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City at World's End

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Author: Edmond Hamilton
Published: 1951
Language: English
Wordcount: 59,901 / 172 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 82.7
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 16,810
Added to site: 2005.12.04 11874

The pleasant little American city of Middletown is the first target in an atomic war - but instead of blowing Middletown to smithereens, the super-hydrogen bomb blows it right off the map - to somewhere else! First there is the new thin coldness of the air, the blazing corona and dullness of the sun, the visibility of the stars in high daylight.  Then comes the inhabitant's terrifying discovery that Middletown is a twentieth-century oasis of paved streets and houses in a desolate brown world without trees, without water, apparently without life, in the unimaginably far-distant future.

Show Excerpt

It went off right over Middletown, and it did something..." He faltered, and then said, "Nobody really knew what a super-atomic bomb would do. There were logical theories and assumptions about it, but nobody really knew anything except that the most violent concentrated force in history would be suddenly released. Well, it was released, over Middletown. And it was violent. So violent that..."

He stopped, again, as though he could not quite muster up the courage to voice the certainty that was in him. He gestured at the dusky sky.

"That's our Sun, our own Sun-- but it's old now, very old. And that Earth we see out there is old too, barren and eroded and dying. And the stars.... You looked at the stars, Ken, but you didn't see them. They're different, the constellations distorted by the motions of the stars, as only millions of years could distort them."

Kenniston whispered, "Millions of years? Then you think that the bomb..." He stopped, and he knew now how Hubble had felt. How did you sa

Reader Reviews

Average Rating of 4 from 28 reviews: ****

I was looking for an audio book on my iPhone that I could listen to while walking and ended up with the city at worlds end. I got involved with the story right away, if you don't mind listening to a science fiction novel from the 50s were travellers come from "half way across the universe" and a storyline that's a bit outdated its a solid science fiction story with a good plot and interesting characters.

Lisa Carr

A superbomb exploding over a Midwest town distorts space & time (with smoke and mirrors) and sends the town intact a million years in the future. The earth is cold and abandoned, and the townspeople have to figure out how to survive. Then the million-year-advanced humans arrive to help the primitives.
I didn't find the townspeople's behavior odd or unrealistic. Under stressful conditions, people do not behave rationally.
I liked that the ending was messy and that not everyone was happy.


I give the author credit for coming up with an intriguing plot concept. A 20th century town is thrown intact through time, millions of years into the future, where the citizens find a nearly dead planet earth. Unfortunately the plot and behavior of the characters soon become unrealistic, annoying, and predictable.


An ordinary US town is propelled in to the distant future when a super-atomic bomb is detonated over it.

An entertaining notion. But even making allowances for when it was written, there was a bit too much sloppy science in this story for my liking.

For example, the author's poor grasp of chronology. For an Earth with a red sun we're talking billions, not millions of years. SF writers should do a bit of high school homework if they don't want people like me picking holes.

Nevertheless, I found the first half of the story reasonably entertaining. However, about 2/3rds of the way through it became clear where the plot was going and it wasn't sufficiently well-written to hold my interest beyond that point. Faced with a predictable outcome, wooden characters, and the irritating small town mindset I skimmed the last 40 pages.

The book wasn't a total disaster, but I wouldn't read it twice.

Why do people in the future always seem to live under domes??

Marty Gingras

I won\'t give away the ending, but I was not heartened. Does anybody else see a problem with this conflict? I\'m hoping we\'re not really like the people from the city.">I read this book as a teen but now as an adult I can clearly see the disturbing message Hamilton has used as a theme for this teen novel.
My review mentions a major story line that is a bit of a spoiler.

As we know, the city is catapulted into the distant future. The Earth is dying, the sun is dying, and they are trapped in a futuristic city they will never figure out. When future humans arrive to transport them to a beautiful, inhabitable planet, they threaten violence.

There are a number of problems with this sick response. They don\'t want to leave because they believe they belong on Earth, not among the stars. There are no intelligent humans in the group that realize that the next generation will never know Earth and will naturally adopt a new planet as their home. With the thousands of adults present and not a single one realizing that, Mr. Hamilton has shown the perversity of the human race, its arrogance, narcissism, and its selfishness. Does anybody care for the welfare of the city\'s future children? Not in this story.

Another possibility is that the author is showing just how stubborn our race is, \"by golly, we ain\'t goin\' off in no dang machines to a paradise. You can\'t make us move from this here dyin\' planet and that\'s final!\"

I won\'t give away the ending, but I was not heartened. Does anybody else see a problem with this conflict? I\'m hoping we\'re not really like the people from the city.


Terrific book! I read it with no idea of what it was about or what would happen later, and tht made it incredibly fun. Be warned, though, some of the reviews here are spoilers.

Charles B

I first read this book when I purchased a paperback copy from a library book sale back in the 1980\'s and have read it multiple times since then. While some of the concepts are a bit dated now it\'s still a good read and well worth the time to find a copy.

Fans of the Fallout series of CRPGs or post-apocalyptic scenarios will love Hamilton's vastly imaginative and fluid writing style.

The story is a bit hard to believe at first but rapidly escalades into a crescendo of the things we love about science fiction - be they exploration, macro-engineering, starships, they're all presented in an easy to grasp format in a "what if you were there" perspective in the form of the main protagonist, Mr Kenniston.

He's a fine depiction of a man who, confronted by a rapidly degenerating environment, puts his life at stake on the line to find a way to save his community, even where conventional social circles have labelled him an outcast due to his forward-thinking.

This book was written over half a century ago but the human (and alien) society it depicts is frighteningly similar to today's challenges - be they familial, corporate, or just plain human emotions. It's a fictional world with realistic characters, and this is where Mr Hamilton's work really shines.

It doesn't try too hard to be "fantastic". It puts a seed of a "what if" scenario in your mind, and the characters grow from mere strangers to familiar personalities in just over 50 pages.

Simply fantastic.

Steven Reeve

After reading this book I wondered how come I have never heard of Edmond Hamilton before and how come this book was never optioned for a movie. The story is fast moving and an excellent read once I started I just did not want to put it down.
I can agree with one of the other reviewers that one of the characters was definably an inspiration for Chewbaca,as I read it I knew that I was looking at a description of our favourite big teddy bear.
A good read and really worth the time to do so.


WOW. . .Just like JeffB, this was my first Science Fiction book -- At least that's what I remember but I forget now whether I read it after Tom Corbert and similar books I found in the school library. Regardless, it was the first S.F. book I bought to read. I found it about 10 years after, and I was a couple years older than, Jeff. Tho I only read it once, I've kept my paperback copy all this time. Other than that, as I remember it's an OK story and a very thin book.


Well, whilst this is an absorbing enough read, and a brilliant concept, it is totally spoiled for me by the entrenched attitudes of the characters, indicating, I presume, the small-town, inward-looking and downright prejudiced attitudes of people in those days.

For a start, the main character obviously cannot cope with women in positions of authority. He seems to expect them to be the little, semi-hysterical woman at home who only copes with life when he comes home to soothe her. And he only warms to Varn after he realises that she is "an anxious woman", "just a girl" and "afraid of men".

I also could not believe the attitude of the people in it, who were willing to fight and die to stay on a barren rock just because it was Earth, rather than be relocated on a living planet with warm sunshine, water, seas and life. It hardly seems possible that this was the attitude of people in the country that first went to the Moon. Consequently I have got to the stage where I really don't have any empathy with the characters as they are so frustrating.

Maybe I am just not accepting enough of the difference in culture between the time the book was written and now, but if that's how it was back then then I am glad I did not live in those times.

As I say, still an engrossing read. Haven't finished it yet either so I'm hoping for better things, but I'm beginning to lose hope.


Enjoyable and well-written. The treatment of the female characters was a little condescending, though. While it features a strong female character, the lead male eventually recognizes her to be just a "anxious woman, almost a girl". Well, it's easily enough ignored, at least for this (male) reviewer.

Jeff B

This book holds a very special place in my life, since it was the very first Sci-Fi novel I ever read (at the tender age of 7). From that point on, I was hooked; now, some 55 years later, I'm still an avid reader of the genre, with a Sci-Fi library of close on 3,000 books - and I STILL have my original hard-back copy of "City at World's End".
Had the book not been as well-written and absorbing, I would certainly have missed out on a lifetime of reading enjoyment.
Recommended to all lovers of science fiction, regardless of age.


Gorr Holl ("Growl", get it?) is described in ch. 9 on p. 85 and is so obviously the model for Chewbacca that I'm astonished that no one has ever made the connection. And Varn Allan comes across as a Leia character, albeit as an administrator, not a princess. There's even a galactic senate.

A must read for anyone who wants to piece together some of the origins of Star Wars.


Thrust a million or more years into the future by a superatomic blast, the town of Middleton is now surrounded by a cold, bleak landscape and a dying sun. The survivors find a deserted domed city and take up residence, but their future is uncertain at best. Broadcasts for help, at first unanswered, finally bear fruit when humans from the stars come to rescue and relocate them. But in a strange illogical but very human way, they don't want to be relocated. Now they must face something that hasn't changed in a million years; Bureaucracy! Find out how they make allies with other species and slap the pusses of the bureaucrats in a valiant effort to save their dying Earth.
A good read.


Basically, a space opera. Reminded me of some of the sci-fi B movies I used to enjoy as a kid. It's a little flat in the telling in places, a bit pulpy (although it's meant to be I suppose because it is space opera after all), and the aliens reminded me of the crew of Space Quest (the game), but you can't fault the passion behind the story. Despite the basic premise, there's an undercurrent of humanity that's quite moving. Made me think how finite our world really is. Still, a great little book. I enjoyed it enough to look up the author and seek out some of his other work.


Beautiful! Full of hope and a classic happy ending.


Excellent read!

Well written and moving story.


Great read loved this sci fi story.


Grabs you from the opening paragraphs and keeps you going to the end, and then wanting more. I highly recommend this.


I enjoy the early sci-fi genre and this book was in that vein. I thought the intitial plot/premise was interesting but agree with others that a sequel should have been written: many directions available to the writer. Would recommend if you enjoy this time period of science fiction.

Lou Varricchio

A classic Golden Age SF novel by an underrated and largely forgotten author, Edmond Hamilton. I had the honor, as a fan, to correspond with Hamilton shortly before his death. He considered "City..." one of his favorites. Hamilton's 1940s pulp characters live on in the "Captain Future" series of Japanese animated television series. Hamilton's work deserves more attention and await rediscovery by a new generation. He was a great influence on his wife and author Leigh Brackett (best known for her "Star Wars" screenplay). She studied at the feet of a master!


Great read, not to deep.


I really enjoyed this book. 1950's it is, but still leaves you wishing there was a sequel.


Excellent. Nothing too deep to freak people out, and yet not at all your shallow stars and swords sort of action. This is an intelligent novel from a good--yet not perfect--writer, once you get used to him.

It's fast-paced, lively, thrilling, and most of all entertaining novel of science fiction (with emphasis on fiction) that will surely keep you reading it all in one session. Not the type you read twice, but certainly the type you never regret having read.

Take into your consideration however that this was written in the 1950's.


Fascinating book. It was fun seeing the "future" in the eyes of a 1950's writer.


Fast-paced 1950's science fiction, with more adventure than science. Perfect for those looking for light reading that's lots of fun.

Andrew Flusche

This was a quick and good read. I am in law school, so I enjoy books that are somewhat adventerous, but not terribly deep. City at World's End fits the bill perfectly.

I enjoyed it, and I hope you do too.



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