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The City & the City
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Book Discussion: The City and the City by China Mieville

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message 1: by Tom, Supreme Laser (new)

Tom Merritt (tommerritt) | 1056 comments Mod
Hi Veronica and Tom,

This is the last of our threads to discuss books on the show nominated by Kickstarter backers! Thanks to everyone who made season 2 possible last year and thanks to these backers for sharing their book picks with us.

Andrew recommends The City & the City
He wrote:

"I would love for you to discuss one of my favorite books, The City and The City by China Mieville. I don't believe it's been discussed on Sword and Laser yet."

Anybody read it? Anybody want to? let us know below.


Joseph | 1956 comments I read it several years ago and loved it. For one thing, it was so radically different than Mieville's Bas Lag books (which I also loved); also, it bent my brain in new & interesting ways.

I'm a little fuzzy on the details at this point, but that's never stopped me from chiming in before ...


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

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments I Loved this book. It's a Detective story, a noir, and SF. It's a commentary on class divides, geopolitics, consciousness in public, the future and the past. It is many things at once. Often the detractors disliked it because they either wanted a more straight-forward fantasy book like previous Mieville entries, or because on a plot level the ending was not to their liking.

To those people, I debate you: There is much more besides the plot!


Lindsay | 593 comments The story is set in a fictional pair of European city-states, Besźel and Ul Qoma, that coexist in the same geographical location. The two states have different cultures, languages and economies and exist by the concept of "unseeing" the other and a third party called "Breach" that polices the difference. On top of all that weirdness the plot is a police procedural that interacts with the underlying concept.

As typical with China Mieville's stuff, the initial concept kind of does your head in, but it's remarkably self-consistent and his writing really brings it to life while never really making the weirdness go away.

The denouement of this book is one of the most memorable scenes of any murder mystery: (big spoiler, gives away the identity of the murderer) (view spoiler)

One of my all time favorite books.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

It's one of the three Mieville books I've read (I just started my fourth, The Scar) and I have trouble picking a favorite. They are all so different that it's hard to even make apples-to-apples comparisons. Anyway, this one was as at least as good for me as Perdido or Embassytown.


Jamie Barrows (jamie_barrows) | 4 comments It's my favorite Mieville book. Mieville is one of those authors who can write a tale that really twists your mind around in ways you would never think it could go.
I've enjoyed every one of his books that I have read, but I often find that I end up having a strong dislike for the people in them. That wasn't the case with this book. I actually liked the main character.


Jeff (Kafka0622) | 15 comments It's truly a brilliant book. Wonderful and very original setting wrapped around Mieville's somewhat twisty prose. Really a terrific read.


Louise (Lowies) | 45 comments I've been meaning to read some Mieville for years so this seems like a good time to get around to it.


Joseph | 1956 comments Jeff wrote: "It's truly a brilliant book. Wonderful and very original setting wrapped around Mieville's somewhat twisty prose. Really a terrific read."

It also lacks a lot of the grotesquery and over-the-top weirdness of the Bas-Lag books, which might make it a little more accessible, brain-bendy though it is.

(Although I hasten to add that I'm a huge fan of the over-the-top weirdness and grotesquery of the Bas-Lag books.)


message 10: by Ken (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ken (kanthr) | 334 comments For someone wanting to get into Mieville, I recommend either this book (The City & The City) or Embassytown.

Kraken would be a next step, and then Bas-Lag, which are excellent but certainly weirder.


Joe Informatico (joeinformatico) | 880 comments I've only read a few of Miéville's books so far, but this was by far the least...meandering. Even less than his children's book. I love the world-building in Perdido Street Station, but it takes forever to get anywhere. The City & The City is much tighter in comparison, and definitely a good place to start with Miéville.

The world-building in this book is also great, and I don't mind the ending. Closure isn't that central to hard-boiled noir stories anyway. (There's an infamous story of the writers of the film adaptation of The Big Sleep asking Raymond Chandler who killed a minor character found murdered early on, and he said he had no idea.)


Dharmakirti | 942 comments One of my favorite Miéville novels!

I agree with Kenneth that this is a great novel to recommend to people who have not previously read Miéville.


message 13: by Ty (new)

Ty Wilson (ShatterStar66) | 165 comments I'm currently reading my first Miéville novel, Perdido Street Station, and it sounds like I may have dived into the deep end of the pool, but so far I'm loving it. The world he has created is unlike any I have read before. I have already picked up a copy of The City & the City and will be reading it shortly.


message 14: by kvon (new) - rated it 5 stars

kvon | 559 comments I really enjoyed this book also, and was glad that it was a co-winner for the Hugo award. I like that Mieville can write so man different worlds and genres so well.

Do you think that a non-sf reader would be able to do well with this book?


Lindsay | 593 comments Maybe. It's only got the one SF concept, but to be fair it's a brain-bender even for people who've read this stuff all their lives.


Louise (Lowies) | 45 comments Just finished. Wow. Why did I wait this long reading Mieville? I loved it almost from page one and i kept on loving it.

Out of the six books in these threads this was hands down my favourite with The Steel Remains coming in second.

The one book I absolutely never would have thought of ever reading if it weren't for these recommendations was Shadowshow. I am not a fan of horror and I still find it hard to believe that I actually read that one...

I really want to thank those who paid for the privilege to recommend books to the group like this, it has been a lot of fun seeing what different kind of books they have chosen.


message 17: by Anne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne C. (Anana11) | 8 comments It was my first Mieville book, so I feel kind of lucky that my first was accessible and nuanced. For the longest time while reading it, I wasn't sure if the existence of the two cities was a social construction (the division being only a mental one) or a fantastical construction. That sort of parallel / quantum suspension of decision was positively delicious.
And as an architect, I loved the descriptions of the two cities.

Really loved the book.


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