A squid religion, a psychopathic tattoo, an immortal bully with a braindead child, and an ancient Egyptian spirit working as a modern-day union rep fo...moreA squid religion, a psychopathic tattoo, an immortal bully with a braindead child, and an ancient Egyptian spirit working as a modern-day union rep for enchanted familiars. What's not to like?
China Mieville is quickly becoming one of my favorites. (less)
Mieville is one of few contemporary fantasy writers producing work that I can read. His work is lucid, straying beyond the "tropes" that define fantas...moreMieville is one of few contemporary fantasy writers producing work that I can read. His work is lucid, straying beyond the "tropes" that define fantasy, and while The City & The City might be loosely labeled an "urban fantasy", it's the elements of magical realism or "the weird" that dominate this story. This is not a wizards-and-fireballs sort of book, and we are all better for it. The book carries deep themes of otherworldiness made familiar, a vibe which permeates Mieville's writing (and is shared by those "fantasy" writers whom I find most captivating).
The story itself is an unremarkable murder mystery. What makes the book stand out is the setting. You never quite know what is happening with Beszel and its twin. Is the division the result of arcane magic? Demons? Technology? Aliens? Political agreement with mass application of psychology? We never know; it blends into the background, not as a problem to be solved but as a backdrop for the characters.
In that light the book just clicked for me. Mieville has a way of taking elements that are otherwise mundane, and other elements which could quickly stray into the land of cliche, and making them into something new and bizarre which works. It doesn't hurt that Mieville can actually write, and his prose is a pleasure to read on top of his out-there stories.(less)