The city of New York has now settled on a planet called 'New Earth', and John Amalfi, once mayor of the city in flight, is reduced to a mostly figure-head role. Until the astronomists spots the newly arrived planet He, a travelling planet outfitted with a spindizzy drive previously in the series. Amalfi goes to meet with the scientist of He, and returns with the news that the Hevians have discovered a point in space which indicates the collision of two universes. The matter-antimatter collision of two opposing universes is set to annihilate both universes involved, and birth multiple new universes in another big bang explosion. The people of New Earth and a new opposing alien faction - the Web of Hercules - must compete to win control of the collision point and therefore bring the big bang event under their own control.
Since the city settled on the New Earth planet, Amalfi is depicted as feeling particularly restless, since he was once mayor of the city, but now has little to do with the running of the planet. And yet I feel that Amalfi often pretty much was a figurehead before, and none of his duties seems to have actually changed. Perhaps its more of a result of centuries of space travel and now being stuck on one planet, in one solar system. But still I find it hard to relate to the character, he is much too big for his boots sometimes with little to show for it.
Dee's confession of love for Amalfi comes out of the blue, possibly because we've seen little evidence for it, but then Dee barely has a personality anyway. Also possibly because there is little in Amalfi to love and I bear no sympathy for her feelings. Then again perhaps its just my incompatibility with Blish's writing, I enjoy the science-fiction aspects but fail to empathise with most of his characters.
You can certainly see that Blish's writing has improved however, over the course of writing this series, but you have to pay attention to the fact that the series was written in a completely different order to the series order. This 4th book was in fact written 3rd, and it shows a definate improvent (to me at least) over the 3rd book in the series, which was in fact the first book to be written.
As I said tho, I do enjoy the science fiction aspects, and in this novel the main plot line involving the collision of two universes was absolutely fascinating. Whether or not you believe in this theory of universe evolution, its certainly interesting to think about. That our universe will not go on forever, but will one day crumple and then explode outwards creating brand new universes, the circle of life, death and rebirth manifested on a incomprehensible scale. It certainly is a mesmerising idea, and apt to make humans feel significant. But the way that Blish deals with it in the resolution puts all the humanity back into it, and makes us feel like even in the death and birth of universes we can have some small part to play.
On the whole, I do recommend the series, as there are some really great sci-fi ideas, even if the characters are a little bland and flaky. And plus its very rare to find sci-fi writing that actually tries to be scientific, and not just make things up entirely, even if it is now somewhat out of date, most of it still holds up well, and still has the power to entertain.
Recommended - read the whole series!See my other reviews of Cities in Flight:
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