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Manhattan Transfer

[Manhattan Transfer] Manhattan Transfer
by John E. Stith
Published by Tor, 1993
Amazon.ca: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.com: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback
Recommended by: Greg Slade

Manhattan Transfer made a big splash when it first came out, but for some reason, it has gone out of print except for Wildside Press' print-on-demand edition. Fortunately, its early popularity means that there are a fair number of used copies available.

The premise is that aliens enclose the island of Manhattan in a clear, impervious dome, and hoist it, population and all, into a gigantic spaceship, where New Yorkers discover that there are dozens of other cities, all apparently alien, which appear to have been snatched in a similar manner. Of course, being New Yorkers, they're not going to take this lying down. In fact, you might consider the book a sort of paean to the ability of New Yorkers to carry on in the most bizarre situations. Stith has made a name for himself as a "hard science fiction" writer, and he continues in that tradition here. There are no physical impossibilities like "matter transporter beams." Rather, the high tech involved comes from advances in material science. (However, he does posit a faster than light drive, which, although it's not widely accepted in scientific circles, does form a sort of necessary prerequisite to interstellar tales.)

The book has an unsympathetic character in the form of a somewhat unhinged street preacher, who incites violence against the people working to save New York. However, the character is not religious when he is introduced (in fact, he's pretty sleazy), and his religious "conversion" is not demonstrated to include any real understanding of God or Christianity, nor does he get any religious instruction before he starts preaching. In addition, Stith shows other religious groups praying, but not wreaking havoc, so it may be that his intent is not to bash Christians, so much as to point out that mentally unstable people can act out their irrational impulses by cloaking them in religious terms.

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