A dystopian science fiction novel with big ideas but an unengaging writing style. It was first published in 1974 and is, I think, the first novel about cities moving across the earth. As Adam Roberts says in the introduction to the book, the idea has influenced writers since, although he neglects to mention Mortal Engines.
The book mainly follows the aptly named Helward Mann as he serves his apprenticeship as a Future Surveyor. He has grown up on a moving city which is winched along rails, but doesn’t find out why this is until he takes his oath and becomes part of the elite. There is a lot of mundane detail about the process of moving the city, making this an unenjoyable reading experience. Things get quite weird around halfway through the book, although I predicted the crazy twist at the end that I’d been promised, so it wasn’t that satisfying a conclusion. As a metaphor it’s a good story and I suppose if you like geometry there’s an added appeal, yet I was a little bored with it. I also didn’t understand why the writer switched Helward’s narrative from first person perspective to third, then back to first.
As a read picked up from a charity shop, it was OK, but I’m not sure I recommend it.
This edition published by Gollancz in the SF Masterworks series, 2010.