The City and the City
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The City and the City

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  20,018 ratings  ·  2,694 reviews
Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad finds deadly conspiracies beneath a seemingly routine murder. From the decaying Beszel, he joins detective Qussim Dhatt in rich vibrant Ul Qoma, and both are enmeshed in a sordid underworld. Rabid nationalists are intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists dream of dissolving the two into one.
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Del Rey
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Wow. Okay, I'm definitely fangirling for China Miéville. I love his limitless imagination, the skill to effortlessly make an unbelievable premise feel real, and ability to turn any setting and place into a true protagonist.


This is my first non-Bas Lag novel, set in the (more or less) real world. But no reason to worry - this remains as much of "weird fiction" as anything else by His Chinaness. As Miéville tries to write a novel in every genr...more

6.0 stars. We all know that relationships have there ups and downs and that spats are going to happen even to the strongest of them. Well a few months ago, after having a couple of incredible years with China Mieville’s books, (i.e., Perdido Street Station and The Scar and ), both of which are among my ALL TIME FAVORITES...suddenly turmoil. The cause of the turmoil was Un Lun Dun, which I just did not like and thought was UGH-LAME-...more
I see why so many people are underwhelmed by The City and The City, China Miéville's strange and wonderful homage to the mystery genre and his mother.

It is because while The City and The City is both of those things, it is also -- and more powerfully -- a love letter to his fans and an act of oeuvre snobbery of the first order.

What Miéville has done is to build a story upon his favourite themes, and to require that his audience is familiar with other occurrences of these themes in his work to fu...more
Ian [Paganus de] Graye
Urban Recall

I read this almost 12 months ago, which makes it difficult to recall and recount the tone of the writing.
However, I would like to make some general comments about the novel.

An Abstract High Concept Novel

In one sense, it is an abstract high concept novel.
What does this mean?
It's high concept in the sense that it takes a basic concept and explores it in detail.
And it doesn't stray very far away from that concept.
It's not "Snakes on a Plane".
It's far more abstract than that.

The C...more
Megan Baxter
This book has been causing thoughts since I finished it a couple of days ago. About cities, and what we see and don't see. And how those kinds of seeing are conditioned.

And then something happened yesterday that was both funny and a little frightening, illustrating exactly how much I might be missing as I walk down the streets of my city. My husband and I were walking towards the local gaming store, towards the lures of Free RPG Day, talking. I would have thought that I was fully aware of my su...more
Dan Schwent
Tyador Borlu of Beszel's Extreme Crime Squad is assigned to the murder case of an unknown woman. To find her killer, Borlu must go to the neighboring city of Ul Qoma and team with Qussim Dhatt of the Murder Squad. Can the two detectives from different cultures figure out who the victim is and why she was killed?

Wow. The core premise of The City & The City requires some explaining but I think I'm up to the task. Remember those perceptual illusions you were so enamored with when you were a kid...more
Mieville is the sort of author I expect and want to like, but I didn't feel the love with "The Scar" ( This second foray into his works was far more rewarding, and my third, Embassytown, was even more so (there are some interesting parallels, too, which I've outlined in my review:

I enjoyed the concept, the wordplay, and the impossibility of categorisation: it's a detective story, but it's set in a world that is...more
My first reread of The City The City was an experience as convoluted as the grosstopography of Beszel and Ul Qoma. A chapter read, four chapters listened to; three chapters read, two chapters listened to; and on. Teaching this book in a town in a different province than the town I live in, across a straight, over a bridge (my adopted country's longest, the adopted country that plays such an important role in the piece, which is itself a nation sandwiched between nations in our always); a soccer...more
I think that this is the absolute worst choice for someone who’s never read China Mieville. Like me. All I have to say is: it’s a good thing that I have an endless store of patience and I like being confused. In audiobook terms, it took eight miles, three loads of laundry, four bathrooms, and a huge batch of vegetable korma for me to start liking this book. My interest was sparked by his creative, highly detailed world building, and my brain was completely engaged by the dozens of philosophical...more
January 2009 (Before)

Don't want to sound shallow, but...that shade of blue (referring to this cover) really doesn't make me think of China Miéville. The UK editon looks much better.

(Although it does kinda grow on you, so I'll stop complaining)


June 2009 (First)

Obvious fact #1: China Miéville likes cities. A lot. Urban geography, borders and boundaries, the politics and character of city-states that exist on rails, on ships, beneath towering bones. Here, Miéville gives us the cities of Besźel a...more
This book kind of makes my head hurt. Unlike the two previous novels I've read by Mieville, this one takes his outlandish and strange and doesn't put them into their own world, but into ours. Somewhere in our world there are two Cities, they are neighbors to one another and passage between them is strictly monitored and enforced. These two cities are sort of rivals and don't really like each other much, and they actually occupy pretty much the exact same geographical space as one another. The pe...more
For all its police procedural framework, the genre The City and the City reminds me most of is Golden Age SF. This is odd because there is no science involved in this. However, The City and the City does what Golden Age SF did: it takes a "what if…" and riffs on it as far as the author can logically take it. What if … you had a planet where night only came once every thousand years ("Nightfall", Isaac Asimov), robots could be implanted with memories ("Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", Philip...more
Aug 06, 2013 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: crime
My first China Mieville and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It does not easily lend itself to straightforward analysis. Mieville has said he wants to write in every genre and this one is very solidly a detective novel, with a good slice of Chandleresque noir. Yet, of course it is also much more; there is a strangeness to it which lends an air otherness which is not really science fiction or fantasy; but it works.
The action takes place somewhere in the east of Europe in the cities of Beszal and Ul Qoma...more
The City & the City is a book that defies explanation. On the surface, it's a murder mystery about an archeology student whose body is found in one city, Beszel, but she was murdered in the city that borders it, Ul Qoma. The two cities are very different from each other and it's very difficult to get permission to cross the border. Those who cross illegally are subject to Breach.

As the story starts, the relationship between the two cities seems kind of like the relationship between West and...more
So glad this one reeled me in and threw me up on the bank all spinning with dizzy pleasure. I was headed for disappointment 100 pages in. The fantasy of the setting was intriguing at first: two cities of distinct cultures in some fictional Near East country coexisting in the same place in pieces and patches with their residents trained to “unsee” each other and forbidden to interact. But I started to get a headache with its impossibilities. Was this just some intellectual game?

Yet leave it to b...more
First off, China Mieville is very brainy and gives good vocabulary. I can see why Ceridwen is dating him as a literary boyfriend.

The plot revolves around a detective investigating a murder in a city shared by two distinct nations. One society, Ul-Ooma, seems to be Turkish, Middle Eastern, Chinese, or North African. The other society, Besel, seems gray, depressive, and borrows words that are vaguely slavic. So, maybe Besel is council estate England and Bulgaria.

The two cultures share exactly the...more
Oct 03, 2012 Richard rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Richard by:
When I finished this I first gave it four stars, but as I thought about it and pondered what I had to say here, that rating kept nudging up. Oddly, I think I liked this book more than it deserves.

First, the obligatory synopsis: Miéville has presented us with a fable set in contemporary times. The novel is a murder mystery and police procedural: a young woman has been killed in Besźel, and the story is told from the perspective of the investigator of the crime. Besźel is a struggling city, appare...more
Ian [Paganus de] Graye
Urban Recall

I read this almost 12 months ago, which makes it difficult to recall and recount the tone of the writing.
However, I would like to make some general comments about the novel.

An Abstract High Concept Novel

In one sense, it is an abstract high concept novel.
What does this mean?
It's high concept in the sense that it takes a basic concept and explores it in detail.
And it doesn't stray very far away from that concept.
It's not "Snakes on a Plane".
It's far more abstract than that.

The C...more
Bill  Kerwin

The premise is extraordinarily interesting and meticulously developed. The question propounded: what if two opposed cities existed side by side (with more than an occasional overlap) but were separated, not by an actual wall like East and West Berlin, but by the deeply enculturated habit of deliberate ignorance, a studied denial of the other, a fierce determination not to see? The central dilemma: when a murder is committed in one city, and the body is dumped in the other, how do the detectives...more
Inspector Borlu of Beszel's Extreme Crime Squad investigates the murder of a woman whose body was found naked at a park, a mattress thrown on top of it. At first he believes it to be a local prostitute. However, as he investigates, things quickly get more complicated, and more dangerous for Borlu.

While the body was found in the city of Beszel, Borlu realises the murder was done in the city of Ul Quoma. Ul Quoma is a city which occupies the same physical space as Beszel, but is 'unseen' by Beszel...more
Mieville in his Bas Lag books took the gothic secondary world fantasy of Peake and M. John Harrison added complexity worthy of THomas Pynchon, a vocabulary matching Gene Wolfe and Cormac McCarthy, and grotesque imagery of Bosch and Ernst; and created a series that may have the cultural impact of Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy. This book features not even a hint of that. He must have lost his favorite thesaurus with all the sticky notes in the right place. If this was handed to me without a cover Mievil...more
Ugh, I feel like such a jerk. This book has received such praise, so my expecations were pretty high. I had read more than my fair share of excellent reviews, so I felt I was in for a treat.

I really tried to like this - I really did. I thought the premise was absolutely brilliant. I just felt like it was either his prose or just the way the story itself came together that I didn't "get". I've yet to read a book that made me feel so confused.

Please don't hate me goodreaders! I tried, I really did...more
More compelling as a concept than it is as a mystery. Though the central conceit is rather confusing at first, once you work out the logistics (and get used to Mieville's thesaurus-assisted writing style -- contumely, ossified, topolganger), it's really a lot of fun just to inhabit his world and consider the metaphysical questions he poses about how much of a role observation plays in shaping reality.
I had a lukewarm response to Mieville until I read Un Lun Dun. Prior to Un Lun Dun, I had read Perdido Street Station and The Scar. I enjoyed them, but they didn't really knock my socks off. Un Lun Dun I enjoyed more. I picked up this book on the strength of Un Lun Dun, and due to the fact that one of the groups I belong to is reading it.

Some people I know think that science fiction and fantasy are "pulp" fiction. Just stories that don't say much or comment on anything. Usually, the people I kno...more

The City and The City is the first book I’ve read by China Mieville. Over the past few years several people I follow have written up various books of his and I was intrigued. And rightfully so, as it’s been a few days since I finished it and I am still thinking about it.

There are countless summaries and synopses of this book that one can look at so, anything I “reveal” is nothing that even a lazy person can’t read. However, I will make my musings spoilers where appropriate.

So what is this book?...more
Charlie George
Mr. Mieville delves deeper into the mystery format, into which I considered Un Lun Dun his first foray. Obviously The City and the City is more towards the hard-boiled detective bent, whereas Un Lun Dun was nominally young-adult adventure. I love the way he mixes his genres this way. On that subject, The City and the City is also equal parts fantasy and sci-fi, though the same can be said of all China's work. He's a fusion kind of guy. I've heard he disdains the label "New Weird" even though he...more
Sarah Keliher
Most totalitarian governments eventually figured out that the most efficient sort of mind control is the kind that is self enforced, and that self censorship, carefully instilled, is the most effective way to control public discourse. A similar form of self policing occurs today, despite our free societies. Urban anonymity coupled with the internet allows us to only associate with the like-minded (as many other people have more gracefully pointed out already). No longer forced to congregate with...more
Where I got the book: my local library.

50 pages into this book, I would have given it five stars. The concept's wonderful: two cities occupying the same space and time, their citizens trained from childhood to simply unsee the other city. What a great metaphor for our own cities where we walk with mental blinkers on so that we don't see the homeless or the people of that other ethnic group. One of the biggest problems for the physically or developmentally disabled in our world of equality is tha...more
You don’t have to be crazy to read this book but it helps.

Nah, I jest. The basic idea of this book is not hard to understand but it is a springboard to an extraordinary level of weirdness. The book is set in two cities that occupy the same geographical space. Imagine two cities existing side by side and then whisk them so that they are all jumbled up. That is one way of looking at the setting. The citizens of Besel* and Ul Qoma are not permitted to interact with the citizens, objects, or ground...more
I was kind of blown away by this. Hadn't read any of China Mieville's books. I did love it. It had this twisted plot...weird concepts (two cities co-exist within the same space on an Earth that is for all intents and purposes this one, except for that one difference). The cities exist in I think Yugoslavia or somewhere like that. There is a murder a dead body found in one of the cities and our hero Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad must investigate. He suspects that the murder involves som...more
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A British "fantastic fiction" writer. He is fond of describing his work as "weird fiction" (after early 20th century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigons. He is also active in left-wing politics as a member of the Socialist W...more
More about China Miéville...
Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag, #1) The Scar (Bas-Lag, #2) Embassytown Kraken Un Lun Dun

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“Books are always obviously having conversations with other books, and some times they're amiable and sometimes not.” 29 likes
“Is it more childish and foolish to insist that there is a conspiracy or that there is not?” 7 likes
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