With shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, the multi-award winning The City & The City by China Miéville is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.
'You can't talk about Miéville without using the word "brilliant".' – Ursula Le Guin, author of the Earthsea series.
When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.
Adapted into the BBC Two series The City And The City starring David Morrissey.
Better known for New Weird fantasies (Perdido Street Station, etc.), bestseller Mi ville offers an outstanding take on police procedurals with this barely speculative novel. Twin southern European cities Beszel and Ul Qoma coexist in the same physical location, separated by their citizens' determination to see only one city at a time. Inspector Tyador Borl of the Extreme Crime Squad roams through the intertwined but separate cultures as he investigates the murder of Mahalia Geary, who believed that a third city, Orciny, hides in the blind spots between Beszel and Ul Qoma. As Mahalia's friends disappear and revolution brews, Tyador is forced to consider the idea that someone in unseen Orciny is manipulating the other cities. Through this exaggerated metaphor of segregation, Mi ville skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities.
The book club book of month and its was entertaining and well written. Unfortunately I had seen the TV adaptation first and as in all adaptations things don’t always translate from page to screen and as much I like the TV version the book was an improvement.
The two cities of Ul goma and Beszel are parallel and overlapping in places, like East and West Berlin post war before the wall fell. However the people in each city are not allowed to look at each other or communicate across the barrier, if this occurs they are in Breach and then they kinda disappear or if they are tourists... deported.
The book begins with discovery of a young Canadian women in Beszel and the case is given to Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. The investigation leads to the discovery that the girl Mahalia Geary was an archaeology student in Ul Goma and she was a known investigator of the concept that a third city Orciny is in control of the other two cities. This leads to investigations of unification and separatist groups who were unhappy with her opinions.
Borlú has to travel to Ul GOMA and is partnered with Dhalla, a cop from there. They investigate the case and it leads to political espionage and intrigue.
Breach ever watching plays an integral part in the outcome with twists in the end that you don’t see coming.
Mieville has swell thought out story and the characters are flawed but likeable or not depending on their journey. The concept is interesting and I like the twists at the end.
A wonderful read
The main premise of the book will stay with you long after the joy of reading the fast paced thriller has gone. You will be reminded of the two cities occupying the same space but not living together when you least expect it. One of my favourite books
Well Written, But Needs Breathing Room
The characters and plot are generally well developed and interesting. Unfortunately I don’t think the central concept of the two cities is explained very well: is it metaphysical (as the blurb suggests) or strictly political? Some passages are very confusing if the former.
I also think the ending twists aren’t particularly earned - characters start unnaturally monologuing their motivations, which is a bad sign.
But until the last third this is a very solid detective story with a keen eye for characters.