Rob's Reviews > The City & the City

The City & the City by China Miéville
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's review
Dec 15, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: genre-fiction, fantasy, mystery-crime

I read this book because I loved the previous China Mieville books I had read, especially Perdido Street Station. While this was also a good book, it's drastically different from the Bas-Lag books, which both speaks to Mieville's flexibility as an author and is something to make fans of his a bit wary.

The City and the City is in part a tribute to classic detective novels like those of Raymond Chandler. Instead of the sprawling garden of wonders that is Bas-Lag we get a drabber world told through a tight first-person narrative. Of course, this is not simply a nostalgic tribute. It's also a great piece of urban fantasy, centred on the strange dual city that gives the novel its title. The division between Beszel and Ul Qoma is the only real fantastic conceit here, and it's usually not even clear whether this is a supernatural divide or just bizarre groupthink. This allows this idea and all its consequences to be explored in full.

First and foremost The City and the City is simply entertaining. The plot moves around quickly and becomes increasingly unpredictable. It was even able to surprise a genre-savvy reader like me. The setting of Beszel and Ul Qoma are characterized with Mieville's usual skill for settings and the two cities almost seem to be the main characters. The actual characters are sketched rather broadly and not what you would call developed, but this is both part of the classic detective novel aspect and mostly unnoticeable. Flat characters are a technical flaw, but i was usually distracted by the twists in the plot or strange ideas.

While not really a masterpiece, The City and The City is a great read and recommended for any fantasy or mystery fans.

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