The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Frederik Pohl’s The Years of the City comprises five distinct yet connected stories that tell about a future New York City as it is transformed from a nearly dystopian existence to an idyllic urban society. Guided by the premise of civitas as civilization, Pohl zooms in on the lives of characters to focus briefly on their lives, providing the reader with literary snapshots. As the novel unfolds, the reader is shown how positive change is achieved and how gradual, progressive changes manifest themselves in the creation of a rather utopian city.

In the first chapter, “When New York Hit the Fan,” New York is depicted as a city suffering from seemingly irreversible problems of large cities, such as violent crime, pollution, and poverty. As the title of the first chapter implies, life in the Big Apple is reaching a point of absolute chaos and destruction, with terrorist bombs possible on any given street corner, sudden riots, and grossly overfilled prisons. Amid the chaos, there exists a democratically run, albeit corrupt, government that, among other things, is still in the business of finding solutions to the ailments of the city. One member of a powerful think tank, Shire Brandon, develops several components of a plan to lead New York out of its despair. He hopes to create a forum for citizen decision making through the so-called Universal Town Meeting (UTM), redistribute goods more fairly through a Five Percent Solution, and establish a better system of governmental checks and balances through a Citizen’s Grand Jury.

These ideas must and do compete with other, more tangible plans to better New York through enormous...

(The entire section is 684 words.)