the city & the city


I had seen a little hype for this book on Boing Boing and elsewhere, but not read anything about it. This was a good thing, as it turned out, and in deference to your enjoyment of this book I must also forbear from revealing too much.

I’m a fan of Miéville; I’ve read almost all of his books. I’ve even got my daughter started on Un-Lun-Dun, his YA novel (though sadly she’s reverted to that accursed teenage wizard for now). His Perdido Street Station stands apart as one of the best examples of the new urban fantasy genre; if you read nothing else of his, read that.

The City & The City should also be on your list. It starts out as a detective story set in some decayed city on the edge of Europe: so far, so Miéville. But already by the end of Chapter One we start to get glimpses of something else, something bigger and altogether weirder that everyone seems to be complicit in. It’s forty pages before this thing has a name; and over the next 50 pages it’s introduced in such a way that we readers become complicit too.

This exposition is among the best and most enjoyable I have ever read - and I can’t go into more details without ruining it for you. Admittedly though, at times the narrative is a bit of a balancing act between being believable and ludicrous; but then again, humanity’s ability to self-deceive always provides a rationale to the proceedings.

And in the end, all I can really say is that this book is an exploration of the power and meaning of borders and boundaries; our perceptions of these boundaries and in the end, the idiocy of them.

So is it a fantasy novel? Yes and no. Is it a detective novel? Yes and no. Should you read it? I reckon.

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