This is a very interesting book.
It’s a collection of connected short stories that take place over the course of 20,000 years as mankind travels to other planets in the solar system, advances in technology, and slowly loses its civilization until the dogs and then the ants take over.
That is, cheap land (hydroponics replaces farming, which leads to cheap land), cheap transportation, and a benevolent central government make it so all mankind, or at least the ones in America and Europe, can live on lots of land. Cities (including the city in the lead short story that leads to the name of the book) break down as there are fewer people to fund services that no one really uses any more, but the local governments insist upon providing. Then, agoraphobia sets in as man grows very accustomed to his surroundings and does not want to leave his homestead for anything. This leads to a surgeon who specializes in Martian anatomy failing to help a friend, a Martian philosopher who has discovered a philosophy that could advance mankind hundreds of thousands of years. Then, a descendent of the fellow learns how to build a star drive, and another descendent advances dogs to speaking and learning.
The book has a frame story as a scholarly tract relaying myths and legends of man. A dog scholar, way in the future, discusses each story and outlines the controversies between other dog scholars who might or might not believe the stories or true or that the race of man existed at all.
The book is a quick enough read, and it really looks into a number of themes of race (human) versus individuals and the programming of the race (in the book, man is unperfectable in that he will always be warlike and future non-human civilizations must be protected from his influence). However, it’s not that straight man is bad, since other animal races, when raised, retain some bloodlust and desire to hunt. So it’s a very thought-provoking book, and although you can somewhat figure out what Simak thinks, the author leaves you room to ponder.
That’s old school science fiction.
I understand a later edition of the book has an additional epilog added. I’ll have to hunt that one down so I can find out what that means. The book I read was the old edition.
I’ve read some Simak before even though I can’t find any reports on the book the blog here. I don’t mind reading another if I find it at a book fair or even on my own shelves.