Book Review – The City & The City

I had wanted to read something by China Miéville for some time and this novel came up in one of my book clubs. So I finally had my chance. The City & The City is a stand-alone novel that tied for a Hugo Award for best novel, won the Locus Award, World Fantasy Award, and Arthur C. Clarke Award, and was nominated for a Nebula Award.

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Here is the blurb:

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 Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú 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, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring 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.

Overall, this book just wasn’t for me. I found the author’s writing style hard to follow and I can’t pinpoint exactly why. Something about the sentence structure and the way he writes dialogue made this a hard book to get into.

The story started off intriguing enough with a murder investigation in a strange mish-mash of coexisting cities, their separation enforced by the mysterious power of Breach. I felt like the plot dragged and it wasn’t until about two-thirds of the way through the story that it became more suspenseful.

This next part is a little spoilery:

What bothered me the most about this book is that the most fascinating aspect – the nature of the two cities and rumor of a secret third city – was not the point of the book. The murder is solved and has a mundane explanation, while the third city is just a red herring. Meh.

Have you read anything by China Miéville? Would you recommend a different book of his based on my problems with this one? Let me know in the comments.

Find more of my reviews here.

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