Jacob's Reviews > The City & the City

The City & the City by China Miéville
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's review
Oct 10, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: mieville, 2013, i-own, mystery-crime-adventure-etc, 2010-2011, 2007-2009
Read from January 19 to 28, 2013 , read count: 2

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 and Ul Qoma, two fantastically different Eastern European urban nations whose borders...overlap. Geographically close but an entire country apart, the citizens of both cities spend their lives ignoring and unseeing their neighbors under threat of Breach. So when Inspector Tyador Borlu of Besźel's Extreme Crime Squad investigates a murder that may invoke Breach--the body was found in Besźel but the murder occurred in Ul Qoma--he must embark on a strange, metaphysical journey to solve the case.

Miéville's latest is a fascinating novel, a fantastic blend of pulp fiction, mystery, and noir. However, the characters are barely fleshed out (There is very little to learn about Borlu and his colleagues) and as a mystery The City & the City falls slightly short: the clues are spread thin, and the end revelation a bit of a stretch. But the setting Miéville presents, the world of the city and the city, more than makes up for any of its problems. I wouldn't compare it to any of the Bas-lag Books, but TC&tC is a great addition to China Miéville's work.


March 2011 (Second)

Tum te tum. Nothing to see here, folks. Just pretending I don't have several hundred unread books staring at me from the shelves. Tum te tum, tum te tum.

I'll be honest: The first time I read The City & the City back in May '09, I was felt slightly underwhelmed. It was good, but not that great. Still, I gave it four stars (mostly because I was too self-conscious to give it three) and sent it on its way. But then it started winning awards--World Fantasy Award, Arthur C. Clarke Award, Locus, the Hugo (with Bacigalupi), others--and I kept thinking really? Another one? But it's not--it wasn't--it was just--oh, heck, maybe I should try it again...

So, the second time around? Yep, it's good. TC&tC is a great novel, and a great work by Miéville. Totally solid. Of course, I'm too lazy to elaborate on that, so my original review still stands.

ETA: And it's a good thing, too, because the internet went wonky and I lost my original not-review. So I'm glad I was too lazy to write anything more. You hear me? Glad!


January 2013 (Third)

I think we've been spoiled, just a bit. China's coddled us. (Coddled, Ceridwen. Not cuddled, sorry.) See, since The City & the City came out in 2009, we've had a book a year from Mr. Miéville. First this, then Kraken a year later, then Embassytown in 2011, and Railsea just last year. It's a good run, isn't it? Not many of our favorite authors can do the bookayear dance. So after Railsea came out, we've all been looking ahead. Getting antsy. Full of antici

pation about what China's next book'll be. 'Cause, y'know, he's probably written something else, right? There'll be something new out in 2013, right? Right?


China Miéville doesn't have a new book for us this year--Joel confirmed it--and so, for the first time in a long time, we don't have any New Weird goodies to look forward to. Or any other books, for that matter. We might as well just log off Goodreads for the rest of the year and hope 2014 brings us something, because really, what are we gonna do without our annual dose of China M.? It's heartbreaking.

Or not. We'll survive. We did before, those of us who remember Ye Olde Days when all China had written were King Rat and the Bas-Lag books. Those were the days, weren't they? 2004/05, Iron Council was still crisp and new and omigodnottheendPLEASE, and we didn't really know what was on the horizon, did we? There was his story collection Looking for Jake in '05, but that didn't register much, so we waited. Un Lun Dun came two years later and it was good (so I hear), and then we had to wait again. There were rumors of a book called Kraken as early as 2007, maybe earlier--but facts were few and speculation was the only thing we had, so we waited. And waited. And then, finally, we got it: TC&tC, followed by the others, one per year.

And now we're waiting again. No news, no nothin'. What's next for China? We can only guess right now.

So let's guess! More short stories? Nah--he's already given us a few, "The Rope Is the World" and "Covehithe", so far. More YA? No--that was Railsea. So those two genres are accounted for, and we're probably due another novel. Bas-Lag? Oh, I wish--but unlikely. Something new? That would be cool. A sequel to something? Hmm.

Maybe a return to Besźel and Ul Qoma? Maybe.

But China likes to play around with genre, and we're not going to get another detective novel. Not another murder mystery. No more intigue. That wouldn't be fun--and TC&tC was invisibly subtitled "The Last Inspector Borlú mystery, so we're out that. But Borlú has a new job, you know, with certain new responsibilities, and that gives China a chance to further explore the city and the city and the breach that maintains them both. But what kind of story could he tell, if not a mystery? What genre could China play with this time?

I'm thinking zombies.

I think China Miéville should write a zombie novel set in Besźel and Ul Qoma.

It would be awesome.

I mean, yeah, zombies are getting old. Zombie novels are dead, and they keep coming back, and every time you think you've seen the last of 'em another shuffles out of the shadows. So what could China Miéville do with zombies? Ok, dumb question--he'd do some awesome things--but could he do some awesome things with The City & the City of Zombies?

I think so. I mean, zombie uprisings are hard enough to deal with, when you're living in ordinary geography. But zombies in Besźel or Ul Qoma, one city or the other, that's a different story. How do you deal with a zombie uprising across strange borders? Can you unsee a horde of undead that are eating the citizens of your sister city?

Do zombies Breach? Do they obey the borders?

Which is worse?

I have my own thoughts, and I'm sure you do as well. But I want to see what China Miéville has to say about it.
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02/07 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-12)

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message 12: by Nathanial (new)

Nathanial think of it as the color of fresh smelted iron.

Jacob Fresh smelted iron is that shade of blue?

The more I force myself to look at it, though, the more I start to like it. It's just, compared to the covers of PSS, The Scar, and Iron Council, this cover is a bit jarring.

message 10: by Nathanial (new)

Nathanial I agree. I just hope it involves time-travel.

For an image of ye olde fresh-smelted, see:


Jacob Time-travel as told by China Mieville? Oho, I can only dream.

Jacob Yeah, third time. Kind-of a group read (did you know there was a Mieville group? I didn't!), but I doubt I'll show up for discussions. Mostly I'm just bogged down in some longish books at the moment and I wanted something familiar and short to get through so I can actually say I've finished something. Juggling books is hard sometimes.

message 7: by Kyle (new)

Kyle Don't damage them with all the juggling!

Jacob I'll be careful! Decided to (gently) set a few down so I didn't have so many up in the air at once. I'll come back to them later.

message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Maybe Lin could come back to Beszel as a Zombie Artist?

Jacob She could bring some of the EzRa-addicted Hosts with her.

message 3: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Methinks, the time for Fan Fic is nigh.

Jacob I don't think I'm capable, but you're welcome to give it a try.

message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 29, 2013 06:14AM) (new)

(Coddled, Ceridwen. Not cuddled, sorry.)


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