Joy's Reviews > The City & the City

The City & the City by China Miéville
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's review
Apr 25, 13

bookshelves: 21c, british, fantasy, urban-fantasy, mystery, noir
Read from April 26, 2011 to April 26, 2013

When a body of an unknown young woman is found abandoned in a skate park, the murder investigation becomes the responsibility of Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Beszel Extreme Crime Squad. To solve the mystery of her death, he will have to navigate the tricky political waters between his home city of Beszel and its sister/rival city-state Ul Qoma. The two cities occupy the same physical territory, but represent wholly separate social and political worlds.

This is a really fascinating, and effective, mix of genres and influences. It's very much urban fantasy in the broadest sense of the term--so, not PNR-lite, but fantasy concerned with cities as settings and spaces. It's also a crime novel, specifically a noir procedural. The mood and atmosphere remind me a lot of the smarter Cold War-era spy novels, though I don't think this is meant to be allegory for that particular historical moment, but there's the same sense of melancholy, the same recognition of the absurdities of bureaucracy and politics.

I started reading this novel without knowing too much about it--I expected intelligent urban fantasy, but the noir caught me by surprise. I think that's why I bounced off it on my first attempt to read it. Looking back now that I've finished it, I realize that some of the plot developments were inevitable: such things tend to happen in noir. Anyway, an excellent thinky read--save this novel for some day when you have the time and energy to concentrate on it.
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