Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cities in Flight - James Blish (1970)

Who doesn't thrill to the whine of the spindizzies as New York soars aloft on its latest interstellar jaunt?

Who can forget the doomed love triangle between City Mayor John Amalfi, City Manager Mark Hazleton and his young wife Dee?

And do we still tremble at the thought of the dreaded Vegan Orbital Fort? (Yes).

I first read "Earthman, Come Home" and "The Triumph of Time" as a teenager in the sixties: I was completely enthralled by the adventures of Amalfi and co, as they outwitted their opponents and grasped victory from the jaws of defeat against a backdrop of dirigible planets, fearsome aliens, and voyages of hundreds of thousands of light years.

Never revisit your childhood dreams.

I have the four bound volumes from the library and find that Blish's writing is full of plot holes. Worse, the stories don't work except by positing the most incredible stupidity on the part of everyone else while attributing superhuman intuition to Amalfi and Hazleton.

Plans which require the most unlikely set of circumstances nevertheless, time and time again, pay off despite there being no credible plan B.

While my suspension of disbelief was being beaten to death by a baseball bat, I remained on the hook simply due to Blish's general writing skills. Despite myself, I always wanted to know what would happen next.

In Fay Weldon's taxonomy, a good bad book.