“City of Truth” by James Morrow
Review © 1993 by P. Douglas Reeder
In the city of Veritas, everyone tells the truth (surprise!) because they are conditioned against saying anything untrue, or even disingenuous. Sample ad:
Channel your violent impulses in a salutary direction - become a Marine…
Jack Sperry is an art critic, a deconstructionist - he destroys old books, movies, statues and whatever else is not completely truthful. Martina Coventry writes greeting card messages and such, such as:
I find you somewhat interesting, You're not too short or tall, And if you'd be my Valentine, I wouldn't mind at all.
Given this setup, I hope you won’t be too shocked when Sperry suddenly finds that he needs to lie to his dying son to keep him happy. (This isn’t a spoiler; it comes out by page 14., or on the dust jacket if you read that first.)
Although the characters are very realistic and believable, City of Truth is more parable than fiction. Veritas is not a self-consistent future, it’s a warped take on our world. Veritas is a rather grim place and Morrow appears to have a more negative view of people and relationships than I do, but this novella is saved from grimness by Morrow’s wickedly funny honest statements, like the quotes above. It is certainly well-written, given its premise.
I should think most people already realize the point Morrow makes by the end of the work, but I suppose some don’t.
And, oh, yes, City of Truth won the 1992 Nebula for best novella.
If you decide to read this book, see if this review is not completely truthful!
%T City of Truth %A James Morrow %D copyright 1990 %I St. Martin’s %C New York %O hardback, US$14.95  %G ISBN 0-312-07672-X %P 104 pp %K SF,parable,truth