NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, THE SEATTLE TIMES, AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.58(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.73(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
China Miéville is the author of King Rat; Perdido Street Station, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award; The Scar, winner of the Locus Award and the British Fantasy Award; Iron Council, winner of the Locus Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award; Looking for Jake, a collection of short stories; and Un Lun Dun, his New York Times bestselling book for younger readers. He lives and works in London.
Read an Excerpt
I could not see the street or much of the estate. We were enclosed by dirt-coloured blocks, from windows out of which leaned vested men and women with morning hair and mugs of drink, eating breakfast and watching us. This open ground between the buildings had once been sculpted. It pitched like a golf course—a child’s mimicking of geography. Maybe they had been going to wood it and put in a pond. There was a copse but the saplings were dead.
The grass was weedy, threaded with paths footwalked between rubbish, rutted by wheel tracks. There were police at various tasks. I wasn’t the first detective there—I saw Bardo Naustin and a couple of others— but I was the most senior. I followed the sergeant to where most of my colleagues clustered, between a low derelict tower and a skateboard park ringed by big drum-shaped trash bins. Just beyond it we could hear the docks. A bunch of kids sat on a wall before standing officers. The gulls coiled over the gathering.
“Inspector.” I nodded at whomever that was. Someone offered a coffee but I shook my head and looked at the woman I had come to see.
She lay near the skate ramps. Nothing is still like the dead are still. The wind moves their hair, as it moved hers, and they don’t respond at all. She was in an ugly pose, with legs crooked as if about to get up, her arms in a strange bend. Her face was to the ground.
A young woman, brown hair pulled into pigtails poking up like plants. She was almost naked, and it was sad to see her skin smooth that cold morning, unbroken by gooseflesh. She wore only laddered stockings, one high heel on. Seeing me look for it, a sergeant waved at me from a way off, from where she guarded the dropped shoe.
It was a couple of hours since the body had been discovered. I looked her over. I held my breath and bent down toward the dirt, to look at her face, but I could only see one open eye.
“Not here yet, Inspector…”
“Someone call him, tell him to get a move on.” I smacked my watch. I was in charge of what we called the mise-en-crime. No one would move her until Shukman the patho had come, but there were other things to do. I checked sightlines. We were out of the way and the garbage containers obscured us, but I could feel attention on us like insects, from all over the estate. We milled.
There was a wet mattress on its edge between two of the bins, by a spread of rusting iron pieces interwoven with discarded chains. “That was on her.” The constable who spoke was Lizbyet Corwi, a smart young woman I’d worked with a couple of times. “Couldn’t exactly say she was well hidden, but it sort of made her look like a pile of rubbish, I guess.” I could see a rough rectangle of darker earth surrounding the dead woman—the remains of the mattress-sheltered dew. Naustin was squatting by it, staring at the earth.
“The kids who found her tipped it half off,” Corwi said.
“How did they find her?”
Corwi pointed at the earth, at little scuffs of animal paws.
“Stopped her getting mauled. Ran like hell when they saw what it was, made the call. Our lot, when they arrived...” She glanced at two patrolmen I didn’t know.
“They moved it?”
She nodded. “See if she was still alive, they said.”
“What are their names?”
“Shushkil and Briamiv.”
“And these are the finders?” I nodded at the guarded kids. There were two girls, two guys. Midteens, cold, looking down.
“Early morning pick-you-up?”
“That’s dedication, hm?” she said. “Maybe they’re up for junkies of the month or some shit. They got here a bit before seven. The skate pit’s organised that way, apparently. It’s only been built a couple of years, used to be nothing, but the locals’ve got their shift patterns down. Midnight to nine a.m., chewers only; nine to eleven, local gang plans the day; eleven to midnight, skateboards and rollerblades.”
“One of the boys has a little shiv, but really little. Couldn’t mug a milkrat with it—it’s a toy. And a chew each. That’s it.” She shrugged. “The dope wasn’t on them; we found it by the wall, but”— shrug—“they were the only ones around.”
She motioned over one of our colleagues and opened the bag he carried. Little bundles of resin-slathered grass. Feld is its street name—a tough crossbreed of Catha edulis spiked with tobacco and caffeine and stronger stuff, and fibreglass threads or similar to abrade the gums and get it into the blood. Its name is a trilingual pun: it’s khat where it’s grown, and the animal called “cat” in En- glish is feld in our own language. I sniffed it and it was pretty low-grade stuff. I walked over to where the four teenagers shivered in their puffy jackets.
“’Sup, policeman?” said one boy in a Bes-accented approximation of hip-hop English. He looked up and met my eye, but he was pale. Neither he nor any of his companions looked well. From where they sat they could not have seen the dead woman, but they did not even look in her direction.
They must have known we’d find the feld, and that we’d know it was theirs. They could have said nothing, just run.
“I’m Inspector Borlú,” I said. “Extreme Crime Squad.”
I did not say I’m Tyador. A difficult age to question, this—too old for first names, euphemisms and toys, not yet old enough to be straightforward opponents in interviews, when at least the rules were clear. “What’s your name?” The boy hesitated, considered using whatever slang handle he’d granted himself, did not.
“You found her?” He nodded, and his friends nodded after him. “Tell me.”
“We come here because, ’cause, and…” Vilyem waited, but I said nothing about his drugs. He looked down. “And we seen something under that mattress and we pulled it off.”
“There was some…” His friends looked up as Vilyem hesitated, obviously superstitious.
“Wolves?” I said. They glanced at each other.
“Yeah man, some scabby little pack was nosing around there and…”
“So we thought it…”
“How long after you got here?” I said.
Vilyem shrugged. “Don’t know. Couple hours?”
“Anyone else around?”
“Saw some guys over there a while back.”
“Dealers?” A shrug.
“And there was a van came up on the grass and come over here and went off again after a bit. We didn’t speak to no one.”
“When was the van?”
“It was still dark.” That was one of the girls.
“Okay. Vilyem, you guys, we’re going to get you some breakfast, something to drink, if you want.” I motioned to their guards. “Have we spoken to the parents?” I asked.
“On their way, boss; except hers”—pointing to one of the girls—“we can’t reach.”
“So keep trying. Get them to the centre now.”
The four teens looked at each other. “This is bullshit, man,” the boy who was not Vilyem said, uncertainly. He knew that according to some politics he should oppose my instruction, but he wanted to go with my subordinate. Black tea and bread and paperwork, the boredom and striplights, all so much not like the peeling back of that wet heavy, cumbersome mattress, in the yard, in the dark.
Stepen Shukman and his assistant Hamd Hamzinic had arrived. I looked at my watch. Shukman ignored me. When he bent to the body he wheezed. He certified death. He made observations that Hamzinic wrote down.
“Time?” I said.
“Twelve hours-ish,” Shukman said. He pressed down on one of the woman’s limbs. She rocked. In rigor, and unstable on the ground as she was, she probably assumed the position of her death lying on other contours. “She wasn’t killed here.” I had heard it said many times he was good at his job but had seen no evidence that he was anything but competent.
“Done?” he said to one of the scene techs. She took two more shots from different angles and nodded. Shukman rolled the woman over with Hamzinic’s help. She seemed to fight him with her cramped motionlessness. Turned, she was absurd, like someone playing at dead insect, her limbs crooked, rocking on her spine.
She looked up at us from below a fluttering fringe. Her face was set in a startled strain: she was endlessly surprised by herself. She was young. She was heavily made up, and it was smeared across a badly battered face. It was impossible to say what she looked like, what face those who knew her would see if they heard her name. We might know better later, when she relaxed into her death. Blood marked her front, dark as dirt. Flash flash of cameras.
“Well, hello cause of death,” Shukman said to the wounds in her chest.
On her left cheek, curving under the jaw, a long red split. She had been cut half the length of her face.
The wound was smooth for several centimetres, tracking precisely along her flesh like the sweep of a paintbrush. Where it went below her jaw, under the overhang of her mouth, it jagged ugly and ended or began with a deep torn hole in the soft tissue behind her bone. She looked unseeingly at me.
“Take some without the flash, too,” I said.
Like several others I looked away while Shukman murmured—it felt prurient to watch. Uniformed mise-en-crime technical investigators, mectecs in our slang, searched in an expanding circle. They overturned rubbish and foraged among the grooves where vehicles had driven. They lay down reference marks, and photographed.
“Alright then.” Shukman rose. “Let’s get her out of here.” A couple of the men hauled her onto a stretcher.
“Jesus Christ,” I said, “cover her.” Someone found a blanket I don’t know from where, and they started again towards Shukman’s vehicle.
“I’ll get going this afternoon,” he said. “Will I see you?” I wagged my head noncommittally. I walked towards Corwi.
“Naustin,” I called, when I was positioned so that Corwi would be at the edge of our conversation. She glanced up and came slightly closer.
“Inspector,” said Naustin.
“Go through it.”
He sipped his coffee and looked at me nervously.
“Hooker?” he said. “First impressions, Inspector. This area,
beat-up, naked? And…” He pointed at his face, her exaggerated makeup. “Hooker.”
“Fight with a client?”
“Yeah but…If it was just the body wounds, you know, you’d, then you’re looking at, maybe she won’t do what he wants, whatever. He lashes out. But this.” He touched his cheek again uneasily. “That’s different.”
He shrugged. “Maybe. He cuts her, kills her, dumps her. Cocky bastard too, doesn’t give a shit that we’re going to find her.”
“Cocky or stupid.”
“Or cocky and stupid.”
“So a cocky, stupid sadist,” I said. He raised his eyes, Maybe.
“Alright,” I said. “Could be. Do the rounds of the local girls. Ask a uniform who knows the area. Ask if they’ve had trouble with anyone recently. Let’s get a photo circulated, put a name to Fulana Detail.” I used the generic name for woman-unknown. “First off I want you to question Barichi and his mates, there. Be nice, Bardo, they didn’t have to call this in. I mean that. And get Yaszek in with you.” Ramira Yaszek was an excellent questioner. “Call me this afternoon?” When he was out of earshot I said to Corwi, “A few years ago we’d not have had half as many guys on the murder of a working girl.”
“We’ve come a long way,” she said. She wasn’t much older than the dead woman.
“I doubt Naustin’s delighted to be on streetwalker duty, but you’ll notice he’s not complaining,” I said.
“We’ve come a long way,” she said.
“So?” I raised an eyebrow. Glanced in Naustin’s direction. I waited. I remembered Corwi’s work on the Shulban disappearance, a case considerably more Byzantine than it had initially appeared.
“It’s just, I guess, you know, we should keep in mind other possibilities,” she said.
“Her makeup,” she said. “It’s all, you know, earths and browns. It’s been put on thick, but it’s not—” She vamp-pouted. “And did you notice her hair?” I had. “Not dyed. Take a drive with me up GunterStrász, around by the arena, any of the girls’ hangouts. Two-thirds blonde, I reckon. And the rest are black or bloodred or some shit. And…” She fingered the air as if it were hair. “It’s dirty, but it’s a lot better than mine.” She ran her hand through her own split ends.
For many of the streetwalkers in Bes´zel, especially in areas like this, food and clothes for their kids came first; feld or crack for themselves; food for themselves; then sundries, in which list conditioner would come low. I glanced at the rest of the officers, at Naustin gathering himself to go.
“Okay,” I said. “Do you know this area?”
“Well,” she said, “it’s a bit off the track, you know? This is hardly even Bes´zel, really. My beat’s Lestov. They called a few of us in when they got the bell. But I did a tour here a couple years ago—I know it a bit.”
Lestov itself was already almost a suburb, six or so k out of the city centre, and we were south of that, over the Yovic Bridge on a bit of land between Bulkya Sound and, nearly, the mouth where the river joined the sea. Technically an island, though so close and conjoined to the mainland by ruins of industry you would never think of it as such, Kordvenna was estates, warehouses, low-rent bodegas scribble-linked by endless graffiti. It was far enough from Bes ´zel’s heart that it was easy to forget, unlike more inner-city slums.
“How long were you here?” I said.
“Six months, standard. What you’d expect: street theft, high kids smacking shit out of each other, drugs, hooking.”
“Two or three in my time. Drugs stuff. Mostly stops short of that, though: the gangs are pretty smart at punishing each other without bringing in ECS.”
“Someone’s fucked up then.”
“Yeah. Or doesn’t care.”
“Okay,” I said. “I want you on this. What are you doing at the moment?”
“Nothing that can’t wait.”
“I want you to relocate for a bit. Got any contacts here still?” She pursed her lips. “Track them down if you can; if not, have a word with some of the local guys, see who their singers are. I want you on the ground. Listen out, go round the estate—what’s this place called again?”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I will not recap the plot as it is done admirably in other reviews. I will say that I was captivated by how cunningly the thread of surreality is interwoven into the gritty realistic crime story. The twists caught me by surprise (which I love,) and added a very interesting dimension that became as important to me as the "main" plotline. I really enjoyed the book, and highly recommend it with one caveat: there had better be another one coming. There are simply too many tantalizing clues and pressing unanswered questions left hanging. I don't know if he is planning another volume to make this a series, but I am reminded of Stephen King's Dark Tower series in that I am breathlessly waiting to find out, can China Mieville pull this all together? I will definitely read the next one when and if it comes out. As a stand alone, it was intriguing and enjoyable but I am left wanting more.
I had wanted to read Mieville for quite awhile, but I probably should have chosen something from his earlier work to start with. While I fully appreciate his idea of two separate cities sharing the same space, the bulk of the book was REALLY mundane and not compelling, whatsoever. It read like an episode of Law and Order, with a slight sci-fi twist. I had to force myself to continue reading, and I only did so because I actually paid for the book and knew I'd never pick it back up if I put it aside for a bit. It turned out to be worth neither my time or $$.
This is the kind of book that you have to give a chance to blossom. It seems simple on the surface, but at the same time confusing. The reason for the confusion starts to become clear if you give it a little time, and then you see the great complexity and creativity of the story. I found it one of the most enjoying books I've read in recent memory.
Highly recommended reading. I think it's categorized as Sci-Fi, but the Science Fiction aspect of it is not very strong - it's more like mild fantasy. The central conceit of the book (which is the fantasy element) takes a little while to understand, but after that it's completely accessible. Really interesting, well-written, thoughtful book that I thoroughly enjoyed cover-to-cover. Great characters, a really cool plot, and a wonderfully imagined world make this a no-brainer for me.
When I first started reading this I was afraid it was going to be too confusing. I decided to stick with it and am glad I did! The more you get into the story, the more it makes sense. It's a great crime novel with a hint of fantasy to it. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it.
The corpse was found near a skating rink ramp in somewhat seedy Beszell. All the curious spectators knew she was murdered just by looking at the award angles of her body. Extreme Crime Inspector Tyador Borlu leads the investigation that he assumes is a simple homicide. ----------- He soon learns the victim is Mahalia Geary, which makes him reconsider the simplicity of her murder. She was the leading proponent of a theory that a third unseen city she called Orciny co-exists in the same physical space as that of Beszell and affluent Ul-Oomaof. Her belief and that of her supporters was this other locale filled the vacant blind spots between the co-located "twin" cities. As Geary's cohorts mysteriously begin to vanish, Borlu reexamines Geary's theory because increasingly the evidence points towards a third party conspiracy cleverly manipulating the biases of the two known urban centers.--------- THE CITY AND THE CITY is a fantastic police procedural parable as brilliant fantasist China Mieville makes a strong case as to how far groups will go to keep the comfort zone of their social order. The story line is fast-paced with the audience accepting the existence of two "cities" intermingled but separate; sort of like the Bronx in the 1970s where a bus line would go from the burned out slums of the south to the affluent estates of the north. .Readers will appreciate this hyperbole as maintaining the illusion of belonging is more critical than economic and social realities. A tale of two cities and perhaps a third too, this is a great whodunit that will have readers pondering what psychological devices we employ to "protect" our places in society.---------- Harriet Klausner
This book definitely lived up to the hype. Not only did Miéville create a fascinating setting, he avoids the seemingly common error of assuming that setting is enough to carry a book. The story here is in many ways a traditional mystery novel one, but it's one that wouldn't work without the setting and I really enjoyed it.I liked the prose style, too - it really added to the sense of these cities.If it has a flaw, it would be that I don't really get a sense of who any of the characters but the protagonist are. On the other hand, that could just be a result of the first person narrative and I didn't feel it really detracted from my enjoyment of the novel.
I'm not sure I can offer any greater praise for The City & The City other than it made me immediately go out and buy some more China Mieville books so I can read more from this man who wrote a brilliant (brilliantly complex) story. I won't go into too much detail about the plot here except to say that the setting is the crux. Two cities superimposed on top of each other with rules governing citizens of each as to how they can see things within their own city and can't see things (or rather have to "unsee") in the other city. Wow, what a concept. When I started reading it, with barely a clue of what I was getting into, I was curious how he was going to pull that off. And I was most pleasantly surprised. Because as the novel progressed, Mieville slowly and gradually introduced us to this concept and these rules and we were never hit with too much too soon. By the time he truly brought up the concept of the "Breach" (an organization that governs this split and these rules) we were already fully entrenched. And (minor spoiler alert) by the time he brought up the ability to live in-between these worlds, we were able to understand exactly how that could/would happen.But all of that brilliance over the setting, this world (a speculative Earth, you might call it) that Mieville created, would be useless if not for a good story to layer on top. To that end, he created a unique murder mystery with all the trappings of a classic noir. Unique in that it not only embraced the bifurcated nature of the city (& the city) but key elements of the crime absolutely depended on it, to the extend that nobody else could tell a story like this without completely replicating the nature of the setting. (I won't say more, but I was quite impressed with how setting and plot were intricately woven together.)This is not to say it's a flawless story. The ending felt a little Deux-ex-Machina-y to me, and character development was sparse. (The characters were who they were, and at that were a little stockfish to me.) But those are minor complaints. On the whole this was a nearly flawlessly executed story in whatever genre it fits into.
This book has a very interesting premise: there are two cities that inhabit the same physical space, yet are two separate countries. If you are in one city, you have to intentionally ignore people, buildings, cars, etc. in the other city. If anyone accidentally or intentionally interact with something in the other city, a mysterious enforcement agency known as Breach takes them away. The story follows a detective in one of the two cities, investigating a crime that spans the two cities.This is a pretty interesting premise, but somehow I just didn't enjoy the book. I found myself hurrying through it not because I wanted to know what happens next, but because I wanted to be done with it so I could read something else. I was good enough that I wanted to finish it, but not good enough that I necessarily enjoyed it.I think the problem is that the situation - the two concurrent cities - is so incredibly bizarre, and the reason behind it is never explained. Maybe if I understood why the cities existed in the same physical space, I would have found it more interesting. In a sense, all of the people in both cities are living in a weird lie: they are all pretending that they can't see the other city, when of course they can. I should have found this really fascinating: after all, one of my favorite periods in history is Soviet Russia, precisely because for Soviet Russia to work everyone had to believe in a bunch of lies. But Mieville didn't explore the psychological aspects as much as I might have liked. So an interesting premise, and a difficult story to carry out, but somehow it fell short of success.
When a woman is murdered, the investigation takes Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad from his beloved Bes¿el to its "concurrent" city Ul Qoma - two cities that sometimes occupy the same geographical space, but whose inhabitants have been raised to "unsee" the people and features of the other city and trained not to accidentally cross the border. Because of its sparse language, this is one of the easier Miéville novels to read - it is however, not less complex or clever than the others. It is a huge feat of Miéville's, I think, that he manages to write a proper hard-boiled noir story with a determined copper who won't be dissuaded from finding the truth, damned-be-all-consequences, at the same time as staying true to the "Miévilleian" characteristic complex and fantastic world-building. And, of course, adding quite a bit of political commentary; although not meant to be representative of any real location (that Miéville dislikes allegories is not a secret), it is impossible not to at least ponder various current world situations where people must "unsee" other people on a daily basis.It even manages to be funny at times, when people need to dodge other people or cars that they can't acknowledge are there to begin with. Although I doubt it'll happen, I would love to read a prequel with some earlier case of Borlú's as his voice is such a great throw-back to classic noir.
Slow and boring, the strange semi-sci-fi / alternate reality premise offers very little. This murder mystery wants to be gritty, provocative and intriguing, but I found the book to be just dull and cliche.
This is possibly the weirdest novel I ever read. The basic idea of two cities occupying the same space is not hard to understand but really hard to visualize. I mean, what does a crosshatched street look like? The mind boggles! While reading the early parts of the book I kept wondering how can two such cities exist? How can the people cope with all that unseeing/unsensing business? However, by about half way into the book I was finally able to take the concept for granted and focussed entirely on the characters and the story. Quite liberating.This is the first China Miéville book I have ever read. I look forward to reading many more.
A great, unconventional mystery. Genre-bending at it's best!
My first Miéville. I loved the first half of this book and then it started to let me down a little--I still liked it quite a bit, though.The book is a murder mystery set in an alternate universe Earth, and in two cities in particular, Besźel and Ul Qoma. During the first half of the book, the narrator, Borlú, focuses on the murder mystery, leaving the world itself as a fascinating background. Miéville drops a few (somewhat jarring) specific references to modern-day society in, and some of the other invented details are so note-perfect that you almost believe Besźel could exist, a slightly past its prime capital city somewhere in southeastern Europe. The exact nature of the cities begins as a tantalizing mystery; some of it is never solved, even though Borlú explains much of the inner workings directly to the reader as the story progresses. However, as the book goes along, the central murder mystery begins to take precedence in the narrative as well as in the mind of the narrator, and that plotline is not as interesting as the mystery of the setting. Among other things, it's much more predictable, so the book as a whole loses some of its novelty by the end. This was my biggest problem with the book--while the ending was satisfying, and overall still good, it didn't fully stand up to the imaginative and compelling beginning. The prose is gorgeous throughout.As some of the other reviewers have said, the characters are a bit two-dimensional, but to be perfectly honest the characters aren't the point of this kind of book: it's setting and theme, Besźel and Ul Qoma and the use and enforcement of social codes. The city and the city are the main characters, and they are more than enough for me.
It's possible The City & The City would run the risk of being just another cop drama if not for the world Miéville chose to create for its setting. The title refers to Bes¿el and Ul Qoma, two adjacent cities in Eastern Europe with completely different languages, cultures, and economies. What sets these two cities apart is the fact that in places the cities literally exist on top of each other. To keep peace, and presumably avoid conflict over the borders, the citizens of both cities obey a strict code that forbids them from seeing into their neighboring city, even going so far as prohibiting them from acknowledging ("unseeing") buildings and people that are in the other country despite physically being on the same street.It is due to the boundaries (both literal and figurative) that the murder mystery becomes more than just that. When a young woman's body is discovered in Bes¿el, Inspector Tyador Borlú is called to investigate and soon discovers that the murder occurred in Ul Qoma. Borlú must investigate the crime while obeying the rules respecting the autonomy of both cities and ensuring the murderer did as well. If either breaks these rules, they are declared to be "Breach" and are subject to punishment from a mysterious force which ensures the city and the city can retain their separation and distinct identities.The setting of the story is truly where it shines. Miéville has created a very unique culture in which people are so willing to keep the two locales mentally separate that they refuse to acknowledge that they can look over the border, where a trip to your physical neighbor involves going several miles out of the way purely because they are said to be in the other city (since Copula Hall is the only accepted entrance between the cities), and where they adopt certain mannerisms and ways of dress just so people can identify what city they are existing in. It is these legal gymnastics which make Borlú's investigation so entertaining to read about. The arbitrary rules are followed despite the complications they provide in what otherwise might be a straightforward investigation.In ways, the story brings to mind Lost. Like J. J. Abram's popular television series, Miéville's novel has an intriguing and mysterious locale as its backdrop. The primary characters drive the narrative, but the setting is constantly on the peripheral as a secondary mystery. It allows the story to be pushed in unique ways and gives a creative layer to the characters' motivations.In some areas it does not work as well as others. Because the story is told from Borlú's perspective, the reader is sort of dropped into the world uninitiated. The context of the rules between the cities and various terms that are used ("alter", "crosshatch", "grosstopically", etc.) come naturally to Borlú, but have to be deciphered by the reader. While first-person perspective makes sense in a novel that could be called a hybrid noir, it may lead to the reader feeling a little disoriented until he is able to better discern how things work.Like Lost, there are also elements which feel as if they were inserted just to give the world more mystery. While this is not something one would expect to take issue with in a mystery novel, there is ultimately little pay-off to them. Things like the artifacts from different time periods which are buried under Ul Qoma do play a part in the murder investigation, though not in a way one might hope. Perhaps most egregious is how the history of how the two cities came to be is touched on, but never fully explained. The uniqueness of the interaction between Bes¿el and Ul Qoma is such a palatable mystery that it definitely brings to mind the disappointment many felt when Lost ended with so many questions still in place. (Although, this isn't a harsh criticism as it is fully possible Miéville will revisit the world like he has with Bas-Lag.)However, these are not things that weigh down the stor
I can't get this book pout of my mind.
The blurb on my copy of 'The City & The City' cites the book as "an existential thriller taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights", before going on to give the brief plot details. For me, this does an excellent job of saying absolutely nothing at all about the novel itself. Many of the other reviewers have described this novel as a "fusion", drawing on broad genres to create a book that is primarily built on the foundations of fantasy, but with strong overtones of detective fiction and with a strong hint of noir. However, I can't help but feel that "fusion" isn't the word we should using in reference to the scope of the book:The novel starts off very simply, with a body of an apparent prostitute discovered in a down and out area of the city of Beszel, somewhere apparently in Eastern Europe. For those with an appreciation of Eastern European political history, it is an image that immediately conjours up images of post-war, grey, depression in harsh winters, an imagery that comes to perfectly encapsulate the suspicion, counter suspicion, accusations and uncertainty that begin to characterise the plot.Without giving too much away in regard to the setting, the context of the novel takes advantage of these pre-arranged sterotypes to add an element of pure fantasy to the plot, and it is at this point that I believe the label of "fusion" is misplaced. Yes, the plot draws on multiple genres, but I think they are remarkably channeled into a single purpose. The main theme that emerges through the plot and which the main thrust of the plot rests on, indeed, the crime would not have been able to be committed without it, is ambiguity.The suspicions, accusations and investigations of Inspector Borlu and his counterparts are built upon this ambiguity, and it quickly becomes clear that official channels in Beszel are not equipped to maintain control of a situation that exploits a previously unconsidered weakness in the system. To draw upon so many different genres and to use them to enhance such a complex and intelligent plot is an excellent way to enhance and promote this ambiguity.Overall, this is a superb, thought provoking, difficult and, at times, unexpectedly moving book considering that the characters are designed to give very little away. I loved the way Mieville drip-fed information about the make-up of the setting following some disturbing hints in the first chapters and consistently asks you to second guess characters and their motivations. I know I have kept this review vague, but the main strength and intelligence of the book is provided in its ability and willingness to surprise and inform in equal measure. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite it taking me an unusually long time to read, I think because of the pure psychological investment in the world presented. Definitely one to start on a rainy day - trust me, it will only add to the atmosphere!
This is a book about a city. No it's about 2 cities. Wait that's not right, it's about one city and two countries. No No No that's not it either. It's about 2 cities that intersect and in that intersection is a 3rd city or maybe a 4th city. No that's wrong too. OK let me start again.This is a story about a murder. The murder of a woman hated by many people; hated by secret society of people who want to unite two separate city states, hated by the two separate semi-secret societies of people who want the city states to be separate. She may or may not have been killed by a 3rd city hidden between the city and the city. Or she may have been killed by these other people who lurk in the city or cities and pounce on and disappear people who cross the line between the cities. No that's not what it's about either. It's a story about a detective. A detective with a side kick. No a detective with two side kicks, each in a different city. No it a detective who becomes a side kick to a...wait wait can't go there.Let me try this another way.It's a book about how vision and perception isn¿t actually the same thing. That what we choose to perceive and what we see is not the same thing. That we can learn not perceive any number of things. We can learn to not see the different and reach a kind of peace. But this kind of perception leads to dangerous situations. BLAH that's not it at all.Look it¿s a book that will never be made into any kind of live action movie...However, an animation overlaid on live action actor with interesting visual.... NO! NO! NO!Let me just leave it at this. "THIS IS A GOOD BOOK."
I really liked this book. It has an odd setting and some interesting characters and takes a little while to get going (otherwise it would have had five stars).The setting is what really makes this though, in combination with the world-weary narrator. And whilst it does take a while to reach the point where you understand what's going on it's well worth the journey.
This is my introduction to Mieville, and I was completely pulled in. The city is Beszel, a shabby and ancient nation somewhere in Eastern Europe. The other city is Ul Qoma, a place of glitz and promise. The trick is that both cities exist in the same place and overlap, and yet both nationalities pretend the other side does not exist. Enter Inspector Tyador Borlu, a detective in Beszel. A dead girl is found on his terrain, and all signs points to the fact that the murder took place in the other city--a tricky thing, as he must pretend the other city isn't there or commits the grave offense of "breach." Clues mount, people disappear, and almost no one can be trusted as it turns out there may be a third city involved, an entity that lies between the two.It's a hard book to summarize. It's fantasy, but it's not. It's science fiction with a very alien society, but it's not. The real magic here is in human psychology, and it feels absolutely plausible. We "unsee" things we don't want to notice all the time--homeless people, someone in peril, disruptive children. Mieville takes that a step further, creating a society where you ignore people, buildings, even oncoming traffic. It's incredibly tricky, yet he makes it work. On top of that it's a suspenseful police procedural with spare language and twists and turns that would dizzy any accomplished detective. It's a brilliant piece of cross-genre work and I can see why it won so many awards. It deserves every single one.
Love a good detective mystery. Love urban fantasy. All loose ends tied up - very important in procedurals - excellent
Wow, what a book. I admit I was confused when this book started, it took me a little while to decipher what was going on. But once I did, I could not put this book down. What an introduction to China Mieville. He has a very interesting voice, and I am looking forward to reading more by him. I just hope that he decides that a sequel is in order, as I think other stories in this universe could be very interesting. Believe the hype on this one, it is well worth the time.
Really brilliant book of (almost?) magical realism. Enjoyable both as a straight-forward detective story, set in an exotic locale , and following definite rules, but also as dystopian commentary. Very likely the best fiction book I read in 2010.
This book was on its way to 4 stars until the last 50ish pages, in which Mieville steps back to a disappointingly pedestrian conclusion. I say "steps back" because, up to that point, this is some seriously audatious and well-execute storytelling.
This is a stunning book for our current global situation. In the guise of a detective novel Mieville engages the social complexities of our divided world. The books works as an exploration of life and politics in the ruptured cities of our time and context-- East Berlin, The West Bank, Sarajevo, etc. I highly recommend reading it and passing it on to others.