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City - Clifford D. Simak

This is a series of eight interlinked stories that deal with different generations of the Webster family and their robot servant Jenkins over thousands of years. Beginning the abandonment of the cities due to technological advances, it moves on to exploration of the solar system, the uplift of dogs and other species, the development of mutant humans, and so on. Preceding each story is a note written by intelligent dogs trying to give their canine reader some context about these strange, incanine (hey, made up a word) tales.

 

The notes get a bit stale after a while but the stories themselves are very imaginative and often tongue and cheek. While they are self-contained, each builds on its predecessors. I thought there are some interesting parallels (particularly in the first story) with the way modern technology can isolate us. However, perhaps due to the amount packed into them relative to their length, they can feel a bit rushed and even naive. Often concepts aren't explored in any real depth.

 

The Websters themselves are often little more than names. Even Jenkins only comes into his own in the later stories. The dogs make their appearance in the third tale and they often play a secondary role to the robot and their masters.

 

The fifth story, Paradise, was my favorite because it tied a lot of elements together from the previous stories in a clever way while I liked the fourth story, Desertion, least because I found its premise unconvincing.