The City & The City

by China Mieville

Is it more foolish and childish to assume there is a conspiracy, or that there is not?

In an odd kind of futuristic noir, Inspector Borlu lives in a city that’s split to the point its inhabitants aren’t legally allowed to acknowledge the other city, so anyone living there carefully learns to ‘unsee’ things he or she shouldn’t be seeing. Folks not following the rules are found to have breached and are dealt with by a third, terrifying group known as Breach, who ensures any but the most minor infractions are met with the transgressor never heard from again.

The murder our detective is assigned to investigate happened in one city, with the body dumped in another. It appears the victim had made many enemies and was attempting to decipher the location of a third, hidden city between the first two.

It’s complex, mostly due to the intricacies of carefully navigating lands Borlu’s never been allowed to see, with the fear of Breach hanging over his head should he cross any line during his investigation.

“You’re not doing anything illegal talking to me.”
“You don’t know what I’m going to tell you.”

Winner of the Hugo (tied), World Fantasy and Arthur C. Clark awards, among others, for Best Novel, this one’s going to be interpreted all over the map. It’s certainly good, but the plot intricacies combined with a fantastic but confusing setting will likely make this a slog for a lot of folks while others devour it. It may be best seen as a writer’s book for writers, and quite likely the rating of the novel here will be bumped up after a second read. For now, at the very least, The City & the City is a good book, brazenly attempting to conjure sights we’ve never seen.

We are all philosophers here where I am, and we debate among many other things the question of where it is that we live.

3 (3-) stars


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