I read this book because Pat Murphy is a guest at Fogcon, and because it's about San Francisco. I really enjoyed it. I am not really bothered by post-apocalyptic books, but I am bothered by dystopian books (I can read them, but I seldom choose to). This books is post-apocalyptic but not at all dystopian. It's magical realism after everything and nothing has changed.
In some ways, I wish I'd read this before I'd ever read Dhalgren. There are a lot of superficial similarities, themes about coming of age and bridges and crystals and fog and violence and sex. I couldn't help thinking of and contrasting them as I read along. But in the end, The City, Not Long After is a profoundly hopeful book about both nonviolence and stepping away from one's principles in times of crisis.
I liked most of the characters, and laughed at General "Miles" as the most apropos name possible, although I originally misread it as General Mills, which was also funny. Danny-boy was especially appealing -- simple and loving, but not stupid. The city is also a beautiful and animate character.
The magical realism was well-handled. It could be easy to make it schmaltzy, but it wasn't, and I thought that was pretty impressive for a book where someone's tears turned into butterflies that turned into paint. There were some stumbles of predictability -- i resented the obligatory sacrifice-of-self-for-LUV, but it was at least more joyful than emo. It is also odd to read a post-apocalyptic book written in the 80's. The cold war was still everpresent, but there were typewriters in offices, and Macy's had a NOTIONS COUNTER. You know, like you could still buy things to sew at department stores. Wow. It's nothing anyone can avoid when they destroy the world in their own time, it's just an artifact, but while all the rest of the story was pretty immediate for me, I kept running a sort of ethnography on the world-that-was.
On the whole, I would probably never have picked this book up on my own, but I'm very glad that I read it.
Read if: You would like a future of poets and painters and librarians. You are a fan of magical realism. You are interested in what happens when pacifists go to war.
Skip if: You are actually looking for the grim meathook future. You will find magical fogs and glass mazes twee and annoying. You have plague issues. Wandering through houses with dead people would skeeve you out.