Kristen's Reviews > The City & the City

The City & the City by China Miéville
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's review
Apr 10, 2012

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Read from April 10 to 24, 2012

I absolutely loved the concept of this book – the idea of two cities, one rich and one poor, in the former Soviet bloc, literally beside one another (and in many cases overlapping), but citizens of each city are forbidden to look at one another. They must constantly ‘unsee’ what is in front of them, or fear getting taken by ‘Breach,’ never to be seen again. There is the literal interpretation of this – the gentrified city of Prague beside the more rough-around-the-edges Budapest, for example – or the more figurative. I could see parallels between the idea in the book and my own life; the particular neighborhood of SF that I work in is Hayes Valley, an affluent hipster enclave that’s been gentrified and tony for the past five years or so. Surrounding Hayes Valley is Civic Center/Tenderloin, a scruffy neighborhood plagued by crime and homelessness. The neighborhoods co-exist and in many ways overlap, but you often choose not to see each other – or more specifically, you choose to ‘unsee’ all of the blight.

Perhaps it is because I loved the premise so much that my expectations were too high, and as a result the actual storyline let me down. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a perfectly entertaining read – but I wanted to the reveal at the end of the murder mystery to be more interesting, more nuanced. It ended up feeling like a run-of-the-mill murder mystery, albeit in a fascinating setting. Maybe I’m not giving it all the credit it deserves, but it was a respectable three stars.

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