Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cities In Flight As Series

By contrast with Star Trek (see previous post), James Blish's Cities In Flight is a series of just four volumes. However, the series element is repeated twice.

(i) Volume III, Earthman, Come Home, from which the others grew, is itself a collection of four sequential stories, originally published separately.

(ii) Although Volume II, A Life For The Stars, is a continuous novel about the flying city of New York, the city's two planetfalls in the volume correspond very closely to two episodes of a Star Trek-like series.

The juvenile hero of Volume II has an "adventure" on each of the planets. However, Blish is commendably restrained in his handling of the adventures. On the feudal planet of Heaven, Chris overhears part of a plot against the city but does not exactly save the day. He makes it to Castle Wolfwhip but is immediately imprisoned, gets in the way, has to be rescued and is warned against any further excursions on the second planet, Argus Three.

Since, in the Argus system, New York is in conflict with Scranton, a city that Chris knows, he does feel entitled to trek across country to Scranton. All that he can do, however, is to make for his former "hidey hole" and to hope that his local contact, Frad, will seek him out there. When Frad does this, Chris persuades him to depose the current city manager and to make a deal with New York. Although this does happen, Chris has to remain in his hidey hole throughout and thus is not involved in any of the fighting or in the rescue of his captured friend. His reward is to be offered the city managership of New York so our hero has come of age but by his ability to analyse the politics of Scranton and to negotiate, not by displaying any physical prowess.

Volume I, They Shall Have Stars, revives the serial format because it splits up two previously published stories into alternating installments. Finally, Volume IV, The Triumph Of Time, is an undivided novel.

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