Tuesday, 19 March 2013

New York

How much are we told about New York and its inhabitants as they exist in the fictitious future of James Blish's Earthman, Come Home, IN Cities In Flight (London, 1981)? (Currently, I have reread Chapters One to Three of Nine.)

Mayor John Amalfi stands on a narrow, worn granite ledge around the City Hall belfry which is unchanged since 1850. The distant, residual hum of the spindizzies is softer than the former traffic roar. The city still has jails, playgrounds, alleys, alley cats and one bell in the belfry although without a clapper. Battery Park, the Cathedral Parkway lookout, the Twenty-Third Street spindizzy, the West Side subway tunnel and the mid-town RCA building with its rooftop penthouse, elevators, offices and office workers are mentioned. Amalfi speaks into a phone hooked to the railing.

In the mayor's office at City Hall, he converses with the city manager, Mark Hazleton, who is less than 400 years old, born since the city left Earth in 3111 when Amalfi was 117. Other city personnel include Jake in Astronomy, Sergeant Anderson and a pile engineer called Webster, one of the original complement, who wants off at the next port of call. Parliamentary secretaries handle intramural affairs.

Amalfi locks the control tower and, out on the street, flags a Tin Cabby, which can fly between the towers, to take him from the control tower on Twenty-Fourth Street and The Avenue to City Hall on Bowling Green. Amalfi's flight board is "...a compressed analog of the banks in the control tower..." (p. 259) His office contains the plastic-covered, little-used, screenless Dirac transmitter.

The city is flown by Hazleton or, in his absence, a younger man called Carrel. It is flown by handling a "...stick..." (p. 261) The city needs oil, currency and also rare-earth and power metals which it collects and refines. When it lands on the planet He, a procession of locals advances along The Avenue watched by the "...sober workaday faces of the Okie citizens..." (p. 295) We see far too little of these citizens during the novel.

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