Sara 's Reviews > The City & the City

The City & the City by China Miéville
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's review
May 18, 2010

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bookshelves: book-club-sf-fantasy, science-fiction, mysteries-cool-settings
Read from May 26 to June 01, 2010

This was a book with intriguing ideas. It is a sort of mystery set in a fictional Eastern European locale where 2 cities somehow coexist in the same space. When a murder investigation requires Inspector Borlu to travel between the two coexisting cities, things get complicated.

Inspector Borlu lives in Beszel, a somewhat rundown but respected city that shares its physical space with the up-and-coming city of Ul Qoma. However, even though one house in Beszel may be next door to a house in Ul Qoma, the residents wouldn't be allowed to speak to each other or even acknowledge each others' presence. The cities are completely separate and a complex mix of social conditioning and fear of punishment keeps residents from "breaching," or committing the ultimate crime of defying the division between the cities. There is a mysterious force called "Breach" that makes people disappear if they cross the borders.

Even with these restraints, the two cities are sometimes forced to acknowledge one another, and Borlu's investigation will require a certain degree of international cooperation. He works carefully, but rules have to get just a little bent along the way, and the situation is far from simple.

This book has elements of hardboiled detective fiction and of dystopian fantasy. It's a little 1984-ish. It's certainly an interesting read and brings up intriguing questions about things like who's watching who and what happens when no one is watching.

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