Wednesday, June 15, 2011


The City & The City, China Mieville, Del Rey, 2009, 312 pp

As much as I enjoyed Un Lun Dun, I liked this one even more. Somewhere in an interview Mieville stated his goal to write a novel in every genre. The City & The City is in the style of a police procedural/crime thriller. The writing is terse, the dialogue is snappy and an unsettling underlying sense of menace pervades the tale. This is only the second Mieville novel I've read, so I am no expert, but I've heard that he started out writing fantasy. Combined with the above elements there is a distinct fantasy flavor in The City & The City.

Because the city of Beszal, somewhere at the edge of Europe, happens to exist in the same space as the city of Ul Qoma. Because these two cities are rivals but at the same time do not acknowledge each other. In fact the citizens of each metropolis are trained from childhood to "unsee" any physical objects or people from the other. Which I found wonderful and cool in a fantasy sort of way.

So there is a murder victim found in Beszal. Inspector Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad, after a bit of inspecting, concludes that the murder must have take place in Ul Qoma, which is "impossible." Next thing you know he is embroiled with The Breach, a highly secretive entity whose task is to prevent and deal with any interaction between the two cities.

If you haven't read the book, you can thank me for spelling out for you what took me almost half the book to figure out. If you don't like feeling dazed and confused as you read, you might as well just skip Mieville altogether.

I loved The City & The City by the end, though I was still guessing on a few points. Really, I wanted to go right back to the beginning and read it again. But my professional reviewer deadline demanded that I move on to Embassytown. That was great also and you will see my review here in a day or so.

(The City & The City is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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