cancelling device to leave Earth and propel themselves through interstellar space Chris deFord gets press ganged onto the departing city of Scranton and begins a new life among the stars Story 3, Earthman Come Home, is the first and best of the tales to have been written It s the saga of the city of New York, an okie city travelling the stars and looking for work Mayor John Amalfi and City Manager Mark Hazelton guide the city through a series of adventures culminating in a well, that would be telling, wouldn t it The Triumph of Time closes out the volume Mayor Amalfi comes out of retirement to face a final challenge, one that will have significance for the entire universe It was the least satisfying of the four stories Overall, the book is good, classic science fiction The concept of space faring cities is intriguing, though it failed to truly grab hold of my imagination But it was enough to carry me through dozens of lunch breaks, so I can t really complain. Originally Published In Four Volumes Nearly Fifty Years Ago, Cities In Flight Brings Together The Famed Okie Novels Of Science Fiction Master James Blish Named After The Migrant Workers Of America S Dust Bowl, These Novels Convey Blish S History Of The Future, A Brilliant And Bleak Look At A World Where Cities Roam The Galaxy Looking For Work And A Sustainable Way Of LifeIn The First Novel, They Shall Have Stars, Man Has Thoroughly Explored The Solar System, Yet The Dream Of Going Even Further Seems To Have Died In All But One Man His Battle To Realize His Dream Results In Two Momentous Discoveries Anti Gravity And The Secret Of Immortality In A Life For The Stars, It Is Centuries Later And Anti Gravity Generations Have Enabled Whole Cities To Lift Off The Surface Of The Earth To Become Galactic Wanderers In Earthman, Come Home, The Nomadic Cities Revert To Barbarism And Marauding Rogue Cities Begin To Pose A Threat To All Civilized Worlds In The Final Novel, The Triumph Of Time, History Repeats Itself As The Cities Once Again Journey Back In To Space Making A Terrifying Discovery Which Could Destroy The Entire Universe A Serious And Haunting Vision Of Our World And Its Limits, Cities In Flight Marks The Return To Print Of One Of Science Fiction S Most Inimitable WritersA Selection Of The Science Fiction Book Club James Blish s Cities in Flight has been whispering read me, read me for many a year I remember being amazed by the cover of the book when I was a kid After all this time, I have finally read it.I was expecting great things from a book in the renowned SF Masterworks series Most of these I have read have been great Unfortunately, I was disappointed, and struggled to read than ten laborious pages at a time There are six hundred in all.I don t want to trawl out the plot here, only as much as to summarize In the future, mankind will escape the tyranny and poverty of an Eastern controlled Earth, by colonizing the galaxy Instead of using the usual method of building space craft, mankind has chosen the far simpler method of floating all the great cities of the world into space using anti gravity engines Instead of developing faster than light travel to shorten the vast interstellar distances, he will develop life extending drugs, so that the he can survive the hundreds of years of flight.These are the two scientific ideas which form the spine of the science behind the plot Unfortunately, I think they are both ridiculous from the off During the vast bulk of the book, we follow the city of New York, as it travels from one adventure to the next Even though this is supposed to be set hundreds of years in the future, the images of a 1950s New York prevail with Chrysler building, streets and blocks, full of characters which have walked straight out of a fifties b movie James Blish has not really thought very far forward in his imagination of society hundreds of years may pass, but people talk and act the same, and the city looks the same This place is run on oil and coal A future of nuts and bolts engineering.There will be thousands of these floating cities, roaming around space What will be the main occupation and reason for these cities to travel Doing odd jobs Like travelling repairmen moving from planet to planet, working for a living This was essentially because they were poor oakies on the run The whole book is The great Depression of the 1930s, but set in space Again, I just find this ridiculous.Anyway this goes on and on and on Eventually it ends, which is a relief.Sorry, but I have read many books written before this, with far thought provoking ideas. Disappointing Mr Blish chose cities as his medium of exploring space but totally neglected to incorporate city information or life into his stories To read Cities in Flight is to read about Mayor Amalfi, the City Fathers, and a few people around him Otherwise there were only a couple of cops and that about represented the whole of Manhattan I mean, if you want to stage a vast city as your base at least have a cast of one hundred drawn from various areas of Manhattan For such a famous place that was no information about any of it The book should have been four times as long It may as well have been a story about a small spaceship with a crew of 8 and a computer. I have to say I first read these books back in the 70s, and when I came across them again I looked forward to re reading them I wasn t disappointed, the characters are excellent and you really do get involved with them, the scope of the books are immense and have re ignited my passion for space opera. I read this back when it was first published, and I can still remember the excitement and wonder I felt when I first encountered these startling ideas This is one of the original ground breaking novels, from the truly Golden Age of SciFi As a pure science fiction collection, this was first rate I really enjoyed the science involved The authors of the 60s really stick to what is plausible, even though it may not be probable Today s science fiction involves too many impossibilities For example, Star Wars and Star Trek gave us noisy explosions in space, ships and people rocked and shimmied in zero gravity The vacuum of space became of none effect The authors of the past adhered to physical realities and where those were bent, they justified them by proving their theories with plausible explanations, James Blish does this convincingly.Cities in Flight is a collection of 4 related stories The first, They Shall Have Stars explains the dual development, scientifically and politically, of the Dillon Waggoner Gravatron polarity generator, or Spindizzy, and the anti agathic drugs that made space flight possible The Spindizzy allows large bodies to travel through space at almost any imaginable speed, the potential speed relating to the size of the body With Spindizzy technology, whole cities and even planets could be hurled through space The science behind the Spindizzies are carefully explained and at least seem plausible One aspect of potential space travel that modern writers directors avoid is the amount of time, even at fantastic speeds, space travel takes It would be futile to send out generations of people through space, even to the nearest star, with no possible life other than breeding and dying The author also had to construct a way to increase the life span to hundreds or thousands of years, hence the development of the anti agathic drugs The drugs and the Spindizzies combine in the stories to make space travel possible.The sad aspects of the story involve the realization of how little progress has been made The story begins in 2013 where humans have colonized the other planets and have begun exploiting their resources In actuality, the promise of the space program has been squandered and has died with 2012 seeing the retirement of the shuttle Discovery and the death of NASA as a reasonable tax expenditure Instead of reaching for the stars, humans, and Americans especially, have given up on such endeavors One possible reason for this is the introversion and self centerndness of modern man The advent of the personal computer, Facebook, GoodReads, MP3 players, and Je jaws cell phones have created a generation of spoiled children We have become isolated in our own little worlds and fail to even notice or care about what is out there The computer has stagnated our collective minds by not requiring us to think One of the climaxes in the book involve the falling out of two of the main characters John Amalfi, the mayor of New York, New York and the city manager, Mark Hazelton When Hazelton resigned he accidentally left his slide rule on the dinner tray and it was swept away to the incinerator before John could save it All the complex computations were made with the slide rule and Marks mind Today, it would be impossible.The first book describes the death of the scientific method It died under its own weight We have experienced that in the real world where today s scientists try to conform their data to fit a preconceived consensus Data is rigged to show the expected outcomes based on political agendas and popular mythology like global warming, rather than letting the data speak for itself As space, through the Spindizzies, and time, through the anti agathics are conquered, the spacemen eventually come to feel like they are gods When the planet He, moving though space discovers the end of time, they position themselves to create their own worlds While this makes for a good story, it bogs down in its own theology In this type of world, only the elites have access to their salvation, only they are smart enough to understand Of course, God in his wisdom has a much simpler plan that everybody, even a child can understand Don t look for answers to the meaning of life in this book, it isn t there The Triumph of Time will come when Christ returns and establishes his earthly kingdom.