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I had of course read this many many years ago; it won the BSFA Award in 1974 and got a Hugo nomination (beaten by The Dispossessed, which is fair enough). I liked it back then, and I liked it again on re-reading. The core concept is that our protagnist and his people are involved in transporting their city, on rails, across a landscape of varied terrain; and we discover that the landscape itself changes drastically, as does their experience of it, depending on how far ahead or behind they venture on the city's path.

The at the end there is a Big Reveal, which completely inverts our take on the city and what exactly is going on. I see some critics complaining that this spoils the story, but for me it doesn't - it makes the point that everyone's perspective is wrong, in the end, and the inversion may not be where you think. Having said that, the logic of the conclusion is not a hopeful one for the people of the city.

By the way, this is one of the longest great circles on land, Hong Kong to Lisbon:
map

I have spent some fruitless time trying to identify a credible longer route from south-eastern China to Sierra Leone or Liberia, skirting north of the Gulf of Suez and south of the Caspian, but am not convinced by any of the options. If there is one, it would be significantly longer than the Portuguese option.

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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
deborah_c
Apr. 27th, 2014 09:21 pm (UTC)
Last time I reread this, a few years back, I found myself a few days later at a very literary party. After discovering that I was literally struck dumb in the presence of Cory Doctorow and then Charlie Stross, I found myself talking to a very lovely lady, and her husband when he joined us, about our respective twins...
alaimacerc
Apr. 27th, 2014 10:02 pm (UTC)
According to The Internet, it's possible: Robertsport to Hui'an, or thereabouts. Vert tight squeeze between Suez and the Med, though...

Can't get any of the online Great Circle Mappers to work on my old, slow, and hot laptop. Though that's nothing to how old, slow and hot my brain would be if I tried to check the spherical trig myself...
nwhyte
Apr. 28th, 2014 06:41 am (UTC)
Playing with Google Earth, it looked like a route from near Shanghai to the Sierra Leone/Liberia border might do it. But I don't know how accurately spherical Google Earth is, and like you I found that the online great circle checkers gave inconsistent results.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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