A Life for the Stars

by James Blish
Series: Cities in Flight 2
Reviewed date: 2007 Apr 25
Rating: 3
101 pages
cover art

A thousand years in the future, Earth is an impoverished wasteland. One by one the great cities fit themselves with spindizzy drives and fly off into space in search of work on richer colony worlds. James Blish uses the image of an Okie, a migrant worker in America's Great Depression. These Okie cities fight for scraps in a hostile universe.

Our protagonist is sixteen-year-old Crispin deFord. Chris gets caught in Scranton, Pennsylvania when that city leaves Earth in search of work. Scranton is a desperately poor city: undersupplied, overpopulated, inexperienced; it is ruled by an inept cabal of brutal thugs. Chris is bright but has no job skills--which would normally condemn him to dangerous, backbreaking manual labor. However, he manages to apprentice himself as a navigator. That's a sham, though, because he hasn't the astronomy knowledge necessary to be a real navigator, and Scranton's navigator isn't able to teach him. Finally Chris seizes a chance to better his situation: Scranton trades some of its citizens to New York City for supplies; Chris is part of that trade.

In New York City there are opportunities for Chris. He decides to try for citizenship, and is enrolled in the city schools. When New York works a contract on the planet Heaven, Chris manages to help save the city when he uncovers a plot by their clients to overthrow and seize control of the city. Later, Chris helps again by averting a shooting war when New York finds itself in a standoff with Scranton.

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