I'm looking for help identifying a story where everyone lives in a city run by machines.

The main character has a helper robot who won't/can't do something or give him some information. He goes deep into the city and a bigger machine makes him a new robot that can do "the thing" and the first robot shuts down.

I remember he goes up some stairs to the city wall and finds a ship, I think covered in sand outside the city walls.

He then travels to another part of the planet where the "non technology" people live, they try and make him stay using mind control, but he has the robot instructed to make sure he gets back, and to ignore him if he tried to give it other orders.

I thought it was by Arthur C. Clarke, but I'm not sure, I also thought it might be a two-part where the first part is written by Clarke and the second part written by someone else but I'm not to sure of these parts.

  • Roger MacBride Allen's Isaac Asimov's Utopia (the third part of the Caliban trilogy) fits some of the points. Everyone lives in a city run by machines; there's a robot who doesn't want to give information about the location of a comet even though the protagonist badly wants to find it out; there is a bigger robot though it's for a different purpose than what you mentioned; and someone does travel to another part of the planet that's completely different from the city.
    – b_jonas
    Jan 24, 2013 at 21:51
  • Also covered by John Wyndham (possibly earlier) in Stowaway To Mars (1936) and sequel Sleepers of Mars (1939) - quote" They are taken by the advanced robots to a nearby Martian city. They find it to be in good working order, fully automated, with dwellings suitable for their needs. There are no people living there however." Humanoid Martians had existed although the planet is dying and the advanced civilisation running the remaining infrastructure is mechanical. Wyndham's early writing preceded ACC by 2 decades and his short stories have influenced (and been rifled) by many who followed. Nov 9, 2016 at 15:35

1 Answer 1


It could be either Against the Fall of Night (1948) or The City and the Stars (1956), both by Arthur C. Clarke. The second is a re-write of the first.

There are differences, but in general, the story follows Alvin, who lives in Diaspar, a very advanced city. He asks questions and other people don't. Soon he finds a way to go to another city, Lys, which is, as you pointed out, a "non-technology" civilization.

I won't go into more plot details, in case you want to re-read either story. I believe I read The City and the Stars first, then my girlfriend found Against the Fall of Night and I eventually read that, too. I believe I liked Against the Fall of Night better, but that's just my opinion and I might mis-remember.

  • Thanks Tango, now I just need to figure out which one to try :)
    – AidanO
    Jan 10, 2012 at 9:58
  • Against the Fall of Night was the one I read, might have to try them both though. :)
    – AidanO
    Jan 10, 2012 at 10:01

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