New York Times best-selling author China Mieville delivers his most accomplished novel yet, an existential thriller set in a city unlike any other, real or imagined. When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlof the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.
Borl must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel's equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borl is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighbouring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman's secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.
What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities. Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.
©2009 China Mieville (P)2009 Random House
Mieville skillfully combines the tropes of a police procedural novel with his extraordinary, surreal creation. Unlike the cliched sword and sorcery fantasy writers who invoke the rural and the medieval in their worlds, Mielville's work is fiercely urban both here and in his other novels making him, to my mind, a much more interesting writer than George R.R. Martin and his ilk.
There is more to Mieville's creation, however, than simply fantastical story telling. The author is a committed socialist and often uses his fiction to make political points. Here, the message is about how easy we find it to ignore the ills of our societies in the same way as the two cities are trained to ignore one another.
This is a fantastic novel in both senses of the word. Its sheer inventiveness and the force of its central conceit are undeniable and I was drawn into this richly imagined world. I guess how much you like this novel (and I liked it very much) will depend on how much you can buy into it.
My first China Mieville title, but I've already downloaded another. Gosh, this is good.
Those who have lived rough on city streets know the phenomenon of acquired invisibility - passers-by strive not to see the awkward beggar (in Mieville's terminology, they 'unsee' them). Jack Vance took this phenomenon further in the Dying Earth, imagining a city called Ampridatvir where the cursed citizens are divided in two; those who wear green can no longer see those who wear grey, and vice versa. Mieville has taken the concept on by a huge leap, brilliantly creating a credible city divided in two by that strangest of human abilities - the capacity to ignore reality. The division of the two cities is enforced in a startling way, while outsiders have to deal with this strange reality as best they can. Science Fiction becomes classic if it is about ideas which illuminate our current human condition, and on that basis this haunting work is destined for classic status. It also helps when there are good characters, and Mieville serves up some approachable people - the conscientious cop and his potty-mouthed counterpart from the 'other side' are superb foils. This is a genre-busting novel, and the ear for detective-fiction dialogue is equally sharp.
The narrator is John Lee, who will be well known to Audible SF listeners already. Your ears are in safe hands here.
The incredibly monotonous performance was hard to get through, it made dialogue barely understandable. Yet I stuck with the story, because even though the pacing is uneven, the concept is fascinating.
Quite a commercial booklist, I listen for pure escapism. Producer of Audiobooks - I'm uber passionate about great narration and sound design
The synopsis intrigued me and the reviews drew me in - and I'm glad, this is a compelling story.
An interstitial city within 2 cities where new cultures and dynamics must be conformed too is brilliantly and convincingly crafted by the author.
My only complaint is that I failed to 'feel' for any of the characters, but that may be part of the world they live in.
If like me, you've need convincing to step outside of genres you're used to - be bold, try The City and The City. A great story, a great listen.
I suck with this book till the end but it was hard going. This was my first China Mieville book, it was well constructed and the premise interesting. It required considerable conscious effort to suspend disbelief, this may have been a deliberate mechanism to force the reader/listener to experience something similar to the books characters, if so more fool me for sticking with it to the end. Finally I am beginning to realise I have a problem with John Lee's contribution having listened to several books read by him; his style is far more straight narration than performance, his pace is monotonous and he does little to bring the characters alive. I wonder how I would have found the book if read by somebody else. I wouldn't go as far as saying don't bother with this book just proceed with caution. It will be interesting to read what other make of it.
The premise for this book is fascinating and well handled all the way through, and I think the author does actually make it possible for the reader to empathise with the odd, mental acrobatics that the citizens need to survive. If nothing else it is a well handled detective story.
I can understand complaints about 'suspension of disbelief'; but in a way, a type of 'suspension of disbelief' is the core theme of the book; or more specifically, the phenomena of cognitive dissonance. This is the one disappointment for me, as I think the ramifications and varieties of cognitive dissonance could have been explored in more detail. The author touches only very briefly on how the human mind actually already does manage to juggle strange and contradictory beliefs.
Robert Harris wrote a book called Fatherland based on the premise, and this should not be considered a 'spoiler', . . . . based on the premise that Hitler was not completely defeated in WW II, and that Nazi Germany still existed in to modern times. This is another example of a fantastic premise for a book that descended in to a simple detective story that could almost have been set in any location. "The City & The City" is not as disappointing an effort as "Fatherland", but there are echoes of that disappointment.
So, a great premise, and a good story, well told; but it could have delved deeper.
(I found John Lee's voice suited the noir-ish detective story quite well)
... sometimes this recording sounds like it's been badly edited. Sometimes the intonation feels wrong. Almost like it is a cut up. At one point the narrator says 'wow' a few times in quick succession and they all sounded identical. Like the same recording was used for each. Having said that, and putting that niggling annoyance to one side, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and liked the narrators voice.
This a fascinating "other" story--how we view those who are not us and yet are--like religious factions vying as to who has the rightful claim to be city proprietor. Here Mieville creates extensive competing city-states who occupy the same physical space but have e.g. different names for the same streets and who go out of their way, through complicated laws and cultures, to ignore the other's existence even though the "other" may be standing mere feet away. Into this doppelgänger existence comes a murder mystery that causes both societies to clash. Very good and highly recommended.
I used to be sorta blind. But now I can sorta see. (Bill Callahan)
Those stickers you see on the back of cars. "Honk if You're Horny"; "My Other Car's a Porsche"; "0-60, Eventually". They're funny the first time you see them, by the fourth time they're merely amusing. By the 20th time they're really, really annoying!
And so it was with this book. When I first came across the premise of this novel I thought it was astounding. I was really intrigued- totally infatuated with the idea. But the idea got played over and over again. By the end of the book I was frustrated and not a little angry with it.
The narrator didn't help. He pushed the idea into our faces by delivering everything to do with it with a different level of gravitas to the rest of the story. It was a little like that uncle, who only knows one or two funny stories, and keeps trying over and again to make us laugh at them.
This would have made an excellent short story. Introduce the idea; explore it a bit, then get out. As a novel it is stretched too far.
"A wonderfull introduction to the power of audio"
I have not read the print version
The lead detective was the central character and was both compelling and enjoyable
Absolutely amazing reading
My first China Mieville and a wonderful listen. The story slowly builds and expands and John Lee's reading was fantastic!
"Noir with a Twist"
Inspector Tyador Borlu, who lives in the fictional rundown East European city of Beszel is called in when a young unidentified woman if found murdered. Borlu has lived his whole life in Beszel and has therefore been deeply programmed to "unsee" the other city, Ul Qoma, which occupies virtually the same physical space, but has a completely different economy, customs, ways of dressing and language. When it appears that the young woman might have been murdered in one city and dumped into the other, Borlu must "travel" to Ul Qoma to work closely with their own police force, but in preparation for his trip he must first undergo training to insure he can "unsee" his hometown of Beszel while he is staying in Ul Qoma. Quite a mind twister, but a fascinating story which puts into question questions of identity and the amount of programming we are all subjected to in order to conform to the order prescribed by the powers that be. China Miéville is known for exploring different genres with each novel, and here he does the Noir criminal mystery genre with a twist very well indeed. My first Miéville and certainly not my last.
"Eh - it was okay. John Lee saved it"
The plot was pretty flat and ended kind of boring. Its a murder mystery set in an alternate world but I feel that alternate world wasn't enough to set this apart from any other bland mystery
This is cross genre so no.
I liked the main character as performed by Lee. I love John Lee's narrating.
It might be better as a movie. And that's why its a pretty crappy book. Not enough substance.
A slightly better Mieville story but still not extraordinary or memorable. The reason for the duality of the cities was not very well explained - or I wasn't interested enough to remember it. And thus it can't have been that groundbreaking . The end was a let down.
Its another of those books where the protagonist goes here and does something and then they go there and do something and it never really adds anything to the plot or fleshes out the world any better.
It was a cool idea let down by a boring plot and poor execution. Even John Lee's fantastic narration couldn't save this one.
I am lucky in that I have read quite a few extraordinary books this year. This is certainly one of them. A masterpiece of the genre. Miéville is the superstar of the genre, and I was intrigued to find out why. Now I know. His acclaim is well deserved - This is top notch social commentary, a breakneck, hurtling detective story, and the best sci-fi novel I have read in a long, long time.
The voice artiste does a great job too.
Please listen. Highly recommended.
This is a really excellent story: interesting and twisty. It was also brilliantly read.
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