Book Review: The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

Diaspar is a city inhabited by 20 million people. In Diaspar there are no days and nights, only afternoons. No one sleeps. People are born by a computer that controls absolutely everything, and a life cycle lasts a thousand years. People are young until the day they day.

Diaspar is the last city on Earth that survives the passage of time, a place in which the laws of life and death are not applicable.

But The City and the Stars is, in fact, a story about destiny; more precisely, it is the story of a man who chooses to take control of his own fate. Men are born to be free, and will fight the society the live in for this right.

Alvin is different than everyone around him. He asks questions, he wants to know why, he is a skeptic, he has the courage to search for answers.

The theme is neatly “dressed” in numerous details relevant to the genre of Science Fiction: telepathy, robots, entities capable of incredible feats, artificial birth, interstellar travel, artificial planets, and many others.

The City and the Stars is a novel about phobias, powerlessness, lethargy, mental laziness, loneliness, and frustration. It’s a story about a man who learns and, at the same time, a man who teaches others how to rediscover their own humanity. This novel is the rewrite of a previous novel by Clarke, Against the Fall of Night. It’s one of the most claustrophobic novels I ever read. The way the characters feel, their surroundings, the entire city… all of this makes one claustrophobic.

It’s as if you’re slowly running out of air, just until the end of the novel. Then you are free to breathe again. Clean, fresh air.

A must, must read, if only for how relevant this novel is to the way we perceive society to constrain our free will in our times.

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