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City (Sphere science fiction) - Clifford D. Simak I have to say that this was quite a disappointment for me and not what I was expecting after reading the excellent Way Station.

"City" is basically a chronicle of mankind's demise, usually involving characters who are decendents of the Webster family who invariably end up involved in pivotal events in our future history. No single event or catastrophy here, rather it is a gradual decline. And the reasons are more social, cultural and psycological than anything else.

This is actually a collection of interelated stories, depicted as a set of legends that dogs tell each other around the camp fire. Yes, for dogs have inherited the earth and mankind is now no more than a myth disbelieved by all except their most crackpot scholars. There is a fictitious editorial introduction to each story, whom we are to think of as a dog, that briefly expounds various canine interpretations of the stories. Daft as this might sound, these parts were actually my favourite parts of the book.

Various things let this book down in my opinion. Firstly it just hasn't dated very well. Both in terms of the ideas and the dialogue. Okay, it was first published in 1951 but it must have seemed very far fetched even then. The ideas become more wild and ludicrous as we get further into the future until we end up in the realms of pure fantasy. The character's usually sounds like hillbillies, even when it's the animals who are talking (yes animals aquire a hereditary ability to talk through vivisection!)

The above might well have been largely forgiven but for the fact that the story lines are almost completely devoid of narative tension. Occaisionally I thought a story started out interestingly only to skirt around the moments that would help build and maintain the reader's interest to needlessly shift focus elsewhere (like a badly edited movie). Ultimately, it left me largely uninterested in the overall story arc and was a bit of a struggle to finish.

Many others seem to be quite fond of this book so perhaps I am being unkind but for me the flaws just kept getting in the way of my getting much out of it. And it's left me not to keep to try anything else by Simak.