Friday, July 27, 2018

Poor Red

I'm working my way through the four novels that comprise James Blish's Cities in Flight cycle. I'm reading them in order of internal chronology, which doesn't match the original publishing order, which is perhaps why a minor plot point in the third book really throws the second book into a new and puzzling light.

The second book, A Life for the Stars, is the story of a young man, Chris deFord, who winds up getting press-ganged into joining the crew of the spacebound city of Scranton. It's a bildungsroman, revolving entirely around Chris' journey to adulthood. While disadvantaged in the beginning, Chris proves himself resourceful and valuable, and eventually winds up becoming city manager of New York, the most storied of the spacefaring cities.

But in the third book, Earthman, Come Home, we learn in one throwaway line that Chris wound up being executed by the city fathers for some kind of scandal. This seems completely out of character for the character we know from A Life for the Stars, but on the other hand, Chris, like many others on New York, is immortal, and this story is set hundreds of years later; so perhaps he simply changed.

It's important to note that A Life for the Stars was published several years after Earthman, Come Home, so it's possible (barring rewrites; there are differences between editions of these novels), that Chris first appearance is actually the offhand mention in the third book, and Blish then, for whatever reason, wrote a backstory for Chris.

Either way, it's a bit jarring to have the character killed off so casually. The books are still fun, but I find it an odd choice for Blish. 

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