Comments to The City and the City by China Mieville
Submitted by Laurel Anne Hill (Jun 18, 2009)
I'm a guest panelist at Readercon 2009 and working on my assigned reading, which includes China Miéville's "The City & The City." I never managed to finish "The Iron Council" a couple years ago, so I groaned a little upon ordering Miéville's latest novel. Silly of me. My biggest mistake in reading "The City & The City" was starting too late in the evening to finish the book in one sitting. Alas, my eyeballs turned into bloodshot pumpkins at midnight and I had to wait to discover "who done it."
One might consider "The City & The City" as being set in a parallel world. Yet the sense of place is so real. As I read the novel, I visualized the eastern edge of Europe in our own world, and stretched my imagination to make room for the cities of Ul Qoma and Besel.
As the novel opens, an unidentified woman is found murdered in Besel. Unknown at the time, she was a foreign graduate student working in Ul Qoma. Ul Qoma and Besel both are sovereign with restricted passage between them. Their cityscapes--with some shared areas--intertwine, complicating the subsequent investigation of the crime.
Residents of Ul Qoma and Besel learn from an early age to see what happens in the city they are located in and "unsee" what doesn't--even if they must unsee something several feet away from them. Sounds impossible to believe? Miéville pulls it off.
Miéville has given "The City and The City" strong forward momentum. His protagonist, Inspector Tyador Borlú of Besel's Extreme Crime Squad, is sympathetic and compelling. Miéville has created a plot as intricate as his two sovereign societies and marvelous city sights. The only downside I noticed was in the paragraph structure of some of the dialogue. I had to reread some sections to ascertain the identity of the speaker. All in all, I highly recommend this wonderful and literary piece of speculative fiction.
Repeat warning: this book is hard to put down, a real page turner. Start reading "The City and The City" many hours before bedtime. Your eyeballs will thank you.
Laurel Anne Hill (Author of "Heroes Arise") http://www.laurelannehill.com
Submitted by Anonymous (Jun 11, 2009)
I just finished this book an I'm desperate to talk about it. Spoiler alert: I was at first disappointed that the division between the two cities was merely a complex arrangement of space, that there was nothing actually supernatural about their shared existence, and that the seemingly supernatural aspect--Orciny--was proved to be fabricated (although with the satisfying acknowledgment that no one can be sure it isn't real). But of course the psychological divisions almost make the spatial ones insignificant. I can't decide whether I classify it as supernatural or not, and fr some reason that question in particular has been nagging at me. Thoughts?