The City and the Stars (1956)

Backcover Synopsis: There had been cities before, but never such a city as Diaspar. For millenia its protective dome shut out the creeping decay and danger of the world outside. Once, it had held powers that ruled the stars; but then, the legends said, the Invaders came, driving humanity into this last refuge.

There’s not much action, if any at all, in this novel. What we have here is a book that seems entirely comprised of sense of wonder and the spirit of exploration. The main character is driven, by a design that is eons old, to leave the city no one else can leave, to find out what has happened to the rest of humanity outside the walls of Diaspar. It’s a good story, even if it is dated in minor aspects (telepathy isn’t seen much in SF these days). The main drawback is the last part, it’s a little bit anticlimactic. The big revelations (and these were interesting) at the end could have been delivered better, and somehow I hoped that the book would end with humanity brought back to its former glory. We know at the end that this will eventually happen, but probably not during the lifetime of the main character. I also disliked the later change in his attitude, instead of being an explorer he opted for living on Earth and abandoning the stars.

addendum (2009)
Sometimes, when you read a classic, it’s hard to approach a book with the same critical eye as when you read something recently published. I really liked the cover of the edition I was reading, I liked the general idea of the story and Clarke and his book have a certain status. I really wanted to like the book, which I think in hindsight made me more reluctant to be as critical as I would have commonly been. It has a neat concept, but the plot and the characters are boring and the book hasn’t anything interesting to say. It doesn’t even manage to convey the feeling of deep time that you might expect from it. All the book has going for it are the setting and discovering the backstory of this timeline. It wasn’t really enough to entice me, but I can see why it worked back then and made into a classic.