City is a 1952 science fiction novel by Clifford D. Simak. The book is episodic with eight or nine (depending on which version you read) short stories that have “bridges” between episodes. Version of the book after 1980 includes the ninth tale, “Epilogue.”

The novel contains eight stories which are the “Mythology of the Dogs.” Each tale is preceded by doggish notes and learned canine discussion. An editor’s “preface” notes after each telling of a legend suggests that puppies will ask many questions.

What is Man?” they’ll ask. Or perhaps: “What is a city?” Or “What is a war?”

There is no positive answer to any of these questions.

In this world, stories about humans are legends and no one but puppies believe them. There are no humans on the planet. No cities. No war. While I often find old science fiction awkward, in City, the technology and science might be dated, but the concepts are as unique as they were when I first read the book in the 1960s.

This “remembered human world” questions whether or not humankind will continue as a species, but not for the usual reason. Quite the opposite.

In these stories, earth was repaired in every way you can imagine. There is enough of everything — food, money, housing. Roads are useless because everyone flies. Cities are empty. Everyone lives in the country. Crime disappears and mutants have strange powers, especially telepathy.

The stories focus around one wealthy family named Webster and their robot Jenkins. Over time, the name Webster becomes the noun “webster,” meaning “human.” Each story builds on a previous one. All discuss the breakdown of the urban world. The breakdown isn’t a bad thing because human life is enormously better.

And then, there’s Jupiter.

Doug Webster hates the new world. He’s an agoraphobic. Although the word “agoraphobic” is never used, Webster (all his family members share the same issue) becomes ill if he is has to go out into the bigger world. At some point, Webster provides dogs with speech and improved vision. Meanwhile, the breakdown of civilization allows roaming mutant geniuses to make their own odd changes to earth. Joe, a wandering mutant, decides to see what would happen to ants if they remained active and free of hunger year round.

The ants form an industrial society and eventually take over “our” earth while humans go somewhere else — as do the dogs. A lot of stuff happens and there isn’t a lot of specific information provided. You will need your imagination.

Dogs see other worlds. They always have. Their worlds are “cobbly worlds.”

In case you were wondering, cobbly worlds are why your dog barks at seemingly nothing. Dogs bark to warn the cobblies to stay away. Other worlds familiar to us, are invisible to Dogs.

Ultimately, humans abandon earth and dogs have nothing but mythical memories of humans. They are not sure we existed. The stories in this book are their myths and legends. A few dogs believe humans existed, but most do not. I really enjoyed the book. I also enjoyed the audiobook. If science fiction is your thing, this book is worth your time. And if you happen to also love dogs, this is a book for YOU.

Don’t forget about those cobbly worlds.

Categories: #animals, Audiobook, Book Review, Books, dogs, Sci Fi - Fantasy - Time Travel

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8 replies

  1. HI Marilyn, I have not heard of this book and it sounds very unique. I do love something different. Thank you for the recommendation.


    • His other books are also excellent. I’m reading (or really, re-reading) “Way Station.” I read it so many years ago, I don’t remember it. I did remember “City.” Those stories stuck, maybe because there were all those dogs in the stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think I ever heard of this but I’d like to read it. If humans left the earth, then you would think that a few dogs would go too and they would be legendary too.
    At night our dogs are usually barking at possums or the pademelon who seems to have taken up residence in the back garden.


    • Here, it’s definitely the coyotes. They’ve been showing up in groups, which I wish they wouldn’t do because they are big dogs, the size of a very solid German Shepherd. They are considerably bigger than the Duke and perfectly able to jump the fence. Generally, they won’t do that unless there’s something very attractively edible within, but we’ve notice that when the coyotes are out, the Duke is IN. Good Duke! Good boy.

      They sell this on Amazon and Audible. I thought maybe I could snag a free “share” copy for you, but I’ve owned the book too long AND since I already own it, they won’t even show me the prices. He’s one of the authors of the “great age” of sci fi, but more philosophical and rather gentler and kinder than most of the writers of that era. It’s a very hard to forget set of stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll have a look on Amazon myself and see if it is available at a not too outrageous price. I had heard of him because I’m pretty sure I’ve read him in David’s SF anthologies. He loved the authors of that era and I am sure he’d have enjoyed these stories but he didn’t have them in his collection or he would have told me about them or I’d have found them because I think I read every one of his SF books.
        Duke is a smart dog.


        • I just hope he stays smart. Those coyotes would happily eat HIM.

          Hard copies are available used (cheap), but I actually think Kindle is THE cheapest. The Audible version was, I think, $14.50 which I might be a bit steep. Check and see if there’s a kindle version where the audible version is cheap if you buy the Kindle version too. Otherwise, there ARE a lot of used versions available for pretty short money.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. mind your pet, enjoyed the post, cheers, stay healthy, amen


    • It’s good to know there’s an actual reason why the Duke barks so much. These days, I think it’s less “cobbly worlds” than the nightly visits of coyotes. Duke (wisely) won’t go out when the coyotes are hanging around. Our fences aren’t very high and the coyotes could easily jump them.


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