Read City of Truth by James K. Morrow Online


In Veritas, people have been conditioned to always tell the truth, no matter how unnerving the truth may be. Jack Sperry must learn to lie in order to save his son in this witty science fiction novella. Recipient of a 1992 Nebula Award....

Title : City of Truth
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780156180429
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 160 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

City of Truth Reviews

  • Nancy
    2019-11-30 18:10

    Posted at Shelf Inflicted I was feeling a need to revisit old favorites and couldn’t resist picking up this 1992 Nebula Award winner from the library. It was as enjoyable, humorous, smart and heartbreaking as I remembered it.38-year-old Jack Sperry lives in Veritas, a modern city where its inhabitants all undergo a painful shock treatment known as “the burn” when they are young in order to render them unable to tell a lie. Without the little deceptions that preserve a person’s feelings, provide comfort, prevent conflicts, or make children happy (yes, there is a Santa Claus!), the world Jack lives in is an indifferent and emotionless place.Jack gets satisfaction from his work as a “deconstructionist”, evaluating and destroying the art and literature from the “Age of Lies”. Yet, that doesn’t stop Jack from becoming interested in Martina, a “dissembler” who writes verses for greeting cards. His wife, Helen, feels they ought to turn her into the Brutality Squad for her poetic lies, but they have bigger issues to worry about.Their young son, Toby, has been bitten by a rare rabbit and infected with the deadly Xavier’s Plague. The doctors in Veritas have told the truth, but Jack isn’t ready to give up. He doesn’t want Toby to learn the truth about his diagnosis, so he reads up on the mind-body connection in The Journal of Psychic Healing and learns that there is hope.Jack wonders how Martina has overcome her conditioning, and wants to do so himself. He journeys underground, to the city of Satirev, where he meets others like Martina, people who engage in those deceptions that give hope, provide comfort, and make others happy. He hopes this will help Toby combat his illness. Despite the fact there were lots of white lies and hard truths going around, this was a story about love, trust, and the strong bond between parent and child. “Because, you see, it was like this: on his fifth birthday we’d taken Toby to the Imprisoned Animals Garden in Spinoza Borough. Fawns roamed the petting zoo at will, prancing about on their cloven hoofs, noses thrust forward in search of hand-outs. Preschoolers swarmed everywhere, feeding the creatures peanut brittle, giggling as the eager tongues stroked their palms. Whenever another person’s child laughed upon being so suckled, I was not especially moved. Whenever my own did the same, I felt something else entirely, something difficult to describe. I believe I saw the alleged God.”Highly recommended!

  • Bandit
    2019-12-11 23:06

    Remember that silly romantic comedy from 2009 The Invention of Lying? If not, the basic premise was that of a world where everyone tell the truth no matter what, not even so much as a fib or prevarication, with one notable exception that gets utilized to secure lady way out of the proverbial league under traditional circumstances. Well, apparently Hollywood really is out of fresh ideas, because that one seems to be lifted straight up from this novella, which predates the movie significantly. City of Truth aka Veritas has conditioned its citizens to be...well, veracious. But for what is almost certainly a paternal love (feelings are actually quite difficult to discern in face of constant brutal honesty) one man will descend into Satirev (reverse Veritas, city below) where he can learn the ultimate skill of lying. So there you have it...a clever satire, very funny, winner of Nebula Prize, the best kind of scifi, one with relevant and relatable sociological message, a morality tale and a witty one at that. Well worth an hour or so it takes to read it. Recommended.

  • James
    2019-11-16 21:51

    According to Kant, human beings occupy a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in one ultimate commandment of reason, or imperative, from which all duties and obligations derive. Known as the categorical imperative, it denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that asserts its authority in all circumstances, both required and justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. Based on this Kant asserted that lying, or deception of any kind, would be forbidden under any interpretation and in any circumstance.Imagine a city, let us call it Veritas, where all human adults are conditioned so that they cannot tell a lie. This is the premise of James Morrow's novel City of Truth, otherwise known as Veritas. In it he explores the implications of this for Veritas society. Some of the results are very funny, as any kind of dishonesty or unsubstantiated claims are impossible. So you have cars with such names as the "Ford Sufficient" and "Plymouth Adequate", a restaurant offering "Murdered Cow Sandwich with Wilted Hearts Lettuce and High-Cholesterol Fries", a morning TV programme called "Enduring Another Day", a "Camp Ditch-The-Kids" summer camp, the "Centre for Palliative Treatment of Hopeless Diseases" and (my favourite) an illuminated sign on the cathedral: "Assuming God Exists, Jesus May Have Been His Son". The effect on interpersonal relationships is indicated by the vow at a traditional wedding ceremony: "To have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to the degree that these mischievous and sentimental abstractions possess any meaning." All those little "white lies" and "lies by omission" which lubricate relationships in our world are impossible, so a degree of frankness which we would consider brutally rude is the norm.The protagonist of this novella, Jack Sperry, leads a simple straightforward life as a "deconstructionist", one who destroys works of art (all basically lies) for his living. His daily life in Veritas is one which is based only on the truth: "There are no metaphors in Veritas"(p 5). He takes his adequate car to his job "at the Wittgenstein Museum in Plato Borough, giving illusion its due."(p 2) When his son Toby, who is away for the summer at "Camp Ditch-the-Kids", is bit by a Rabbit and contracts a fatal disease Jack's life is turned upside-down in more ways than one. His story is a more a fable, a satirical view of the unintended consequences of being unable to lie and the way that humans who can lie deal with the accidents of living. Filled with humorous notions, phrases, and moments that create mental double-takes for the reader this novella is a delight in both its lightness and heaviness (apologies to Milan Kundera). There are lies that we tell ourselves to help us deal with the world, but this story imagines a city where you cannot do that. It is unpleasant and humorous at the same time, but, like a philosophic thought experiment, sometimes it is the best way to illustrate a complicated philosophical concept in the context of a story or situation. James Morrow has a reputation of presenting big ideas in clever ways (for an example read his Towing Jehovah). Morrow's style has been likened to Vonnegut's, but this wry little story reminded me of Swift. City of Truth is clever in ways that will leave you thinking about the meaning of life and the nature of truth for a long time after you finish reading the book.

  • Gideon
    2019-11-29 20:10

    City of Truth is the first of what I hope will be many great book recommendations (she has Good Opinions) from my new book-best friend Lauren (as she's the only other person I interact with in a regular basis that reads books). James Morrow's premise of a city where only the truth can be told starts as a satiric comedy. The cars have names like “Plymouth Adequate”; the protagonist's son attends “Camp Ditch-the-Kids”. However, a few chapters in, the transition to a tragedy begins. Suffice to say that nothing in fiction cuts me emotionally like fathers grieving for their children (see *Lost Boys*, *Pet Semetary*). Morrow accomplishes a great feat of narrative also. Similes are used only as an examples of lies in chapter one, but by the fourth chapter, the narrator has passed from narrative similes to using full metaphors in his speech. His tight mask of truth has cracked, and he hasn't yet caught on. The book is short (at under 175 pages), but Morrow packs so much in that its brevity is an asset. Lesser authors might have expanded the last few pages to a full chapter, but Morrow understands that after an emotional roller-coaster (yes, I cried, for the first time in a long while at a book) readers can connect many implied dots from action to action. It's my first book by Mr. Morrow, but I'll definitely be back (likely with Galapagos Regained; it's the one Lauren has been hyping).

  • Alexis DeSousa
    2019-11-22 20:11

    City of Truth is a short novella (Nebula Award Winner 1992) about a city where all its citizens are "brain-burned" into telling only the truth. The citizens are always frank and honest to each other, even when it comes to things such as sexual matters, illness, marriage, etc.City of Truth centers on Jack Sperry and his fight against the truth when his son is taken fatally ill. Jack wants to lie to his son in order to try and cure him with a miracle. In order to do so, he must become a part of society that rebels and learns to lie.The book was a quick read for me, but I really did enjoy it. I wish that I had seen more of Jack’s son, Toby, in the story, so that I was more emotionally connected to him and his journey. The themes in this book are powerful…sometimes the truth is hard, but in the end, it might just bring you the peace you’re looking for.It pained me to hear about all of the works of art that Jack had to destroy as part of his job! Ouch. Even fiction novels, art that was impressionist, etc. couldn’t survive their City of Truth.(also posted on my blog

  • Jayme VA
    2019-12-15 21:51

    James Sperry is a Citizen of Veritas, where everyone has been conditioned (or burned) to be unable to lie. Early on in the book, we begin to understand the type of world this is, with only "drinkable coffee" or the inability to hide your feelings. As in all dystopian societies, there is an underground protest group. When Sperry's son Toby gets sick, he decides that he'll be able to save him if he is able to convince him of the lie of hope.This was a short little book and I'm quite impressed with Morrow's ability to fit so much into so few pages. The city of Veritas is completely and well developed, as are the main characters. As a reader, I could feel Sperry's desperation to save his son and how very much he loved him, even though he is programmed to believe love is a lie. I can't get over how emotional this book made me. I thought I was getting into another sci fi dystopian novel, but found a novel of the love between a father and son, and characters who would do anything for one another even though they don't fully understand that feeling. I'll definitely be reading more Morrow in the future.

  • Rich Meyer
    2019-12-12 21:10

    An excellent and poignant dystopian novel. Yeah, those two adjectives *can* go together with "dystopia". Jack Sperry lives in a world in which lying is virtually impossible - people have it ingrained in them in such a manner that even the most minor fib causes them extreme pain. But Jack has to learn how to lie, in order to be able to help his dying son, hoping for a miracle. I hadn't realized that I had read a book by Mr. Morrow before, the kaiju-themed "Shambling Toward Hiroshima." This book is a completely different genre and style, but the writing is still way above the bar. The book had the quirkiness of a good fifties science fiction story, with modern sensibilities. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more of Mr. Morrow's books.

  • Rebecca Schwarz
    2019-11-24 22:16

    In the world of this story, not only can the characters never lie, they are required to treat each other with complete candor. The result is hilarious. Within this setting, Morrow tells a story both tragic and touching. Quite a feat to pull off.

  • Valerie
    2019-12-16 22:10

    Although clever, I did not find this book funny, or scary. It provided good social commentary.

  • Katie
    2019-11-22 20:50

    Our narrator lives in Veritas, a city where residents are so conditioned against falsehood that metaphors pain them and concepts like love are seen as suspect. When his son becomes terminally ill, he’s expected to accept it with the cynical fatalism characteristic of the city. Instead, he seeks out an underground city of people who have taught themselves to lie, hoping to save his son through the power of positive thinking, and discovers that sentimentality and blind faith have their own problems. This is a quick, funny, touching read that’s less about truth and dishonesty than about cynicism, hope, and the ways both can be ultimately selfish and inadequate. Really glad I picked it up!

  • Betsy
    2019-12-01 20:16

    So you think you're an honest person that always tells the truth? Think again. On Veritas, people are physically conditioned never to lie. They say things like, "You're a pretty young fellow except for that chin". Salespeople tell customers that they can "buy it for $2 less down the street". People sign letters "Somewhat Respectfully Yours". The plot revolves around one man who wants to learn how to lie to protect his son. City of Truth is classified as science fiction, and was a Nebula Award winner. It's satire but I don't see how it falls into the sci-fi genre. It's is funny and was a quick read, but it just didn't really do much for me.

  • TheShrike
    2019-11-19 00:10

    Another book I wish I could rate 3.5 stars. Above average but not great.Is it better to live in a world of ONLY truth. Or a world where lies are king.Both worlds become gloomy places to live. Only being allowed to tell the truth clearly stunts emotion. But hiding the truth can be troublesome as well.I liked that it forces you to think from the perspective of both extremes and forces you to reflect on when truth or lies is the better approach.

  • Julia Johnson
    2019-12-08 02:03

    Excellent read but heartbreaking sad end.. this book is a keeper for my collection

  • Jeff
    2019-12-16 21:14

    [from my book lover's journal at the time of reading:]I read this in one day, so obviously it's an easy read. Strangely, the diction changes about 1/3 through, when Morrow decides to use a large number of "vocabulary words." As with Mary Doria Russel's The Sparrow, the ending couldn't possibly be as big as the subject, but i rate The Sparrow as more satisfying and appropriate. Morrow's satire lost its punch soon after Jack Sperry's son Toby gets sick. Leaving Veritas also killed the metafictional implications of art's importance. The "message" remains evident partially in the ending's stressing of Truth. The family dynamic, the humor, and the metafictional components are all reminiscent of Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories. (Incidentally, the concept of Morrow's Towing Jehovah--which i read later--reminds me of Donald Barthelme's The Dead Father, which i read after dropping out of the graduate lit program and attempted to be an autodidact :-) Enough name-dropping and references to myself for ya yet? I'm certain they'll help you decide whether to read this book.)

  • April Loebick
    2019-12-11 22:04

    City of Truth is the Nebula award winning novella written by science fiction author James Morrow. It explores a dystopic world where people cannot lie. Novellas usually don’t have a lot of depth to them, but this relatively short narrative will leave its readers thinking.Truth rules in the city known as Veritas. Nobody can lie. It is brutally conditioned out of people when they turn ten years old. Cars have names like “Ford Sufficients,” and burgers are called “Murdered Cow Sandwiches.” Everything is lackluster, and there’s no passion, art, or excellence to be found.Jack Sperry is a citizen of Veritas. He is a critique who looks at literature and art of old to determine whether or not the piece is truthful. If anything about it is a lie, he destroys it (bringing up vivid allusions to the firemen from Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451). His life is turned upside down when he receives word from Camp Ditch-the-Kids that his son has been diagnosed with an incurable, deadly illness. Finding no comfort in the stale truthfulness of the diagnosis, Sperry goes on a quest to find the dessemblers, people who have somehow relearned how to lie, thinking that hope, faith, and lies can save his son.On the surface, City of Truth is a bit of a dull story. It isn’t until you start reading between the lines and thinking about the scenarios that it blossoms into worthy literature. It makes for a great book club book. Since it’s short, witty, and thought provoking, it provides multitudes of interesting material for conversation.(originally posted on

  • Mark Wilkerson
    2019-12-02 23:18

    Though I knowCity of Truthto be a novella, and though I am familiar with many of Morrow's other stories, this one was not quite enough for me. Good short stories and novellas drop readers into the middle of characters' lives, and show merely a significant episode in their lives, and here is no different. However, my issues with this particular story deal with the uneven tone, the all-too-flat characters (especially the women of the story and even the boy), and the overall emptiness that I felt when it was over.The worlds created by Morrow have never been a problem, and here, the cities of Veritas and Satirev (I get it, Satire with a V....Witty), are teasingly realized. However, these cities feel a bit uninspired and unrealized. Veritas feels like Harrison Bergeron's America, while Satirev is closest to the outside-the-city-limits community revealed in the finale of Fahrenheit 451 with an absurdest twist. The ground covered in this story is not new, which is okay, but without sympathetic, memorable characters, a stylistically stunning tone, or more-fully realized settings, this one is a (slightly) overrated Nebula Award Winner, good for a quick read, but does not rise to the level of some of Morrow's better works.

  • Rachael Ross
    2019-12-02 22:07

    This was a very short and simple, yet fresh and powerful tale. It is a satirical look at a dystopian society- but instead of being focused around taking down some sort of unjust government, the novel decides to explore something much darker. This novel centers around a average man- Jack Sperry, who lives in a city where no one lies. Everyone is conditioned by torture to feel physically ill every time they don't tell the truth- or the whole truth. This leads to some pretty comical advertisements such as the Honda Adequate, or eating "murdered cow" instead of hamburgers. Anyway, comfortable in his life Sperry is shocked when he learns his son has a fatal disease. This leads to a desperate attempt to cure what he is told cannot be cured- by the power of mind over matter. Sperry believes that if he can learn to lie, he can trick his son into going into remission by the power of positive thinking. Short story short its a very quick interesting read. It highlights both the benefit of lies... and the benefit of finally telling the truth. A fathers love can be powerful so I hear... Happy Father's Day!

  • Rod
    2019-11-23 20:01

    An interesting (and unlikely) follow-up to "Being Mortal," this early science fiction novella by James Morrow tackles the issue of how truthful to be to someone who is dying (in this case, the main character's young son). Though it is rough around the edges and does not delve deeply into character (that's not the point), I thought Morrow did a pretty good job of balancing the humorous aspects of a "City of Truth" (Veritas, the vera-city) (where no one lies by order of law and psychological conditioning), the moral and emotional issues of honesty and fabrication, and the tragic circumstance of losing someone you love (yes, truly love). Another unexpected treat, considering I started this on December 25...Christmas makes an appearance in the story (the holiday with the clearest challenge to parental honesty), and Santa even makes an appearance.If you haven't read Morrow's Godhead trilogy, you have a treat in store.Now I find myself intrigued by another of his titles: The Continent of Lies.

  • Jim
    2019-11-18 23:08

    A simple premise; if you lived in a land where you were conditioned to tell no lies, could you lie to your dying son and tell him he was going to be OK? While funny at times, the story is so very heart-wrenching and sad: James Morrow just knows how to write great books. In the city of Veritas people cannot lie, which also results in truthful product names and advertising. Products like the Plymouth Adequate and the Ford Sufficent are great, and a sign hanging on an elevator says "Warning: This elevator maintained by people who hate their jobs. Ride at your own risk."There is also an underground of people, "disassemblers", that rebel against the truth, and live a life able to lie. Jack Sperry is content telling the truth until his son is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Unable to face the thought of telling his son the truth, he seeks out the disassemblers.A short, easy read that is a very introduction to Mr. Morrows writing. Highly recommended.

  • Rebecca
    2019-12-01 18:48

    Jack Sperry lives in a city called Veritas, a society in which people are conditioned never to lie, even about the smallest things. Advertising is interesting, to say the least. There are cars called the Plymouth Adequate, for example. His son attends a summer camp called Camp Ditch-the-Kids. The security guard carries a gun called the Remington Metapenis. Sounds tempting, right? A society where no one can lie; you might think that would be good for human relationships. However, it quickly becomes apparent that things are not all roses in Veritas, and how toxic constant truth-telling is on human relationships. I won't go into the plot, but it is alternately heartbreaking and hilarious, as well as a thought-provoking examination of the importance of lies/privacy in relationships and how destructive it can be to hear everyone's slightest thought/opinion.

  • Melissa
    2019-12-01 21:17

    In this novel, part parable, part speculative fiction, the protagonist and his family live in Veritas (the City of Truth) where the adolescent rite of passage -- the "brainburn" -- removes the ability to lie. When he learns that his son has been infected with a terminal illness while away at summer camp, he refuses to accept that his only child will die. When he learns that positive thinking may be the key to saving the child, he becomes obsessed with finding the "dissemblers." citizens of Veritas who have the power to tell lies. James Morrow's humor illuminates even difficult subjects as he unsparingly depicts the entitlement and falsity of morbid fascination disguised as dutiful concern. The parabolic moral of the story is that life without lies will rob us of humanity, while a life without truth robs us of dignity.I would recommend it particularly because it's a quick read.

  • Jeff Raymond
    2019-12-12 22:58

    Some might remember the Ricky Gervais movie The Invention of Lying a few years back, which involved a society that always told the truth. City of Truth is a lot like that, only 15 years earlier and with higher stakes.What's interesting about this, to me at least, is that, even at novella-length, this book feels unsatisfactory in trying to explore the society on a whole. It becomes more of an illness melodrama with the hook of the story relegated to the sidelines, resulting in a story that doesn't really work for the setting, and a setting that feels too conceptual for the story.As someone who has enjoyed a number of Morrow's book, this is better as an idea than an executed tale. I ultimately wanted more from the sci-fi/fantasy elements and didn't get them, in spite of what was a decent tale on a whole.

  • Todd
    2019-12-12 23:53

    It's been over a decade since I have read this. However, after reviewingThe Truth Machine, I felt I should mention this one, as well. From the few books of his that I have read, it seems thatJames Morrow comes up with a unique twist on something and then runs it with as long as possible. For example, the idea in this book is that everyone must tell the truth all of the time. Unfortunately, I don't think that worked as well with this story as some of his others. One could argue the "full truth vs. discretion" argument is completely ignored here. Another possible argument is that, the way I recall the "full truth" thing being presented is that you always had to say everything that was on your mind. Quite frankly, all one would ever do is blabber, in that scenario.

  • Brooke
    2019-12-06 23:03

    I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I picked it up during as a daily deal on Kindle because it sounded interesting, but I'd never heard of the author and honestly expected something mediocre. Boy, was I wrong! City of Truth is hands down one of the best books I've read. I'm saying top ten here. It is a book that dares to question society's rules, especially those surrounding social etiquette. Using a perfect blend of logic, sentiment, and humor (I laughed out loud at many points), the author manages to portray the way things ought to be, without sounding preachy. The story itself is well written and fun to read. In a world of authors duplicating other authors in all but a few details, this book stands on its own as something different. And believe me, that's not a bad thing.

  • Pajtim Zeqiri
    2019-11-17 20:11

    This is an astonishing novel, I fully enjoyed reading it. This book in some way is a critique on Kant's categorical imperative. Kant stated that telling the truth should be a universal law, meaning it has to be applied everywhere and in every circumstance despite what the consequences might be. Such a life is portrayed in Veritas, the city of truth.However, is this a good idea? This novel gives you a clear answer; although telling the truth is a good thing without any real alternative such a life would be a slavery. As I understood, Jack Sperry (the main character) agrees that telling the truth is the best alternative, but sometimes also lying can be an appropriate mean if it doesn't hurt or interfere in someone's self-being.

  • Zan
    2019-12-04 02:18

    A good read, even if Morrow does lean towards the depressingly morose and tends towards martyring women(though in this case it's a boy)a little too often for my happiness.It's an interesting idea, a city where everyone is forced to speak truthfully and instead of leading to bliss, it creates a horrific and stultifying life from which the protagonist escapes-into a disaster of lies.While tackling the subject with his usual brilliance and wit, he seems to have utterly forgotten about compassion... I'd love to see a Veritas where people tell the truth about what they are feeling because it's the truth, not because they've been tortured into it!

  • Kerry
    2019-11-30 18:08

    This quick read differs from other James Morrow books such as The Philosopher's Apprentice and The Last Witchfinder in length. Like the other books mentioned, this short, quick read is an enjoyable combination of dark humor, social commentary, and titillating turns of phrase. However, this book seems the more successful on a particular account. Because Morrow doesn't give the story time to meander, it doesn't--an unfortunate problem of the other two books which detracted from the otherwise creative storylines and smart writing. The worst thing about this book was its predictability, but given than it was just over 150 pages and enjoyably devoured, it is still recommended.

  • Mkfs
    2019-12-13 01:51

    Amusing tale about the Veritas, the city where everyone is compelled to speak the truth. And no lying by omission, either. As the narrator points out after many awkward social moment, it's tough to be a citizen.Despite milking the truth-in-advertising gag for all it's worth, I think Morrow missed a narrative opportuniy here. The Dissemblers, for of course there are some, could have supported the narrator's campaign to save his son via the Placebo Effect in order to create some effective nti-Veritas propaganda. Think of it: a subversive campaign to win hearts and minds by proving that Lying Saves Lives.Instead, well, we're left with a rather underwhelming resolution.

  • Kiv
    2019-11-26 20:18

    I quite enjoyed this book. It had a straightforwardness about it that made it an easy read, but it was still thought provoking enough to be stimulating. Objectively, I know this book had a lot to say about society and how we communicate, but for me, the most striking part was the examination of grief and how it affects us. I enjoyed the flashes of humor, and I thought it was a read that was simultaneously pleasant and saddening. That said, I'm not sure I would call this a great book. It was definitely good, but I felt like the author could've done more with the concept and come out better for it. Still, it's a quick enough read that I would recommend it.

  • Sean Kottke
    2019-11-21 18:52

    A potent dystopian novella from a master of speculative satire. In a society where the ability to lie is conditioned out of individuals as a rite of passage into young adulthood, our narrator seeks to become a "dissembler" in an effort to tap into the power of psychoneuroimmunology when his son is diagnosed with a terminal disease. The plot follows the classic dystopian trajectory of a true believer going rogue, and the contradictory need for honesty and polite lies is thoughtfully (and at times hilariously) rendered.