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Cities in Flight


Book: Cities in Flight

Author: James Blish


Masterwork indeedarrow icon

I read this in the mid 90s when I was going through a phase of reading books in the SF Masterworks series. This one stuck out as one of the best.
more from Jubei700

New York in Outer Spacearrow icon

Actually, I only got around to reading the books quite recently (which is probably why I found them so dated).
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More recollections...

In Depth

Cities in Flight

A massive space opera about flying cities.

While much of science fiction is concerned with the idea of the urban environment as an over-populated, repressive space, James Blish's Cities in Flight sees it as a symbol of freedom and exploration. How? The clue is in the title.

Thanks to an anti-gravity device called a spindizzy, the cities of Blish's stories have no moorings. Nicknamed "Okies" after the itinerant labourers of the American Depression, these cities are controlled (somewhat implausibly) via a single joystick.

The Okie stories first appeared serialised in the US Astounding Science Fiction magazine. In all, there are four novels, collected into a single volume as Cities in Flight. The tones varies from book to book: They Shall Have Stars is a dystopian tale, A Life for the Stars a coming-of-age story, Earthman Come Home a thriller, and final tale A Clash of Cymbals an exploration of the universe's very source.

All are delivered via Blish's signature mix of pulp and hard science fiction. Thus, among the engrossing character-driven tales are sophisticated ideas about history and evolution which raise the book from the level of enjoyable yarn to a science fiction masterwork.

Work nominated by iainmbrown.

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