Monday, 24 October 2011

Thoughts on The City & the City

 Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad finds himself mired in politics and old conspiracies following the discovery of a murdered woman in the decaying city of Beszel. However, the answers he needs are elsewhere, beyond a border intangible, in a city unlike his own, and yet with so many similarities…


China Miéville is no stranger to bringing metropolises to the page. The author’s novels, including his acclaimed ‘anti-trilogy’ of urban fantasy (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council), are set in wonderful cities teeming with citizens and ideas. However, gone are the shockingly imaginative denizens of New Crobuzon, Armada or Un Lun dun – this is strictly a contemporary affair, set in the present day, in a crumbling city on the edge of Europe. Or is it?
This is far and away Mieville’s most subtle work, and while the prose is muscular, the mystery and relationship of Beszel and its close neighbour, Ul Qoma, are revealed in small insinuations and teases. If the pace is a little slow then it is only because this is a storyteller luring in the outsider in small increments, for we are all outsiders in Beszel.
Existing fans expecting monsters and villains will need to approach the text with an open mind – this is a crime novel. And while Mieville pays homage to and observes the tropes of the genre, it would be disingenuous to expect him not to put his own unique spin on things.
The ending is by turns satisfying and unexpected and the setting fascinating. Perhaps the only criticism is that the protagonist feels translucent and shadowy – but then maybe this is the point. The City And The City is a story of shades of grey and paranoia, where citizens must remain covert and guarded at all times.

A satisfying crime procedural novel loaded with parallels to pre-unification Berlin and Orwellian dread. An interesting gambit from the author, challenging his existing readership to try something new.
This interview originally appeared at TotalSciFi.Com

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