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The City & the City

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  26,868 ratings  ·  3,318 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 (first published 2009)
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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

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-
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
Ian Klappenskoff
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
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
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
James Thane
In The City & the City, China Mieville blends fantasy, sci-fi and crime fiction into one of the most interesting books I've read in a while. It's a tale of two cities set in eastern Europe. One, Beszel, is in decay; the other, Ul Qoman, is much more prosperous. The kicker is that the two cities share the same physical space and the citizens of one city are strictly forbidden from interacting with citizens of the other.

Citizens of one city are prohibited from even looking at each other or in
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
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
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
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
David Sven
One thing I'm noticing in my recent Mieville binge is that China likes his cities. They are as much a character as the protagonists of his weird imagination. They have their own unique personalities, differing from book to book whether we're talking about dark and dirty New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station or the pirate city, Armada in The Scar or Embassytown on an alien planet in Embassytown. In The City & the City we are treated to not one but two cities - or maybe it's one city with mul ...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
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
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
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
Ian Klappenskoff
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
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
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
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
Lit Bug
4.5/5 stars

China Mieville is not Orwellian, as reviewers say – he is the new Orwell – or what Orwell would have been had he been writing today. This urban fantasy novel walks a tight-rope between literature and popular-fiction. A fuzzy place where it belongs to literature, and to popular-fiction too, yet it is a part of both and neither – just like his two cities, or rather, three cities. Beszel, the first city, Ul Qoma, the second city and the fuzzy place in between – Orciny – the third city –
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

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?
China Mieville is to modern fiction as The Clash was to popular music of their day: fresh, alive, vibrant, powerful, edgy, dangerous, misunderstood and by all accounts – original.


The City and The City is about as original an idea, concept, theme as I can imagine– and all put together nicely into an ostensible murder mystery. While that is the tone and structure, to me the real story was the absurdist city on top of or within, or beside or related to the other city. Or whatever.

Don’t want to ad
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
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.
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
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
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
Ivan Lutz
Kao predstavnik weird fiction literature, China me bogovski iznenadio. Kriminalistički roman Grad i grad je sve što možete poželjeti od fikcije. ZApravo sadržina SF-a u njemu je u isto vrijeme i mala i ogromna, no ono što daje tu posebnu notu je atmosfera tame, crnila, neuhvatljive indoktriniranosti i perfektno razvijanje likova i radnje. Besźel i Ul Qoma mogu se lako naći na karti svijeta; hoćete li da to bude Sarajevo; Berlin ili Izrael svejedno je. Svugdje gdje je podjela dva ista naroda toli ...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.” 34 likes
“Is it more childish and foolish to insist that there is a conspiracy or that there is not?” 12 likes
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