Sunday, 21 November 2010

The City & The City by China Miéville

The City & The City by China Miéville
The City & The City is the big winner this year, taking all the awards (not all, but the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo, the Locus and the Arthur C. Clarke, among others). And even if I didn’t find it mindblowing, I have to agree that all of these are well deserved.

But although these awards scream Fantasy and Science Fiction, in its essence The City & The City is detective fiction, a murder mystery with some stokes of dystopia. The main character, Tyador Borlú, a detective in the Besź police, is faced with the murder of a young woman, who no one knows the name, no one knows who she is, and who no one is missing. The investigation of this murder will reveal that there is more than it seems, will upset rebel and political groups, and will take Borlú across the most peculiar of borders.

The City & The City was a different book, one that I liked immensely. More than the characters and the story, I liked the cities, the wordbuilding, that was complex and believable, without losing its magic. It was a place I wish I could visit, especially because there is a complexity in geography that, were it to exist, would be amazing to experience.

I did like the story, and had trouble putting the book down. There was much that was about the crime itself, but there was also space for explaining the culture of the cities, and their common history (even if I wished there was a bit more about the Precursor Era). But I must confess there was some predictability on the plot. By the middle of the book I already knew which was going to be Borlú's fate, even if I didn't have a clue about who was the murderer.

Another thing that I liked about The City & The City was the dystopia side of it, a dystopia that is not that much political, but more cultural, made of bogeymen and fear.

But there were things that I didn't like about this book. One of them was the writing style. I'm not sure why, I had no problem in Perdido Street Station, but here I kept finding it hard to follow. The other thing isn't so much a dislike, but something that dampened my enjoyment of the book, and it was the fact that I felt distant from the characters. They were good characters, but the story was something that was happening far away from me, I wasn't there with them.

I enjoyed reading The City & The City, and if another book is written in this universe, I'll definitely read it.


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  1. Another predictable plot? You want to know what I think, quigui? The problem is that you read too many books! *lol* kidding, there's no such thing as "too many books". So this is a murder investigation? Why do you think the title is "The City and The City"?

  2. That's probably it. Too many books :) To be fair, it is just part of the plot that is predictable. There were some things that did manage to surprise me a bit.

    It starts as a murder investigation, but it builds up from there, and becomes much more like a science fiction book, with conspiracies and action.

    I should have mentioned the title in the review - it's the perfect title for the book. To give a bit away (although it isn't really a spoiler, you learn this soon enough in the book), there are two city-states, that share a border, among other things, but are very different and have a bit of troubled history together. And the murder investigation will mean that Borlú has to go work on both cities. To tell more is going to ruin the book, but believe me that there couldn't be a better title for this book.