Clifford D. Simak’s “City” is a book I have been wanting to read for a while now. For the simple fact that it’s one of the very few Science Fiction books I have encountered which was focused on Dogs. And not only on Dogs, but on a Doggish civilization, intelligent Dogs, Dogs that can write and read, Dogs that can communicate.
I had a vague idea about the book before starting to read it, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Let me be clear: It was one of the greatest books I’ve read ever, but I admit I expected it to be a little different.
It was not only about Dogs, but it featured a series of eight stories (later nine, after the author wrote a ninth story thirty years after its original publication date) that were originally published in Astounding, John W. Campbell’s Science Fiction magazine, during what was almost a decade (1944-1952).
I cannot delve into the plot of the book without giving away important elements, so I will abstain from that. Suffice to say that the point of this book is that all intelligent life failed one way or another, while nature ran its course and forms of life based more on instinct rather than intelligence are the ones that survived. The ones that inherited the Earth.
Clifford D. Simak was initially reluctant in writing a ninth story, as he felt (and I agree with him) that the ending of the eighth story was exactly what this book needed. However, Harry Harrison asked him to write a story in memory of John W. Campbell, and since all the stories written in Astounding were City-related, Clifford D. Simak had no option but to come back to his work and add a ninth story. A tale that was very well written in its entirety, and it shows that the author wanted to impact his previous ending as little as possible.
There are a few questions that remain after I finished reading:
Where did the mutants come from?
Where they still alive at the end?
How did they gain access to what only the Dogs were aware of?
What was the Juwain philosophy, exactly?
Where the Dogs still alive at the end? (This one here is an implied “yes”, according to author’s Note on the Ninth Tale”)
What happened to the people on Jupiter?
Where did Jenkins go at the end?
In my opinion, there would be so much to expand on these stories that I wonder how come the author never did. I guess leaving things to the imagination of the reader is sometimes part of the charm.
I loved every bit of this book, I have read it breathlessly, and I cannot recommend it enough.