Carol's Reviews > The City and the City

The City and the City by China Miéville
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's review
Aug 19, 12

bookshelves: dystopia, mystery-psych-thrill, fiction, mieville
Read from August 14 to 19, 2012

** spoiler alert ** This book is unlike any I have read before and I glad to have come across it. It forced it's way through my eyes, into my imagination, forced me to sit and ruminate and conceptualize in ways I probably would not have bothered to before. The City and the City is potentially categorized in multiple genres, one of which being a police procedural(which, call me naive but I have never even heard of police procedural as a genre. I know. I know). I was intrigued most by the element that I had most trouble categorizing and that which I viewed as THE purpose of the entire book: the existence of two distinct cities, occupying the same physical space, at the same time, but with differing societal/economical/cultural norms. It took me a while to wrap my head around the concept; I am still not even sure if I envisioned what the author intended. Once I thought I had fully grasped the way Beszel and Ul Qoma operated and coexisted, I began questioning myself and finding new details that did not fit the mold of my little box of understanding. In the end, I settled for a semi-comprehension and just allowed that maybe I was being a bit pedantic.
Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the story. It wasn't that the police procedural element was that creative so much as I was just really impressed with Mieville's writing style in general. Honestly, I struggled the first 60 or so pages in just becoming acclimated to the word usage. But once I did, the pages were turning faster and the story was flowing seamlessly. I especially was intrigued by the idea of Breach: an almost supernatural, spooky, omniscient, elusive power that hides in the shadows and spaces in between the two cities policing the citizens who may intentionally or unintentionally break the age-old ingrained rules intended to keep the cities distanced. I would have eaten up more chapters regarding breach, the inner workings and history of interaction (or lack thereof) with the two cities. My only problem with the book was that this almost supernatural, spooky, omniscient, elusive power turned out not to be those things at all. (Well, maybe omniscient and elusive, but for sure not supernatural). As pointed out in the back of the book in an interview with the author, the revelations regarding Breach are "a bit deflating." It seems this was intentional on Mieville's part, a purposeful attempt to bring the book away from a fantastic element to a realistic and logical one. I get this and understand his choice in doing so. However, I still found myself a little disappointed when certain characters did not live up to my expectations and instead came across as lame. I would have been more blown away to see a less logical approach to the conclusion of the book. That's not to say that I was disappointed in the book overall, just that particular aspect.
This was my first experience with China Mieville (and probably not the last). Once I realized what I was reading and just let the prose roll over me, I really enjoyed the book and found that I could not put it down. All in all, it was an excellent read; one that I would not hesitate to recommend.
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08/15/2012 page 56
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