I read 'The City And The Stars' at the tender age of eleven or twelve. Nearly thirty years and many thousands of books later it still ranks as perhaps the greatest science-fiction book of all time.
The story opens with a wonderful description of what could be a possible future for humanity. After spending long millenia trying to explore the solar system, the Universe, and infinately greater intellegences reach the earth, and man is forced to look at his role in the Universe, and closely at himself. having risen to this challenge, mankind perfects both himself and machines, then reaches out to the stars once more, not merely joining the races with whom he once could barely understand, but leading them to the accomplishemnt of the ultimate goal.
The city of the title is the last vestigal remnant of humanity in the solar system, so long-lived and safety concious that they no longer wish to explore the universe, or indeed, even their own small planet.
The story is that of Alvin, the first child born on Earth for many thousands of years, who finds he does not share the fears of his fellow humans and vows to explore the world. His story unfolds in beautiful detail, and leads to an exciting and unexpected conclusion.
Along the way Clarke invents such radical concepts as computers with 'eternity circuits' which are immortal and can render immortal anything in their care, Gestalt entities composed of millions of unicellular polyps, which each individually live and die, but which collectively challenge eternity with undying intellegence, and a mind completely independent of matter.
The book is an ultimate work of art from the master himself. Read and enjoy!