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The City & The City

A book by China Mieville

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Excellent Murder Mystery in a Netherworld

  • May 4, 2009
China Mieville is one of the more clever writers in any genre. In The City and the City he as written a murder mystery, but one in a place like no other. The cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma reside in the same temporal space connected by crosshatches. And in-between is a shadowy nowhere, the Breach. The boundaries of the two cities are strictly enforced, mostly, so the citizens of each city have learned to "unsee" the other city to avoid entering the wrong temporal space that would put them in Breach. Being in Breach is a bad thing. It can make you disappear. Sound confusing? That's okay. You'll get used to it once you've inhabited the cities for a time.

Within these cities, well, Beszel is where it starts, a horrific murder of a young woman takes place and we are introduced to our interlocutor, detective Tyador Borlu of the Beszel Extreme Crime Squad. Borlu's search for the mysterious killer takes us across the cities, across unseen boundaries, in what is in the end, a rather intricate but not atypical murder mystery. As it turns out, the murder takes place in Ul Qoma but the body winds up in a desolate area of Beszel. This makes the murder even more mysterious as it's not easy to pass through the cities without breaching.

Borlu's investigation becomes a political hot potato and takes him to the shadowy underworlds of fringe political groups like the "unifs" who want to unify the two cities, to the True Citizens, who are ultra-nationalists wanting power for their particular city. It also takes him to Ul Qoma where the murdered young lady last resided, working on a doctorate at an archeological dig that predates the splitting of the cities. It turns out she was into some rather strange beliefs herself, one of which was there is yet a third and all powerful city, Orciny, occupying this same temporal zone. That put her in hot water with a lot of fringe political groups so she had plenty of enemies and the suspects abound. And it introduces us to a mystery within a mystery. Does Orciny really exist, or is it just an urban legend? And what might the murdered young lady's search for Orciny have to do with her violent demise? I guess we'll have to find that out too.

Borlu is a dedicated detective and wants justice for the murdered young woman so he works tirelessly to that end doing what most detectives do - poking his nose all over the place until some type of pattern or answers emerge. And slowly they do emerge and they get very weird indeed. As simply a very good mystery story, this novel works extremely well. Its setting and complexity make it superb.

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review by . February 24, 2010
...it's difficult for me to understand the motive and, therefore, difficult for me to appreciate.    I started this book months ago and put it down over a dozen times in favor of other books with more interesting plots, characters or meaningful (to me) writing.    I picked the book up again recently and read another 30-odd pages till I reached the halfway point...I thought maybe it was me, but in the end I decided it was not.    It's not …
About this book


Starred Review. Better known for New Weird fantasies (Perdido Street Station, etc.), bestseller Miéville 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 Borlú 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, Miéville skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities. (June) 
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ISBN-10: 0345497511
ISBN-13: 978-0345497512
Author: China Mieville
Publisher: Del Rey

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