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.