Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 (43)
September 16, 2016
One in a series of 75 posts about the best science fiction novels published during the genre’s so-called Golden Age (from 1934–63, according to HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn’s periodization schema). For the complete Golden Age Sci-Fi 75 list, click here.
Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi adventure The City and the Stars (1956).
A Stapledonian epic, which illustrated two points important to the author: our curiosity about the world/universe is what makes us human; and organized religion retards humankind’s progress. In Diaspar, a billion-year-old, self-sufficient domed city located on Earth, Alvin is a “Unique.” Despite living in a utopian, perfectly regulated social order (run by a super-computer), in which human consciousnesses can be downloaded into new bodies, and are therefore immortal; and despite having been raised in a culture that encourages incuriosity and terror about the outside world, he dreams of exploration. Once he finally escapes Diaspar, Alvin’s curiosity is richly rewarded. Elsewhere on Earth, he finds another city-state — Lys — that is less reliant on technology, and whose citizens are telepaths. He discovers that Earthlings once traveled the stars, only to be forced back to their planet by aliens; and once offworld, Alvin discovers civilizations and entities that beggar belief. Will he keep going? Or return to Diaspar, as a prophet?
Fun fact: We’ve seen sci-fi dramatizations of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave before, for example in Gabriel De Tarde’s 1884 novella Underground Man. Clarke’s imagination regarding future technologies, however — which we’d now recognize as, for example, 3D printing, wireless communication and energy transfer, and genetic engineering — is truly original and far-out.
GOLDEN AGE SCIENCE FICTION at HILOBROW: Golden Age Sci-Fi: 75 Best Novels of 1934–1963 | Robert Heinlein | Karel Capek | William Burroughs | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Clifford D. Simak | H.P. Lovecraft | Olaf Stapledon | Philip K. Dick | Jack Williamson | George Orwell | Boris Vian | Bernard Wolfe | J.G. Ballard | Jorge Luis Borges |Poul Anderson | Walter M. Miller, Jr. | Murray Leinster | Kurt Vonnegut | Stanislaw Lem | Alfred Bester | Isaac Asimov | Ray Bradbury | Madeleine L’Engle | Arthur C. Clarke | PLUS: Jack Kirby’s Golden Age and New Wave science fiction comics.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.