City by Clifford D. Simak made its way on to my reading list several months ago after an intriguing snippet of a review on NPR Books. I received my copy from my Amazon Wish List around Christmas time and have been picking it up and putting it down ever since. I rarely “power” through books but usually rotate through two or three different ones in a leisurely manner simultaneously, so please don’t consider my pace to be a poor review on the novel. To the contrary, I found myself charmed by City for many reasons. If you’re willing to set aside the dated technological foundations and the quaint style of the 50s science fiction, I think you might find it a lovely read… even if you aren’t a dog person. :-)
City takes the form of eight tales passed down orally through a society of sentient dogs. Each tale is preceded by the observations, criticisms and interpretations of doggish scholars and academics who examine the tales to consider such questions as “What is man; a real creature from the past or construct for a lesson?”, “What is a City?”, “Where do we come from?”.
While it might be easy to dismiss Simak’s seemingly juvenile choices of characters and concepts for his examinations of society, morality and culture, it would be a mistake. There is something keenly revealing about seeing your species and its idiosyncrasies dissected through another another species’ hypothetical eyes… even one that adores and worships us. You won’t find any silly furries or Disney-esque dalliances here, but instead a state of canines that would have given the classic Greeks a run for their money.
If you’re curious about a very strange but telling path mankind (and other kinds) might walk, Simak’s daydream is one worth indulging yourself in.
PS – If you pick up a copy make sure its one with the later added prologue/coda. You can decided if you want to or need to read it after the eight tale.