Every so often, I find a piece of fiction so compelling that I hate to give away too much about it for fear of spoiling the experience. Going through my stack of Galaxy novels, the ones I picked up cheaply not too long ago, I came upon The City in the Sea, by Wilson Tucker, published eight years ago in 1951. I had not heard of him before, but a quick polling of my friends determined that not only is he a BNF (“Big Name Fan”), but he is also quite an accomplished science fiction author. Interestingly, he coined the term “space opera.”
Sometimes one can judge a book by its cover. In fact, the scene depicted is right from the novel. In short, several thousands of years from now, after an atomic holocaust destroys civilization, and global warming floods the continents, a resurgent matriarchy in England (having reached a Roman level of technology) establishes a colony on the American eastern seaboard. Finding only lackluster specimens of native humanity there, they are surprised when a clearly superior fellow (male, no less) strides purposefully into the colony from beyond the Appalachians. He is mute but compelling, and the colony’s Captain accompanies him back across the mountains, along with a company of woman soldiers, in search of the man’s settlement.
The ensuing story is told entirely from a female viewpoint (one of three: the efficient Captain Zee, her wry and charming doctor, Barra, and, briefly, the Captain’s adjutant, Donnie). It is suffused with a sense of wonder, the kind you get in a good Pellucidar story, and it is satisfying from beginning to end. City also has that good, timeless quality that will keep it a classic in decades to come.
So read it already! I’m sure you can find a copy somewhere. If you like it, drop me a line. Fair readers, be advised that vital plot elements may be discussed in the correspondence below.
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