The City and the City - China Mieville

The City and the City - China MiƩville

The City and the City is still not as good as Mieville's Bas-Lag novels, but it's a heck of a lot better than Kraken. It's a noir murder mystery set in the twin cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma, which, although they inhabit for the most part the same physical space, remain defiantly separate, the inhabitants of the one steadfastly ignoring those of the other. The only legal way to cross between the cities is via Copula Hall, the official border; moving between the city and the city without doing so is illegal, and can call down the mysterious, implacable power of Breach.


I'll admit that I wasn't grabbed by the story: a girl is found dead in Beszel and traced to Ul Qoma, forcing Inspector Tyador of the Beszel police to cooperate with his counterparts in the other city. Conspiracy theories are invoked, as they often are in Mieville. It's all a very tangled web indeed, and a rather forgettable one to boot. But the concept is interesting: as I've said before, Mieville is a clever, clever writer, an ideas guy, and there's a lot of thinking going on here about urban alienation and depersonalisation. The "unseeing" which the inhabitants of both cities inflict upon each other struck me as very like the unseeing which happens on public transport every day in our cities: if we find The City and the City's set-up absurd (and I think we're supposed to) then we have to find our own unseeing absurd. I think.


Ultimately, reading this novel was for me more about intellectual enjoyment, about dissecting and thinking, than it was about pleasure. Which is, you know, fine once in a while. I'm not saying that it was dry, or unreadable; Mieville is rarely ever that. Just...forgettable.