cover image City Under the Stars

City Under the Stars

Gardner Dazois & Michael Swanwick., $14.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-75658-9

Dazois (When the Great Days Come) and Swanwick (the Iron Dragon series) expand on their 1995 novella City of God to explore humanity’s relationship with technology and religion in this uneven sci-fi tale set on a far-future Earth. When ageing Carl Hanson is laid off from his coal-mining job, he makes an impulsive decision and flees his hometown for the walled-off City of God. The walls miraculously open for him, and once inside he discovers the city’s alien rulers have vanished; only their ultra-advanced technology, capable of granting godlike powers, remains. Seeing an opportunity to give humanity a fresh start, Hanson opens the gates of this utopia to the world, but then must scramble to stop the tech from falling into the wrong hands. Meanwhile the city, which isn’t as abandoned as it first appears, has plans of its own. The authors’ hodgepodge of styles—including frontier-inspired realism, futuristic sci-fi, hallucinatory fantasy, and gory horror—never coalesce into a cohesive whole. Though the authors raise intriguing questions, they don’t allow enough space for them to play out, making the sweeping themes feel sketchy. This is strictly for Dazois and Swanwick completists. (Aug.)