I bought this book from a library sale in the 90's but the cover art that I can remember would be 80's/70's. I've lost the book but have been thinking about the story for years.

It featured a protagonist who lived in the rear portion of a massive linear city structure that was hundreds of stories high, miles wide and hundreds of mile long. The city 'crawled' across its environs by being deconstructed at the back and the materials and people 'pilgrimmaged' to the front. The story follows the protagonist and his family's final days in the rear portion before they are to undertake the very long move to the front.

The cover was yellow, and I think had a 'Conan'-style depiction of the protagonists in a sewer/tunnel? Any info would be appreciated, Thanks!

Edit: Further details;

The protagonist is a teenage boy who lives in one of the top 'stories' of this structure. There is a massive greenspace/park which takes the form of an atrium that his floor and several others are adjacent to, with a description of massive lights at the ceiling of the atrium.

The pilgrimmage or relocation journey to the front of the city-snake is done using a train-like vehicle at ground-level but the city itself is immobile -- it cannot move on its own except by being built in one direction and un-built in the opposite.

The protag's family, over generations, has changed in class designation based on their position within the city, first at the front as immigrants and some other level by the time the city's back end has caught up to them - it's falling apart and disheveled.

At some point the engineers come to deconstruct his home and there's descriptions of looking out of the disassembled walls over the plains at other cities (?) moving 'like worms on the plain' (definitely not verbatim)

  • 1
    Welcome to the site. You have a good start here. If you could take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit in any more details, that would be great. Every little bit helps us.
    – amflare
    Dec 18, 2017 at 17:00

2 Answers 2


I think this could be 'Pilgrimage' by Drew Mendelson. (1981) 1981 English cover

Extract from "Post apocalyptic book list":-

As far as anyone knew, all mankind live in The City. The City, a self-enclosed towering single building, had always moved generation by generation across the vast empty landscape.

Brann Adelbran met destiny when his family sector found itself at Tailend. Already the Structors were planning to dismantle his ancestral apartment high on an upper floor of that colossal metropolis.

Brann would have to make the pilgrimage to Frontend to re-establish his family there for the generations to come.

But when tradition was suddenly shattered, Brann was forced to flee, not on the established routes and hallways, but down the forbidden shafts into the lost chambers, corridors, and basements which even legend had forgotten.

His pilgrimage became an odyssey of terrors, mysteries, and scientific marvels.

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    YES. This is definitely it, and now I know exactly why 12-year-old me picked this book up. Thank you!
    – h4rpur
    Feb 1, 2019 at 14:35

Is it Inverted World by Christopher Priest? Previously identified as the answer to this question, which came up on my Google search (after a few false positives) for novel moving cities deconstructed at the back built from the front.

In the novel, an entire city and its residents travel slowly across an alien planet on railway tracks. The city's engineers must work to lay fresh track for the city, and pick up the old track as it moves. Many people are unaware that the city is even moving. A crisis ensues as its population decreases, the people grow unruly, and an obstacle looms ahead.

front cover

I see why you found this difficult to identify - nearly all the results from related Google searches (and the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the title of your question) were about Philip Reeve's excellent Mortal Engines series, which also concerns moving cities.

  • Definitely a good suggestion based on my description - but the city notably doesn't 'move' at all in the normal sense -- it's not a physics-enabled object, it's a structure that's built only on one side using reclaimed materials from the opposite side. The cover art was much much more Conan (Frank Frazetta) style with a muscle-bound dude and his lithe female companion.
    – h4rpur
    Dec 19, 2017 at 19:30
  • @h4rpur check out this cover, it may match your recollection. schicksalgemeinschaft.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/…
    – Moriarty
    Dec 19, 2017 at 21:34
  • Similar description, but it's definitely not this book. Thanks for your help though!
    – h4rpur
    Dec 19, 2017 at 21:44
  • I've read this one, it's not a match. Jan 31, 2019 at 13:26

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