I pull the sheet higher and roll over in the darkened room. There is the soothing sound of the air conditioning blowing over me and the dimness wraps me in a need for comfort. The floor is strewn with tissues and my head is aching dully. I can’t sleep more but the doctor says that staying in bed and drinking warm tea will help me recover from this head cold faster. I decide that this is a good time to revisit an old friend. I pick up the book and crack its forty-three-year-old cover.
The City and the Stars (Signet Classic) by Arthur C. Clarke traps the reader in the city with Alvin, our inquisitive protagonist. On this deep future Earth, souls are stored in machines until it is their turn to walk the city again. They are then given a body and a life to undertake. The inhabitants never leave the domed city because what lies beyond the walls is a wasteland of human making. Alvin is unique. He was born a first soul – this is his first life. He must learn to work within the society, but his questioning gets him in deeper than he was prepared for. What will he find when he follows the trail of clues left for him?
In The City and the Stars, Clarke gives us a detailed stand-alone novel. It is situated firmly in the old-school science fiction (speculative fiction) genre. Like Clarke’s other works, The City and the Stars is a social commentary and can be confrontational to some people. That said, it is a story of hope and healing.
Beware: This is Sci-Fi from an old master. If you like this story, you may find yourself scouring second-hand bookstores for more of his works. Be prepared for musty, dusty books to overtake your ‘to be read’ pile.
As one of my go to comfort books, it is obvious that I like the book. I enjoy the old-style story and always feel a glimmer of hope at the end. It’s my go to when I am unwell and need to have a calm read.
Genre: Science Fiction
Reading Level: Adult (though my year-6 teacher read this out to my class)
Rating: 4 out of 5 sleepless nights