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City  By  cover art

City

By: Clifford D. Simak
Narrated by: Peter Ganim
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Publisher's Summary

Jenkins was a robot. He was built to be the perfect worker, tireless and uncomplaining. But, quite unexpectedly, he also became a close companion to generation after generation of his owners as the human race matured, moved beyond the confines of its once tiny planet, and eventually changed beyond all recognition. And then, because he was a good and dutiful servant, Jenkins went on to serve Earth's inheritors.

Here is a masterful tale of an Earth overrun by ants, a series of parallel worlds ruled by dogs, and a Jupiter where the human race finds its Gold Age - if "human" it could still be called.

BONUS AUDIO: City includes an exclusive introduction by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Mike Resnick.

©1980 Clifford D. Simak (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Simak's unforgettable compassion and affection for all creation shines through." (scifi.com)
  • All-Time Best Science Fiction Novels (Locus Magazine)

What listeners say about City

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A very special kind of story.

A little Rickety around the edges as any novel from the 1940s imagining the far future would be, it is the only criticism of an otherwise remarkable narrative. A leading writer in the field of speculative fiction, Simak created his own sub-genre that explored the nature of humanity and the universe with optimism, compassion and gentleness. His words hold a special kind of magic, based on a undefined spirituality that sets him apart from the humanistic philosophies of so many of his contemporaries. Listening to his words, one cannot but help feel that Simak was one special kind of man. Probably not for everyone, this is not space opera, this is sci-fi as philosophy and literature.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Disturbing

This was a book I couldn't stop reading and it was also a book I couldn't stop thinking about once it ended. It's message was thought provoking. A story of a family, the Websters, the plot evolves into the ultimate destruction of humanity. And yet we see that other alien races in the novel tend to make similar errors as they, too evolve. Life's questions, such as "to kill or not to kill" and "what does it mean to be human" and even the more abstract scifi rule to not interfere with another race are prevalent throughout the novel. If you are looking for a light reading experience, this is not the novel to read. But if you are looking for a book that will evoke discussion and comment on the human condition, this is a gold mine. Do not let the age of the book fool you into thinking it is no longer pertinent. The story is more pertinent today than it could have been when it was first written. The author's own comment prior to the Epilogue was intriguing. The narrators were very good and overall, this was an excellent read. I am delighted I bought it.

27 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

American Future History told by Dogs

Simak is one of the Sc-/fi writers from the Golden Age, who is still very readable today. This has two of my favorite subjects, dogs and Robots. As one reviewer mentions though, very little has to do with dogs. This is a group of short stories, involving the Webster family as told by Dogs, who inherit the Earth.

Like all groups of short stories, some are better than others. Personally I think this has more that are better, than you usually get in a collection. Like Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, these are expertly tied to together. I am a big a fan of microcosmic and macro cosmic world stories. The story about the ants, really caught my attention.

Don't let it stop you from getting the book, but the narrator is extremly slow, even on one and a quarter speed, he seemed slow

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

City

Does not live up to the written description. Very disappointed. More about the Webster family that dogs.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

*Beautiful Example of Classic Sci-Fi*

Although it took two chapters before this novel really got its legs, I can't say enough great things about it.
I have read a lot of Simak's other works, and City is, BY FAR, his best.
It's really a shame that science fiction of this high caliber no longer exists as plentifully as it did during the 1950's & 60's.

Pick this one up if you are a fan of Robert Sheckley, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, or Ray Bradbury.
Really, really excellent listen.

9.37 / 10.00

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

interesting

This is a very interesting and thought provoking story. I liked Way Station better, perhaps because it was one continuous story. The City stories are linked as well by the robit character of Jenkins who ends up being very close to human, sort of super human. It's just a little harder to care about him. Harder to care about the Websters after they give up. Overall, I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it to any SciFi lover.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Dull

Simak's Way Station is an energetic, exciting and fun novel. That's why I went directly for City.

What a disappointment. City plods along at a sluggish pace. At the same time it jumps from era to era without giving the reader time to care about the characters.

You do not get to find out the fate of the people who populate the book. Instead it just jumps ahead several hundred years without telling the reader what happened.

For example the reader goes from a post WW2 atomic society to thinking robots and talking dogs in the first 3 hours of the book. This might sound interesting. It is not.

The book clumps along at the pace of a seventy-year-old man wearing lead healed shoes.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Men, Dogs, future of civilization

This is a collection of connected short stories and novellas, recounting the decline of the civilization of Man and the rise of the civilization of Dogs. Obsolete usage intentional; these stories were written in the 1940s, with a couple of exceptions, and the underlying viewpoint is that of a midwestern American man of that era, born in 1904. In the case of Simak, that's a compassionate, kindly, humane, even in many ways progressive viewpoint, but it's not the viewpoint of someone whose formative years were the 1960s or later.

These stories chronicle thousands of years of history in relatively brief glimpses of a total of nine short stories and novellas, and the "notes" that tie them together and provide added context, to make them a novel. We follow the men of the Webster family; the Webster family's robot and household retainer, Jenkins; and the dogs. Or, as they start to become beginning in the third story, the Dogs, the uplifted species that will succeed Man.

The first two stories show the start of the unraveling of human civilization, due to, in fact, its success. Nuclear power as an energy source, creating wealth and independence from the need to gather in cities, combined with the existence of nuclear weapons, making cities fatal places to be if there's ever another war, leads to people dispersing into the countryside. Land is cheap outside the cities, and every man can buy acreage and build a luxury estate for his family. (And yes, the use of gender and possessive in that sentence is deliberate. As noted above, Simak's a good man, but not a man of even the late 20th century.) As technology develops (largely undescribed, but we see what are videophones more advanced than we have but entirely recognizable, as well as robots with AI that's still just a happy daydream for us), no one needs to leave home for any of the essentials or luxuries of life, and many don't. Agoraphobia becomes a significant and common problem, which has crucial plot implications in one of the stories, with consequences that reverberate down the centuries.

Seeing the flaws in human beings, one of the Websters, Bruce Webster, starts to work on the dogs, giving them the ability to speak, and the ability to read--including the physical modifications necessary to make these things physically possible for them, not just intellectually possible. We learn of, and encounter, the mutants, humans with far greater intelligence, and lacking the human instinct to gather and connect with each other. In each story we see the dogs on the road to becoming Dogs, advancing in intelligence and understanding. A crucial turning point is the story, "Desertion," where humans on Jupiter are sending out exploratory missions of humans transformed into lifeforms able to live on Jupiter outside the human domes--for the purpose of reporting back, with the awkward complication that none of them do. Finally the head of that project goes out himself, with just his dog, Towser, leading to the complete upending of the progress of humans toward dominating the solar system and expanding to the stars.

The notes frame these stories as the myths and fables of Doggish civilization, in a time when Dogs are pretty sure that Man is only a myth, a tribal legend from the early days of their race, before civilization developed. The one continuing character who ties all the stories together is Jenkins, the robot who served the Websters, and then inherited their responsibility to help the Dogs along their own path. There's an underlying sadness in these stories, a certain pessimism about humankind, intertwined with a love for both humans and dogs.

What's missing, almost entirely, is women. Women are mentioned from time to time, but there's only two women who become in any way real characters with their own personalities and views, and only one of them is outside of the roles of wife, girlfriend, daughter, secretary. I love these stories; I don't love that aspect of these stories. These are still fine and much-loved stories, but they are also period pieces, and should be approached with that in mind.

Still very much recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Despite the year, unique and innovative

City is a 1952 science fiction novel by Clifford D. Simak. The book is episodic with eight or nine (depending on which version you read) short stories that have “bridges” between episodes. Version of the book after 1980 includes the ninth tale, “Epilogue.”

The novel contains eight stories which are the mythology of the Dogs. Each tale is preceded by doggish notes and learned discussion. An editor’s “preface” notes after each telling of these legends, suggest that puppies will ask many questions, for example:

“What is Man?” they’ll ask.

Or perhaps: “What is a city?”

Or maybe:”What is a war?

There is no positive answer to any of these questions.”

In the world where these stories are legends, there are no humans, no cities, and no war.

Generally, I find old science fiction awkward and occasionally dull. In City, the technology and science is dated, but the concepts are as innovative and unique as they were when I first read the book in the 1960s.

This “remembered human world” questions whether or not humankind will continue as a species, but not for the usual reason. Quite the opposite.

In these stories, earth was repaired in every way you can imagine. There is enough of everything — food, money, housing. Roads are useless because everyone flies. Cities are empty. Everyone lives in the country. Crime disappears and mutants have strange powers, especially telepathy.

The stories focus around one wealthy family named Webster and their robot Jenkins, . Over time, the name Webster becomes the noun “webster,” meaning “human.” Each story builds on a previous one. All discuss the breakdown of the urban world. The breakdown isn’t a bad thing because human life is enormously better.

And then, there’s Jupiter.

Doug Webster hates the new world. He’s an agoraphobic. Although the word “agoraphobic” is never used, Webster (all his family members share the same issue) becomes ill if he is has to go out into the bigger world. At some point, Webster provides dogs with speech and improved vision. Meanwhile, the breakdown of civilization allows roaming mutant geniuses to make their own odd changes to earth. Joe, a wandering mutant, decides to see what would happen to ants if they remained active and free of hunger year round.

The ants form an industrial society and eventually take over “our” earth while humans go somewhere else — as do the dogs. A lot of stuff happens and there isn’t a lot of specific information provided. You will need your imagination.

Dogs see other worlds. They always have. Their worlds are “cobbly worlds.” In case you were wondering, cobbly worlds are why your dog barks at seemingly nothing. Dogs bark to warn the cobblies to stay away. Other worlds familiar to us, are invisible to Dogs.

Ultimately, humans abandon earth and dogs have nothing but mythical memories of humans. They are not even sure we ever existed. The stories in this book are their myths and legends. A few dogs believe humans existed, but most do not. I really enjoyed the book. I also enjoyed the audiobook. If science fiction is your thing, this book is worth your time.

And don’t forget about those cobbly worlds.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Change is, after all, inevitable

A series of 8 short stories recounting the last decades of the human race and the ascendence of Dogs as the dominant species-- and how different their mindset is regarding the world and minor lifeforms.

Every story deals with a form of change in the society and how Humans, Dogs and Robots deal with it. All of them written and published between 1944 and 1951. Simak is a gifted author, City still a very enjoyable read and the audio performance is very nice. Worth your time.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Ronald
  • 08-26-19

I still have it after all these years

I have really enjoyed this story so if you can get past the first part 🤣it gets so much better
PS
I'm not going to Jupiter

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • C. Gale
  • 08-27-22

Superb!

One of the finest classic SF novels brilliantly read. Highly recommended to anyone who loves great storytelling