Image result for the city and the cityTitle: The City & the City
Author: China Miéville
Genre: Surreal Police Procedural
Pages: 312
Rating: 3.5 of 5

In the Surreal world of The City & The City, two antagonistic city states locked in a Cold War-like relationship share the same geographic location. The citizens of each city employ doublethink worthy of Orwell’s 1984 to unsee, unhear, etc. anything that is not in their city. Violations are an unthinkable crime and are summarily dealt with by the shadowy agents of Breech.

The plot revolves around a murder investigation with “international” complications. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the more run-down, Eastern-European-flavored city of Beszel must cooperate with Detective Qussim Dhatt of the more prosperous Middle-East-flavored Ul Qoma. The murder mystery plot wraps up in a satisfactory manner after plenty of twists, turns, and conspiracy theories. Along the way we learn quite a bit about how the politics and culture of the two cities and Breech operate. However, we never really receive solid answers as to why the cities exist as they do and why Breech does what they do.

The lack of solid “why are things like this?” answers didn’t really bother me since that was not the main plot. If the author wants to leave his setting unexplained, I’m okay with that…especially in a book this surreal. What did detract from my personal enjoyment of the book (knocking it down from a 4.5 to 3.5) was the pervasive profanity. Call me a prude, but I’m not a fan of F-bomb-strewn dialogue. Overall: if you’re a fan of fantastic world-building and don’t mind profanity or non-answers to some questions, this might be a good book for you.

3 thoughts on “Kafkaesque Police Procedural

  1. This is still one of my favorite Miéville novels, although The Last Days of New Paris is a close second.

    I’ve found in reading Miéville’s novels that, most of the time, he’s way more interested in ideas than in plausibility or characterization. The City & the City and The Last Days of New Paris , however, had characters I actually cared about–which is more than I can say for his other novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw the description of “The Last Days of New Paris” and am very tempted to read it even though after both Mieville books I have read (I also read “Kraken”) I’ve told myself that I probably wouldn’t read another.

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      1. Kraken is not my favorite either, but The Last Days of New Paris is the kind of bizarro plot that I enjoy. I mean, it just doesn’t get much better than Surrealists v. Nazis.

        Liked by 1 person

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