Monday, 18 March 2013

Cities In Flight, Volume I

James Blish wrote They Shall Have Stars (alternative title: Year 2018!) specifically as a prequel/prelude/prologue to the Okie series collected as Earthman, Come Home. These are two very different volumes. Earthman is a four episode adventure series with a single central character whereas Stars has three alternating viewpoint characters because it is a three-layered political, scientific and psychological novel.

A US Senator politically outmaneuvers his opponents including the director of the FBI. A Jovian explorer resolves his own psychological response to the hostile environment. The novel is science fiction because it is set in the future and assumes space travel and other scientific advances but it is also "scientific" in that it dramatises scientific enquiry and procedures. Hence, the three layers of politics, science and psychology. The scientific and psychological layers were originally published as separate stories. Thus, these two volumes incorporate six previously published works.

They Shall Have Stars is a good novel of beginnings, therefore also of endings preceding beginnings. What is beginning, as indicated by the title, is the faster than light travel with physical immortality of Earthman, Come Home. The concluding chapter ends when two Jovian explorers:

"...looked past the discarded bulk of Jupiter at the near horizon, where there had always been visible a few stars." (Cities In Flight, London, 1981, p. 128)

- and the brief Coda begins:

" 'Every end,' Wagoner wrote on the wall of his cell on the last day, 'is a new beginning. Perhaps in a thousand years my Earthmen will come home again.' " (p. 129)

The last day of the life of the man who gave mankind the stars is the end of the first volume.

No comments:

Post a Comment