Book review: The City and the city, by China Miéville

October 17th, 2010 in Book reviews | , ,

I recently received my latest Amazon.co.uk order, which contained Nation by Terry Pratchett, Earth Ascendant and The Grand Conjunction by Sean Williams, Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, and The City & The City by China Miéville.

The books main plot is the solving of a murder, but in the vein of Mievilles usual writing the setting is pretty unorthodox. Besźel and Ul Qoma are two cities with a different past. At some point in time these two cities merged, not by growing into each other, but by being merged into the same physical space. Whilst one side of the road might be Besźel the other side might be in Ul Qoma. Some corners of the city space is so crosshatched and overlapped that each step might bring you into the other city. The job of solving the murder is by no means made easier due to the crime being connected to both cities, which would either be in breach (unauthorized movement between the cities, or have gone through the single and well-guarded checkpoint between the cities.)

Because these two cities spaces are intertwined the mysterious entity called Breach are overseeing the borders. One is not allowed to cross into the other city, nor interact or see anything, people having to “unsee” anything that belongs to the other city. Only at one place can one legally travel between the two cities.

Miéville gave Borders an interview on the book, which can be watched online. I also recommend visiting his blog rejectamentalist manifesto. The book has garnered very good reviews, and has won the BSFA Award for Best Novel of 2009, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2010. It is also a nominee for Best Novel in the 2010 Hugo Award.

I give it a 4/5. Enjoyable story, excellent writing, but could have explained better.

About the author
China Miéville, born 1972 in England, has 7 books behind him, and another book (Kraken) coming this year. Following in the tradition 1920s-1930s fantasy writers he’s a self-professed weird fiction writer. Many of his books are set in alternate universes with steam-punk influences and non-human characters and monsters. He has several nominations and have won the Arthur C. Clarke Award twice with The Scar and Iron Council. He also writes fiction for young adults.

Books: King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council, Un Lun Dun, and The City & The City, and also a number of short-stories.