A city searching for work in outer space is forced to leave the galaxy. Earthman, Come Home is the third novel in James Blish's Cities in Flight tetralogy, With the invention of the "spindizzy" (making faster-than-light travel possible for vessels of very large size) and anti-aging drugs, interstellar and intergalactic travel becomes practical. One by one, entire cities leave an economically declining Earth in search of work among humanity's colonies (based on the Okies, migratory workers of the Great Depression of the 1920s and '30s).
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New York City Mayor John Amalfi and his city manager, Mark Hazleton, get into trouble with the Earth police when they enter a star system with two warring planets and work for first one side, then the other. Forced to flee across the empty Rift, they witness the destruction of one city by another (the "bindlestiff") for the secret of a fuelless drive. When Amalfi makes a stop at the only planet he can find in the Rift to replenish his supplies, he has to fight the bindlestiff, which is already there.
Later, New York sets down on a repair planet, but discovers its currency has lost most of its value due to a galaxy-wide depression. A large number of cities have already gathered in a jungle, taking jobs at cut-rate prices in order to survive. Amalfi triggers a protest march to Earth to demand better working conditions in order to create a diversion so his city can leave without being apprehended by the police. When he discovers that a legendary Vegan orbital fort (humans fought and overthrew the Vegan tyranny) has joined the march (disguising itself as a human city) to exact its long-sought revenge, he manages to destroy it.
The police, however, think he has wiped out another city, forcing New York to leave the Milky Way galaxy entirely and settle down in the Greater Magellanic Cloud satellite galaxy. By sheer bad luck, the planet they choose already has an infamous city (IMT) in residence, ruling over ignorant peasants, Amalfi cleverly arranges to solve two problems at once. When IMT summons the police, Amalfi sabotages the other city into rising uncontrollably; the police mistake it for New York trying to flee and destroy it. Then, with New York City no longer spaceworthy, the residents settle down on the planet.
Best part of story, including ending:
The analogy to the Okies is strained to the breaking point. It's very implausible to think that a depression would extend across many self-sufficient planets that appear to have little trade between them. Also, the whole Vegan orbital fort subplot doesn't make much sense. It just happens to be in the neighborhood when the march starts, and Amalfi is the only one who guesses its identity.
Best scene in story:
Amalfi watches helplessly the destruction of one city by another; the event has taken place weeks or months before, and the transmission has taken that long to reach him.
Opinion about the main character:
John Amalfi is portrayed as a tough, experienced politician. Yet both he and Hazleton (each many centuries old) fall in love with a young woman at first sight. Not terribly plausible.