The City & The City by China Mieville

The City & The City by China Mieville

Del Rey,  New York, 2009

I own this one (thanks to students, parents and the blessed gift card).

A Publisher’s Weekly, Los Angeles Times and Seattle Times Best Book of 2009.  The City & The City just won the 2010 Locus Award for best fantasy novel and won the 2010 Arthur C. Clark award in April.

Ever since reading Perdido Street Station and Iron Council I have admired China Mieville’s writing.  When I first heard he’d written a noirish, murder mystery I wasn’t quite sure what that could mean.  I hesitated, finally putting the book on hold at the library.  I waited and waited.   The paperback came out,  I was given a gift card.  I waited no longer.

Wow, this is one of those books I have difficulty writing about…

The story starts with the finding of a body on grounds of an estate in the city of Beszel.  Beszel  feels like an old city somewhere in Eastern Europe.  Inspector Tyador Borlu is called to the scene and finds that to fully investigate this murder, he must travel to Beszel’s neighboring city, Ul Qoma.  But these cities are not just neighbors.  They are intertwined, on top of and crosshatched with each other, and each city’s residents must learn to unsee what they see day-to-day.  There are nationalists and anarchists, politicians, students and archeologists, all wound up in a story that is fast-paced and well written.

There is not much more I can say except to suggest that you read this book.  I don’t really want to tell you more, or maybe I just can’t think of how to write about it.   Even finding bits to quote is difficult.   One thing, it is not an easy book to read,  sometimes the language itself seem to flicker in and out of perception, giving me a kind of vertigo.  Or maybe it was reading it at 2 am that had me dizzy.  In the acknowledgments Mieville offers his gratitude to several authors including Raymond Chandler, Franz Kafka and Bruno Schultz.  He is wise and gracious to do so.   This is one of the smartest and most entertaining books I have read in quite a while.


Filed under Arthur C Clarke Award, Mystery, Notable Books, SciFi

20 responses to “The City & The City by China Mieville

  1. I read before that this book is a hard read. I think I might give it a try anyway especially since you wrote that it’s one of the smartest books you’ve read in awhile.

    • Vasilly – The City & The City is hard, but not in the ways you would expect. I do think it is very smart and very unusual.

  2. I may give this one another go. I confess I gave up before getting too far into it, but I did bring Perdido Station on for my flight home. I think I will give this one another go in the fall.

  3. I have this one somewhere here in my pile and I’m looking forward to reading it sometime in the future. I had problems reading Perdido Street Station before but I blame that on my mood. I’ve pretty much enjoyed other Mieville short stories and two other books after that. I’m hoping this one is good.

  4. I almost picked this up from the library the other day! I had no idea it won the Locus award! That’s fantastic! Mieville makes me nervous. But I really want to read some of his stuff. His new book that’s coming out soon sounds really great! Kraken, I think? This one sounds good too though.

  5. I picked up a hard-back copy of this for a few weeks ago, for a couple of quid. Complete bargain! :D Just need to pick up the never to start it now. ;)

  6. He’s definitely not an easy read, but this was the most “normal” of his work that I’ve read! :–)

  7. I’ve been sitting with my Kindle in my lap, my finger twitching over the “buy” button for this one. I like different. Too many books all fall into a pit of forgetability. Nice review…

  8. I loved The City & The City, the first book I’ve read of Mieville’s. (I’ll probably read Un Lun Dun as my second.) I loved the world-building in this one, all the cross-hatching, grosstopically situated locations, the unseeing. And the Breach. I liked what ended up happening with Borlu in the end, wrapping up the murder mystery and some of the larger mystery of the two cities.

    • Christy – I think the Breach is the most intriguing part of the whole novel! I would love it if Mieville would write more about it. Thanks for your comment:)

  9. I agree! This was an amazing book but it’s really difficult to write about because it’s so complex and you don’t really want to give away too much. Even after I finished I still wanted to know more about this world Mieville has created.

  10. Pingback: My Favorite Books of 2010 | Page247

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