Futuropolis by Robert Sheckley (book review).

I pulled a copy of Robert Sheckley’s ‘Futuropolis’ because I missed it the first time around in the early 1980s and finding it on-line is easier than bookshop hunting in its day. For those who don’t know, Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) was a popular American SF author that I came across originally with his quirky ‘Mindswap’ (1966) novel.

I wasn’t quite sure what ‘Futuropolis’ was going to be. It’s not one of his novels but an examination of futuristic cities, both in our reality up to 1979 and in SF realities. Oddly, he spends a lot of time looking at Disneyland and EPCOT towards the end of the book. Things would be a lot different today with several new futuristic cities to examine. However, with a lot of photos and illustrations, in black and white and colour, you get visuals to go along with his text as he covers cities on, underground, undersea and in space. Hardly surprising that Jim Blish’s Okie cities from his four novel series ‘Cities In Flight’ gets a lot of coverage although Clifford Simak’s ‘City’ (1952) doesn’t. That might be a question of permission or space. Films and TV cities aren’t covered but that might be a matter of cost and copyright. He did make me pause for thought in that why we haven’t got an undersea village yet. If we can’t prove we can survive underwater, how are we going to survive on Mars?

In many respects, we’ve come a long way in the past 30 years and a book like this could certainly do with an update with new information from all quarters. You only have to look at the futuristic cities we have today to realise how far our reality has moved on. If anything, Science Fiction stories haven’t kept up. I was really hard-pushed to think of any significant SF novel where we have a memorable city since then, but now I’m focusing they seem to be popping up and I’ve just missed reading about them. For other media, there’s a tendency to follow the ‘Blade Runner’ route of things falling apart.

The illustrations are worth the book price alone and won’t break the bank. It might also give you thought as to the kind of environment you set your own stories in. With my observer’s eye, it’s pretty obvious many of the early designs are less practical but few SF artists were architects or technical artists. That isn’t necessarily a problem because you wouldn’t get flights of fantasy neither. There’s also a lot of book covers included and, as Sheckley is using these as examples, it might induce you to seek some of these books out.

GF Willmetts

May 2018

(pub: Big O Publishing, 1979. 120 page illustrated square softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for £ 3.98 (UK). ISBN: 0-903767-22-8)

check out website: www.bigopublishinggroup.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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