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
"I'm walking but I'm reading!"
Two cities which occupy the same physical space, overlapping, but never mingling. What separates them is not a conventional border, although there is an official passport control, but the social barriers set up by both the custom of "un-seeing" and the strict "breach" law that enforces it. So a person standing next to you but in the other city, by social consent, must be "unseen".
Throw into this a murder that involves both countries and you have - Philip K Dick meets a police procedural.
Very original and very enjoyable. A metaphor for modern life.
"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.
"Fantastic, in both senses"
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.
"Twice the city for your money"
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.
"Poor performance, good book"
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.
"Not My Usual Sort of Story, But I Liked It"
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.
Really, really hard going from the start. I was in total confusion for the first 30 minutes about what was even going on, with a continual stream of foreign words and names adding to the confusion. After about 8 hours, I finally understood what was really meant by coexistence of the the twin cities (I originally thought they were in two phases or dimensions sat on the same physical location), at which point I couldn't help but think that the whole premise was a total farce. There's suspending disbelief, but this goes way beyond my ability to do that. It's such a shame too, because there's a good concept somewhere in there, but so poorly executed.
Probably not, seeing how hard to follow, and totally ridiculous the premise was.
The narrator over annunciated too many words, and had a strange rhythm when reading, almost like he thought he was reading poetry and not prose, and I got the impression he was a little in love with the sound of his own voice. What was most frustrating was a lack of tonal differentiation between when characters were speaking, or when the protagonist was speaking or thinking, and often I would have to rewind to work out who was saying or thinking what.
"My First China Mieville book, and I want more."
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)
"Difficult to swallow"
Essentially a run of the mill detective story, competently written and narrated. However the setting and backdrop is ludicrous.
Imagine a city where half the buildings are blue, the other half red. Half the people wear blue clothes and the other red. Red pretends blue doesn't exist, blue pretends red doesn't exist ....... and that's it, that is the whole premise nothing more. And why?...well just because ok!
It's not actually as straightforward as the red and blue analogy (think different culture, fashions, architecture and language), but it is basically what it boils down to.The story set in two separate cities that occupy the same space geographically but are totally separate This separation is not through any supernatural means, but simply that they pretend the other city doesn't exist.
What's even worse is that these cities/city exist on a modern day Earth where the rest of the world is normal (and thinks the setting city/s setting is stupid). No explanation is given why this came to be or why it persists other than a mysterious agency called Breach which polices any lapses in the pretending. Breach is never really explained nor do they appear to have any supernatural powers. They just seem to be a sort of police force that everyone obeys for some reason, but does not answer to either of the city governments.
The lack of a supernatural element or proper exposition gives the reader no cause for a suspension of disbelief making the world totally unbelievable, jarring and quite frankly a little insulting. What starts off as an interesting and original idea quickly reveals itself to be full of gaping holes and not thought through in the least.
"I heard so much about this book but..."
I struggled to finish it, maybe it would have been easier to follow on the paperback edition.
"Honk if You're Horny!"
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.
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