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Previous Books of the Month > 2009-09 The City & The City - "unseeing" *spoilers*

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message 1: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
What did you think of the concept of "unseeing"?


message 2: by Chris (new)

Chris | 274 comments I actually really, really enjoyed that part of the book. I liked it because we all do it, if we live in a big city. We unsee. I also enjoyed the fact that he didn't go into much detail about it.


message 3: by C12vt (new)

C12vt | 14 comments I liked that part too. There have been a lot of studies on how expectations, emotions and experience influence what we see. I actually found the unseeing not implausible.


message 4: by William (new)

William (williamjm) | 67 comments I was reading a discussion about the book on another forum a few weeks ago, and one poster from Jerusalem said that she thought Mielville did a good job of conveying how people in a divided city can do a very thorough job of ignoring the people on the other side of the division.

One thing I couldn't quite decide when reading the book was whether the division had some reality to it, or if it was purely because the inhabitants of the two cities were raised from birth to believe in it. The fact that outsiders have to be trained to pretend to unsee implies the former but the mysterious artefacts being dug up do seem to imply that Beszel/Ul Qoma isn't just a typical East-European city with a few eccentricities.


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris | 274 comments I thought the unseeing was very real. It's not implausible. I think most people do it. You might even say we have to do it to a degree to live.


message 6: by Kathi (new)

Kathi | 1172 comments I have not read this book nor am I planning to, at least not any time soon, but I like following the discussions. Anyway, the concept of "unseeing" is used in another book I read recently, The Book of D'Ni by Rand Miller. The people have trained themselves to "not see" the slaves who serve them and make their world function. Their "hello" is "I SEE you", meaning you have enough worth and status to be seen. I'm not sure how that compares to what China Miéville does with unseeing in this book, but I thought I'd mention it.


message 7: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (last edited Sep 02, 2009 05:44PM) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
Kathi, you just made me remember something vaguely related to "unseeing", from Majestrum by Matthew Hughes. In that book (an excellent far-future SF/fantasy hybrid), the aristocracy has become unable to see anyone who isn't wearing specific ornaments and clothes or uses certain gestures, so the protagonist of the story has to put on certain items in order to question someone - if not, he's invisible to the aristocrat. It's only used in passing and not central to the plot in any way, though.


message 8: by Charlie (new)

Charlie George Reminds me of 1984 with this mandatory mental block on whole aspects of society. Plus with the shadowy "Breach" watching all the time, it's like Big Brother's thought police. Very cool world, woven into modern-day earth as it is.


message 9: by Nick, Moderator (new)

Nick (doily) | 573 comments Mod
Why do the artifacts exist only on the Ul Qomo "side" of the city? What exactly are the two different cities -- parallel universes? When people "see" others from the parallel city, they know they are "seeing" the other -- universe? -- and so they pretend not to "see"...or is it really that people employ mental blocks whereby they don't "see". The artifacts are from a time when the two cities were one, but somehow they became disjointed and "separate"? Is the Breach yet another separate universe?

I think I like the fact that these questions were not answered fully. I plowed through the book in just a few sittings...the concepts were that intriguing. But I still don't know that I liked it a lot. After the first chapter my mind was racing with a lot of possibilities that never got fully addressed -- the presence of the wolves for instance. (Packs of wolves? Why? Where?) I can't, or shouldn't complain about a book that held me intensely for a quick read, though. It is certainly worth the time spent in an original land.


message 10: by Chris (new)

Chris | 274 comments Actually the "Breach" reminded me of Sergei Lukyanenko's work in the Watch books. "Breach" reminded me of the third watch, the ones that keep the peace between the two others.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Book of D'ni (other topics)
Majestrum: A Tale of Henghis Hapthorn (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

China Miéville (other topics)
Rand Miller (other topics)
Matthew Hughes (other topics)
Sergei Lukyanenko (other topics)