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The City and the Stars | [Arthur C. Clarke]

The City and the Stars

Diaspar is Earth's last city - surrounded by deserts, on a world where the oceans have long-since dried up. It is a domed, isolated, technological marvel, run by the Central Computer. Diaspar has conquered death. People are called forth; they live for a thousand years and then are recalled, to be born thousands of years later, over and over again. No child has been born for at least 10 million years. Until Alvin....
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Publisher's Summary

A journey of discovery that will shake the foundations of everything the people of Earth have ever believed....

Diaspar is Earth's last city - surrounded by deserts, on a world where the oceans have long-since dried up. It is a domed, isolated, technological marvel, run by the Central Computer. Diaspar has conquered death. People are called forth from the Hall of Creation; they live for a thousand years and then are recalled, stored in the Central Computer's memory, to be born thousands of years later, over and over again, with memories of earlier lives intact.

No one has entered or left Diaspar since anyone can remember. Its people have an unreasoning dread of the unknown, of the world outside the city. And no child has been born for at least 10 million years.

Until Alvin. He is unique. He has no past lives, no past memories. He also has no fear of the outside world. In fact, he has an overwhelming curiosity, a drive to explore, to see what lies beyond the sterile boundaries of the city.

When he finally escapes, he discovers a place he could hardly have imagined: a country called Lys. Its people are telepathic. They know life and death. In Lys, Alvin finds friendship and love. And he begins his fateful journey to the stars and back. On his return, he brings with him something so strange, so alien and powerful, that it will change the world forever. But for better or worse not even Alvin can guess.

©1956 Arthur C. Clarke/Scovil Chichak Galen; (P)2009 Geoffrey T.Williams

What Members Say

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4.0 (118 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Andy Canberra, Australia 01-24-13
    Andy Canberra, Australia 01-24-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Even better 30 years later"

    I first read this book, I think as a novella, about 30 or more years ago. It's been in my wishlist for quite a while because I could still remember the story pretty well. I liked it then, but I loved this version. Not just because it is an audiobook, although that helps, but because I appreciated the story a lot more, or maybe I just absorbed the nuances better.

    This is a definite must for anyone who loves the theme of exploring ancient cities and rediscovering lost worlds.

    The narrator was excellent. Once you're into it, the character voices click and you can't imagine any other voices.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Springfield, MO, United States 12-10-11
    James Springfield, MO, United States 12-10-11 Member Since 2010

    New grandpa. Married 35 great years. Drink Batch 19,Tsing Tao, and Bohemia. Read Card, King, Hobb, Sawyer, Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction.

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    "A Classic"

    The Science Fiction Book Club pick this as one of there favorite books written in the 50's. When I read it years ago I loved it and so when it went on sale I bought it. I must mention here that this audio club has the greatest sales.

    This is so much different then most of what Clarke writes. Fantasy readers would not recognize it as fantasy, but in comparison to most of Clarke's hard Sci-Fi this could be a fantasy. One reason for that is that it takes place billions of years in the future and unlike what most writers do, he does not knock man back into cave man days.

    The main character is unique and does not fit into the society he lives in. He does not give into peer pressure and he stays unique. This will appeal to anyone who has ever felt different. Though some see this as a depressing novel, I feel that the spot light on unique people who are willing to challenge the system as very uplifting.

    Isolationism and not wanting to leave our comfort zone is a big part of the book.

    Parts of the book sound like something Robert Reed would write about today, the Grand View and great lengths of time involved.

    This has several narrators and music, which I thought at first would lead to a great experience. I think that they would have done better with one talented narrator instead of several not so talented narrators and though the music did not detract, I do not felt it added anything.

    Other really good AC books are: Rendezvous with Rama, 2001: Space Odyssey, 2010 Odyssey II, and any short story collections.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cherry Vancouver, BC, Canada 11-13-09
    Cherry Vancouver, BC, Canada 11-13-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Not quite what I expected"

    The City and the Stars is a classic for a reason and not just because Arthur C. Clarke is the author, so instead I will write specifically about the audiobook.

    This reading is almost a dramatisation since the individual characters are all ready by different narrators and there are musical backgrounds. Unfortunately this isn't what I expected given the listing on audible.com. Perhaps in this case I cannot provide an accurate review since dramatisations/multiple narrators really aren't what I enjoy listening to. I prefer my audiobooks narrated by one person who can add their individual drama to the reading.

    The quality of the recording is very high and the production values are wonderful, but since there is no indication in the description or sound clip of exactly how the book is presented I must rate it low since it's not actually what I expected or wanted when I purchased it.

    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dave F. Wilke Los Angeles, CA 06-04-12
    Dave F. Wilke Los Angeles, CA 06-04-12 Member Since 2012
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    "An Old Favorite"
    What did you love best about The City and the Stars?

    This was one of the first science fiction novels I'd ever read ever so many years back. For that reason it was the first Audible book I downloaded. It was and remains a favorite. Some have said it is not one of Clarke's best, but I tend to disagree. Perhaps that's just the memories bound up around the story, but there you go.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The City and the Stars?

    I enjoyed the sense of discovery as Alvin explored his universe; first the outskirts of Diaspar, then Lys, then the stars. The sense of physical exploration and discovery of new landscapes is something I miss in more recent works.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The performance was mildly uneven. The different voices were obviously recorded at different times, using different equipment, different EQ settings and different levels of compression. This created a slightly uneven flow to the dialog, something which could have been avoided by bringing the voice actors in to record at the same time.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. I used it to pass the time on a long daily commute. It lasted better than a week and served its purpose well in keeping me entertained in traffic.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David NEW ROMNEY, United Kingdom 02-04-12
    David NEW ROMNEY, United Kingdom 02-04-12
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    "Audible done this well written story proud"

    The book is full of twists and unexpected momentum obsorbed in each part so much that i was sad to leave each relavation behind, but the next giant step gripped me again and i was amazed how vast the story was in doing so great leaps where made that in them selfs would take volumes to have known. Overall a brillant book written by a Brit saddly no longer with us, I am a Brit who spent more time reading Jack Vance than Clarke my treat in finding more , This is the best audio book i have herd several different voices subtel sound effects i think compared to other books from audibe i have herd the boat was pushed out in other words Awesome as my cousins would say.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DELee 02-15-10
    DELee 02-15-10 Member Since 2009
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    "An Unusual Presentation"

    This version City and the Stars is more on the order of a radio drama than a typical Audible book. I thought this presentation was effective, but as a story it's not one of Clarke's best works, which range from hard science to near fantasy. This one is toward the fantasy end of the spectrum.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lars 07-18-14
    Lars 07-18-14 Member Since 2014
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    "A mesmerizing story, beatifully narrated"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Would definitely recommend it; especially to people with an interest in philosophy and/or (of course) science fiction.


    What other book might you compare The City and the Stars to and why?

    It is somewhat comparable to "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" by R. Heinlein; since it gives a very realistic image of a fictional future in which humanity, or a part of it, strives for something greater than its (then) current setting and situation.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    One of my many favorite scenes (be warned for plot spoilers !!) was when Alvin decided to leave earth for the first time, using the spaceship he found. Apart from the fact that this is one of the key turning points in the book, it also captures very much the ambition of Alvin as well as one of the central thoughts behind the story; finally, after years of isolation, the human race sets to explore the universe once again.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Exploring the past, to find a long lost future purpose.


    Any additional comments?

    This book has definitely entered my top 5 favourite books of all time !!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam ROANOKE, VA, United States 06-12-14
    Adam ROANOKE, VA, United States 06-12-14
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    "Ill-Suited Production Clashes w/ Stultifying Story"
    What disappointed you about The City and the Stars?

    Both the story and this production have all the wit and energy of an awkward, stagey bible drama. (Read: BORING, and plagued with an aura of inauthenticity.)


    POOR EDITING CREATES FLAT, LISTLESS AUDIO PRODUCTION:
    To begin with, this audio production is "dramatically" ill conceived (pun intended).

    The production company clearly spent a pretty penny hiring a large cast, and incorporating a certain amount of music and sound effects. On paper this sounds like a virtue -- yet each of the readers sounds like they're in a hollow, empty room, all alone.

    It's both impossible to ignore and weird to hear that each reader recorded his or her narrative separately, in a soundproof studio, at different times, and then an editor stitched it all together.

    Thus the smallish amount of dialogue never sounds like real people actually conversing. Instead, strange voices unexpectedly intrude upon the narrator from nowhere, deliver a brief monologue to no one, and then fade back into the ether. The soundtracking and foley effects are the same -- they fade into and out of nothingness, with a flat, muted quality.

    The overall impression is that none of these sounds and voices are in one common "space" -- they're all isolated and alone, and just by happenstance, they're occurring in some organized sequence.

    By contrast, true radio dramas generally do a much better job of integrating all the voices and sounds into the same "soundstage" or auditory space, specifically to avoid this sort of unnerving and unwanted feeling of disparateness.

    The lack of audio integration is heightened by the fact that this production has much less dialogue and fewer foley effects than a standard radio drama -- so just as you start to get used to the solo narrator, your attention is disrupted by some otherworldly intrusion that never feels natural or appropriate.

    It's not creepy or evocative -- it's merely perpetually awkward.


    STALE, INERT VOICE-ACTING:
    To make matters worse, each of these actors is listless and stilted.

    The emotions they do evince feel arbitrary, contrived, half-hearted; never for a moment does it sound like the actors believe what they're saying, nor do they have any faith that the listener will believe. Furthermore, there's zero sense of anyone reacting to anyone else.

    All of this is likely indicative of an inexperienced audio cast.


    PRODUCTION FORMAT CLASHES WITH NARRATIVE STRUCTURE:
    What truly makes this audio production painful and ill conceived is that it's just about the worst possible format for this particular story. It enervates this story, transforming it from "merely boring" to "suffocating drudgery."

    Generally, radio dramas, like staged dramas, contain a great deal of dialogue, as well as a moderate amount of activity -- otherwise, there's no purpose in hiring multiple actors. By contrast, Clarke's story is constructed in a the form of a parable or fable, almost entirely related by a remote, disinterested narrator.

    It's possibly the worst narrative format for a multi-cast production -- both the story and the production underscore the worst in each other, rather than highlighting their strengths.

    This suggests that the production choice was perhaps a pet project of a longtime fan; it's not a script that would normally get greenlighted for this type of production.


    LIFELESS, PLODDING NARRATIVE IN THE FORM OF A PARABLE:
    The narrative format that Clarke has chosen (the parable or fable) is rare in modern fiction for a reason -- readers find it abjectly tedious.

    In fairness, the parable or fable format was somewhat more common among sci-fi writers of the early to mid century. Usually related as a sort of "misty, half-recalled legend in soft focus," which is precisely the model Clarke has adopted here, this was part of the institutional learning curve as early sci-fi writers worked out how to incorporate their ideas into a viable narrative format.

    Yet even in the era when such a format was still tolerated, it was generally the hallmark of clever concepts that lack a fully realized narrative arc or protagonist. The end result is less a dynamic "story" that goes somewhere, and more a guided tour of a thought-museum, filled with fetching notions, but ultimately static and dead.

    In the best cases from mid-century, such nascent proto-stories were later re-imagined into whole stories. These days, editors immediately send such drafts back to the drawing board because they have virtually no audience.


    NARRATIVE ESCHEWS CONFLICT AND TENSION AT EVERY TURN:
    To be specific about Clarke's book in terms of fictional craft, the story is almost entirely composed in summary, with very little direct scene or action. The narrative distance is extremely remote, disinterestedly omniscient, giving the audience very little direct experience of any character's thoughts, feelings, or perspective.

    In short, we are "told" about Alvin's thoughts / opinions / actions, but we never "inhabit" his view or his world -- the story never rises beyond an anecdote related by someone who doesn't care very much.

    Thus there is essentially no tension, extremely little conflict, and what conflict we do get is utterly flat, devoid of urgency or immediateness.

    In fact, Clarke seems to go out of his way to dispel conflict and tension before it can get going -- he regularly calls out interactions or events that might create tension and explains with stultifying precision why all is, in fact, still harmonious and inert.

    Such vigilance in preserving a harmonious status quo is lauded in an exterminator killing pests, but in an author, it simply kills the story.

    Put another way: Conflict is the engine that drives fiction, and tension is its fuel. A vivid experience of a character's personality, portrayed through actions in scene, is the road that story travels, arriving at a destination very different from where it began.

    These are, roughly, the key traits that distinguish modern fiction from older, prosaic formats such as fables, folktales, anecdotes at the bar. And this is true whether you're talking about cheap pulp stories or the very best of literature such as Faulkner, Hemingway, or Heinlein.


    WHO IT'S FOR -- AND WHO IT'S NOT:
    The upshot is that most listeners will find this story crushingly boring. The utterly ill-suited production quality only makes this worse.

    Possible exceptions will be devoted, "completionist" fans of Arthur C. Clarke, and those who nurse nostalgia for this particular story from a youthful encounter of it.

    However, if you're new to this book, take heed -- sometimes "classic" simply means old and overhyped. This story and this audiobook are full of interesting, inert ideas squandered in a dreadful series of non-events.


    Has The City and the Stars turned you off from other books in this genre?

    Definitely not; I know sci-fi forwards and backwards, from the dawn of the genre to the latest, the trashy, the literary, the obscure (and even the non-existent such as Kilgore Trout's "Venus on the Half-Shell").

    And I like Arthur C. Clarke, too -- he's one of the great masters. This story is simply double-plus un-good.


    How could the performance have been better?

    One reader would have been vastly preferable to eliminate the eery flatness, cuts, gaps, and pauses. Barring that, somebody should have given these people some coffee, and allowed them to record their scenes together in the same studio.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disgust, frustration, how the hell am I going to get through all 8.5 hours, WHY WHY WHYY, terry GROSS, what a waste of a credit, god, no, stop, why.


    Any additional comments?

    A writer as brilliant and deservedly famous as Arthur C. Clarke will always have devoted followers who can enjoy all of their works, from the meager to the masterful.

    There's nothing wrong with that -- I have my own favorites who can do no wrong. But this is NOT Clarke's best and it would be a ghastly place to start.

    If you don't already know for sure that you love this book, save your credit.

    You've been warned.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    marc CLINTON, CT, United States 03-29-14
    marc CLINTON, CT, United States 03-29-14 Member Since 2013
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    "i enjoyed it."
    Any additional comments?

    i liked the book, it's just the audio quality was awful. some of the narration was done in a professional studio and some was done in, what would appear, an office. some of the narrators were professional and others not.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lee Lake Elsinore, CA, United States 02-27-13
    Lee Lake Elsinore, CA, United States 02-27-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Great Audiobook with a very good cast of voices"
    Would you listen to The City and the Stars again? Why?

    Yes - I have it on CD


    What other book might you compare The City and the Stars to and why?

    None it a good stand alone book


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Traversing the stars


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    No

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Bruce
    Forfar, Angus, United Kingdom
    2/19/10
    Overall
    "The City and the Stars"

    the book is exellent - experience spoiled by background music

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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