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The City & The City (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – April 27, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Better known for New Weird fantasies (Perdido Street Station, etc.), bestseller Miéville offers an outstanding take on police procedurals with this barely speculative novel. Twin southern European cities Beszel and Ul Qoma coexist in the same physical location, separated by their citizens' determination to see only one city at a time. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad roams through the intertwined but separate cultures as he investigates the murder of Mahalia Geary, who believed that a third city, Orciny, hides in the blind spots between Beszel and Ul Qoma. As Mahalia's friends disappear and revolution brews, Tyador is forced to consider the idea that someone in unseen Orciny is manipulating the other cities. Through this exaggerated metaphor of segregation, Miéville skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
Our hero, inspector Tyador Borlu, gets drawn into a murder with obvious political overtones. Despite wishing to turn it over to Breach, he must follow the clues with the help of some daring but not entirely willing collaborators, and even finds himself assisting the Ul Qoma police, where he must see what he normally un-sees, and vice-versa. There are hints of dark conspiracy and evidence of secret manipulation, and they do amount to a suspenseful hunt and a resolution full of surprises.
I found myself following a different set of clues as to what Mieville was actually suggesting about the world, but never felt that they added up to a worldview or a tidy commentary on any particular issue. I liked the resolution, and it did feel rather "meta" in that the politics of the division turned out to be . . . oh, all right, I won't spoil it. Suffice it to say some will feel the resolution is a letdown, but if you like Zizek and Eco, its common sense interpretation will feel right.
Nobody is a great hero, nobody is a great villain, people are part of systems and yet have some scope for thinking for themselves. Do you have a problem with that?
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.
Last month, I was faced with a 2 week international business trip and wanted some reading material. I put it in the briefcase and opened it up at the start of a 14 hour plane ride. Once again, a bit of a struggle to begin as its quite hard to get used to the "reality" of the cities in the story.
I found myself readings things over and over... to try to understand the city better. The struggle started to disappear 60 or so pages into the book.. and the cities started to make sense.. and the story started to build.
I usually read a book of this size in just 1 or 2 sessions. I managed to make this book last for the entire trip as I ended each day with a just a chapter or 2. No matter how tired I was at the end of each day, I knew there was a few minutes of reading waiting before I went to sleep where I'd enjoy the story of a very strange city while i was in very strange (Shanghai, Tokyo) cities.
By the time I got on the return flight (only 12 hours due to good tailwinds), I was down to the last few chapters. I finished the book before dinner was served.. and was sorry to see the story end.
Worth the effort. Dave
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I don't believe the cities could ever exist in real life, but, assuming that they did...Read more