City and the City (Mieville)

Book Reviews
In the cleverly altered present-day of China Miéville's The City & the City, Inspector Tyador Borlú is tracking a murder case that takes him from his home town of Beszel to the city of Ul Qoma... two city-states [that] sit literally on top of each other, "crosshatching" and overlapping in a complicated tracery.... Miéville, the acclaimed author of "Un Lun Dun," clearly takes pleasure in working out the details of his audacious premise, placing a somewhat old-fashioned police procedural into an obsessively imagined world complete with its own history, anthropology and linguistics. And yet perhaps because this construct is so very intellectual...the novel requires more than a bit of suspended disbelief.
Sara Sklaroff - Washington Post


Better known for New Weird fantasies, bestseller Miéville offers an outstanding take on police procedurals with this barely speculative novel. Twin southern European cities Beszel and Ul Qoma coexist in the same physical location, separated by their citizens' determination to see only one city at a time. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad roams through the intertwined but separate cultures as he investigates the murder of Mahalia Geary, who believed that a third city, Orciny, hides in the blind spots between Beszel and Ul Qoma. As Mahalia's friends disappear and revolution brews, Tyador is forced to consider the idea that someone in unseen Orciny is manipulating the other cities. Through this exaggerated metaphor of segregation, Miéville skillfully examines the illusions people embrace to preserve their preferred social realities.
Publishers Weekly


Miéville tells vivid stories in the borderlands of literary fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and here he adds noir crime to the mix. Fittingly, his tale is set in the borderlands, creating a mysterious pair of cities somewhere on Europe's eastern edge. Beszel and Ul Qoma share the same ground, but their citizens are not allowed to react to one another, learning to "unsee" the other city and its inhabitants from a young age. Enforcing this division is a mysterious power called Breach. When an archaeology student is found dead, Inspector Tyador Borlu gets caught up in a case that forces him to navigate precariously between the cities, perhaps into the sinister worlds that straddle them. It's a fascinating premise. Unfortunately, the cities, protagonist, and case remain stubbornly in the haze. For all genre fiction collections because Miéville is a trailblazer with a dedicated following, but this work is more an existential thought piece than a reading pleasure.
Neil Hollands - Library Journal


A blend of near-future science fiction and police procedural, this novel is a successful example of the hybrid genre so popular of late. In a contemporary time period, two fantastical cities somewhere between Europe and Asia exist, not adjacent to one another, but by literally occupying the same area. Forbidden to acknowledge the existence of one another—a discipline imposed by the shadowy and terrifying entity known as Breach—residents in both cities have honed the ability to "unsee" people, places, and events existing in the other realm. This ticklish balance ruptures when Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad must investigate the murder of a foreign archaeological student. Long after the book's satisfying conclusion, astute readers will have much to ponder, such as the facility with which Authority can manipulate and repress a population and the attendant ills that life in such a society inevitably generate. Add in the novel's highly effective cover art and the result is a book that may appeal as much to a young, new-to-Mieville audience as it will to his loyal fans. —Dori DeSpain, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
School Library Journal


Fantasy veteran Mieville adds a murder mystery to the mix in his tale of two fiercely independent East European cities coexisting in the same physical location, the denizens of one willfully imperceptible to the other. The idea's not new—Jack Vance sketched something similar 60 years ago—but Mieville stretches it until it twangs. Citizens of Beszel are trained from birth to ignore, or "unsee," the city and inhabitants of Ul Qoma (and vice versa), even when trains from both cities run along the same set of tracks, and houses of different cities stand alongside one another. To step from one city to the other, or even to attempt to perceive the counterpart city, is a criminal act that immediately invokes Breach, the terrifying, implacable, ever-watching forces that patrol the shadowy borders. Summoned to a patch of waste ground where a murdered female has been dumped from a van, Beszel's Detective Inspector Tyador Borlu learns the victim was a resident of Ul Qoma. Clearly, the Oversight Committee must invoke Breach, thus relieving Borlu of all further responsibility. Except that a videotape shows the van arriving legally in Beszel from Ul Qoma via the official border crossing point. Therefore, no breach, so Borlu must venture personally into Ul Qoma to pursue an investigation that grows steadily more difficult and alarming. Grimy, gritty reality occasionally spills over into unintelligible hypercomplexity, but this spectacularly, intricately paranoid yarn is worth the effort.
Kirkus Reviews

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