- Series: Random House Reader's Circle
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (April 27, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 034549752X
- ISBN-13: 978-0345497529
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 377 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The City & The City: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – April 27, 2010
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“Daring and disturbing . . . Miéville illuminates fundamental and unsettling questions about culture, governance and the shadowy differences that keep us apart.”—Walter Mosley, author of Devil in a Blue Dress
"Lots of books dabble in several genres but few manage to weld them together as seamlessly and as originally as The City and The City. In a tale set in a series of cities vertiginously layered in the same space, Miéville offers the detective novel re-envisioned through the prism of the fantastic. The result is a stunning piece of artistry that has both all the satisfactions of a good mystery and all the delight and wonder of the best fantasy.”—Brian Evenson, author of Last Days
“If Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler's love child were raised by Franz Kafka, the writing that emerged might resemble China Mieville's new novel, The City & the City." —Los Angeles Times
“China Mieville has made his name via award-winning, genre-bending titles such as King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council. Now, in The City & the City, he sets out to bend yet another genre, that of the police procedural, and he succeeds brilliantly…. [An] extraordinary, wholly engaging read.” — St. Petersburg Times
“An eye-opening genre-buster. The names of Kafka and Orwell tend to be invoked too easily for anything a bit out of the ordinary, but in this case they are worthy comparisons.” — The Times, London
“Evoking such writers as Franz Kafka and Mikhail Bulgakov, Mr. Miéville asks readers to make conceptual leaps and not to simply take flights of fancy.”—Wall Street Journal
“An outstanding take on police procedurals…. Through this exaggerated metaphor of segregation, Miéville skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“An excellent police procedural and a fascinating urban fantasy, this is essential reading for all mystery and fantasy fans.”—Booklist, starred review
“This spectacularly, intricately paranoid yarn is worth the effort.” — Kirkus, starred review
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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To start, this book is BONKERS. But in the best way possible. Admittedly, I found the beginning to be tough to get through simply because Mieville's writing is something I wasn't used to reading; at times it feels very sporadic and seems to "jump around" a lot without much exposition, but after a while I realized that I actually enjoy it that way, things seem more "fast-paced" which fits well with the story itself. It gets really interesting once he starts to describe "Breach" and the way the characters "unsee" the neighboring city. [MILD SPOILER] these details don't get "explained" until some chapters into the book, but I felt that this helped set the tone earlier on by making the character's actions that more intriguing; I kept reading because I wanted to better understand their strange behaviors and "see" the picture that Mieville was creating.
I love the concept (I haven't seen or read other stories like it), and the characters are believable and entertaining. If anyone has other suggestions for books like this please let me know, but in the meantime I would recommend this to anyone interested in more speculative fiction.
Miéville's cities of Beszél (which incidentally means 'to speak' in Hungarian) and UI Quoma are fantastically created. They are reminiscent of East and West Berlin, but instead of a high concrete walls and guard towers, the walls between Miéville's two city-countries are seemingly purely psychological, built on a deep and pervasive fear of 'Breach'. Citizens of both cities learn to 'unsee', 'unsmell', and 'unhear' everything about the other city: it's traffic, people, buildings, and more.
The idea of two countries being in the same place but separated in the minds of their citizens is a barrier for the reader's suspension of disbelief, but it's a problem that is skillfully attacked by Miéville. He describes a number of challenges the two cities need to deal with such as 'foreign' traffic and emergency vehicles, traffic accidents involving 'foreign' vehicles, children who are inexperienced at 'unseeing', tourists, immigration, trade, and differing economic status of the two countries. His description of UI Qomatown in Beszél is a good example of how much thought he has put into this world:
"The scents of Beszél UI Qomatown are a confusion. The instinct is to unsmell them, to think of them as drift across the boundaries as disrespectful as rain ("Rain and woodsmoke live in both cities," the proverb has it.)...Very occasionally a young UI Qoman who does not know the area of their city that UI Qomatown crosshatches will blunder up to ask directions of an ethnically UI Qoman Beszél-dweller, thinking them his or her compatriots. The mistake is quickly detected - there is nothing like being ostentatiously unseen to alarm - and Breach are normally merciful."
To explore the interactions between the two co-located countries, Miéville uses a murder investigation that necessitates international cooperation between Beszél's Inspector Tyador Borlú and UI Qoma's Senior Detective Quissim Dhatt. We only really get to know the main protagonist Borlú, other characters remain quite undeveloped, and the dialogue is fairly sparse and intense.
As noir crime fiction I felt it was fairly weak, and the very neat resolution to the whodunnit has prompted criticism from some readers, but they miss the point. The crime and its investigation was really an excuse to have some, otherwise very rare, international collaboration between the two cities. I was interested in the murder but I was fascinated by the larger questions it inspired: Who/what/where is 'Breach'? Was 'The Cleavage', when the two cities were created, a joining or a splitting (cleave can imply either)? Is the mental barrier between the cities purely psychological, or is there an element of magic/fantasy/sci-fi i.e. is there a biological or technological reason why the citizens of the cities can 'unsee' their foreign counterparts? Is Orciny real, a synonym for Breach, or something else entirely?
Of these questions we only really get some resolution about Breach and Orciny. Breach is invisible, pervasive, extremely secretive and seems to possess limitless power when there is a 'breach': a failure to observe the city boundaries, which could be as simple as looking directly at a building in the other country.
"I had seen Breach before, in a brief moment. Who hadn't? I had seen it take control. The great majority of breaches are acute and immediate. Breach intervenes...Trust to Breach, we grow up hearing, unsee and don't mention the UI Qoman pickpockets or muggers at work even if you notice, which you shouldn't, from where you stand in Beszél, because breach is a worse transgression than theirs."
After all of his experiences of travelling to UI Qoma and entering Breach I expected Borlú to question whether keeping the split between the cities was actually a good idea, whether Breach was morally in the right or just a brutal enforcement of a ridiculous and pointless segregation, or even just to voice some self doubt about becoming part of that enforcement. But he never does. I'm still not sure how I feel about that: to some extent it seems in keeping with his character, he shows no sympathy for the unificationists, and perhaps there is even some fantasy/sci-fi explanation (government brain modifications?) for this deficiency, but it is at odds with his willingness to break the rules to protect Yolanda Rodriguez.
Nonetheless, an intriguing concept well executed.
Read more of my reviews at g-readinglist.blogspot.com
The book's all about building a believable alternate world, and this it does brilliantly.
Apologies if I'm gushing (sure, all the cool kids already knew China Mieville was great...) so in the interests of finding some false balance, let me find a few faults. Tough, but if it were me, I'd have pushed the inspector's relationship with his female constable to see where that might go, and I'da thrown in a bit more humour, but hey, I'm just looking for nits to pick. This is great stuff. Loved it.
Most recent customer reviews
Science Fiction meets Police Procedural
I think it is fair to characterize China Mieville's The City and the City as...Read more