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REVIEW | The City & The City by China Miéville (Del Rey)

The City & The City was one of those books that everyone has been hotly awaiting since announced. I must admit I fell into the trap as well with the entire mystique surround its release. Even to the point where the author asked reviewers to be very vague about some of the details. After reading I can certainly see why China and his publisher wanted to keep things quite. A loose word here or there could ruin the entire experience, which is why I'll keep this brief.

The City & The City is a detective murder mystery a la Raymond Chandler with a little fantasy mixed in narrated by Inspector Tyador Borlu of Beszel Extreme Crime Squad. The setting is quite strange in that it is a divided city. Think East/West Berlin only with the streets split in half with one side of the populace on each side and neither being able to acknowledge or see the other. Borlu lives in Beszel and the other half of the city is called Ul Qoma.
The style of writing is almost as if it were written in another language and than translated into English, but it works beautifully. Some may consider this work too high brow, but I think it can be enjoyed by anyone willing to put in the effort. It will certainly make you think. I found myself putting the book down a few times between chapters just to ponder what it would be like to live or visit a city such as this. A few brief chapters have Borlu accompanying visitors around the Bezel, which gives you a bit more insight into the alienness of it all. Borlu's investigation takes him to the other side of the city so you do get a complete view of each.
The City & The City twists and turns into something I was never expecting, but is all the more satisfying for doing so. I give The City & The City 9.5 out 10 Hats. I would have given it 10, but I do have to leave room for improvement. I'm even contemplating getting the Subterranean edition, but I haven't decide if it will live up to repeated readings. I'll definitely be checking out China's Un Lun Dun and maybe some other works by him in the next couple of months.

5 comments:

SKelly said...

I want to like China Mieville, but tried reading Perdido Street Station and just couldn't get into it, so set it down. Maybe if this grabs me it will inspire me to go back and reread his other works.

BTW, like the new masthead much better!

Hagelrat said...

This is in my TBR pile and I am really looking forward to it.

The Mad Hatter said...

Since it was my first I'm definitely going to try Un Lun Dun and probably another. Some of China's hardcore fans seem to think The City is lackluster compared to his other books, but I thought it was one of the best murder mysteries I've read. So it seems it is very different from The Scar and Perdido.

Adam said...

I picked the City up at my local B&N and started perusing it and found it to be quite different from his other offerings, but nonetheless, very enjoyable. I don't like it when fans try to trap writers in a certain genre or style. Speaking for myself, I prefer to write in different ways and areas just to mix things up a bit.

Anonymous said...

I think The City & The City is his best book.