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The City & The City by China Miéville

The City & The City (2009)

by China Miéville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,9943061,490 (3.98)1 / 631
When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlu must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.… (more)
  1. 160
    The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (grizzly.anderson, kaipakartik)
    grizzly.anderson: Both are police procedural mysteries set in slightly alternate worlds.
    kaipakartik: Both are detective tales in alternate settings
  2. 122
    Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (snarkhunt)
    snarkhunt: Calvino's book is a travelogue of impossible societies while China's book is a sweet little noir stuck in the middle of one.
  3. 112
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (ahstrick)
  4. 91
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (chmod007, sturlington)
    chmod007: Both novels depict coexisting-but-dissociated societies — drastically foreign to the world we live in — but help us reflect on it.
  5. 70
    Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (ShelfMonkey)
  6. 60
    Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges (bertilak)
  7. 60
    Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (heidialice)
    heidialice: May be an obvious recommendation, but these books cover a similar (very original) premise in very different ways. Un Lun Dun is for young teens, smaller in scope and message-heavy; The City & The City for adults, deals with complex themes and offers no easy answers. Both display Mieville's consummate skills and elegant humor.… (more)
  8. 61
    Orsinian Tales by Ursula K. Le Guin (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Le Guin's Orsinia may have been an inspiration for Mieville's mythical Orciny in The City and the City.
  9. 40
    Hav by Jan Morris (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Miéville's The City and the City acknowledges Jan Morris as an influence on his fractured cities novel, and Morris' travel book novel Hav (fictional trips to a fictional state) is the most likely reference.
  10. 20
    Shadow & Claw: The First Half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: In many of Wolfes works he writes like Mieville has in the first person of imagined lands, unlike Mieville his characters do not improbably stop to explain to themselves (and thus to the audience) what a term or reference means - the narrative provides enough information for the audience to figure it out themselves.… (more)
  11. 20
    The Other City by Michal Ajvaz (bunnygirl)
    bunnygirl: Czech novel about an alternate Prague; not mentioned as one of the influences for this novel, but perhaps going on a bit of the same (disputed?) territory
  12. 20
    Ways of Worldmaking by Nelson Goodman (sek_smith, sek_smith)
    sek_smith: Ways of World Making explains the cognitive processes that allow us to unsee and,thus, understand. The City & the City is a practical application of the concept, most rigorous and well weaved. Very entertaining fiction with plenty of meaning
    sek_smith: This is not a fiction book, but an essay on relativity applied to epistemology. For many interested in the psychological mechanisms at work in The city & the City, this is a good read.
  13. 31
    Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (julienne_preacher)
    julienne_preacher: Both books are about divided realities (and both books are awesome).
  14. 20
    The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (Longshanks)
    Longshanks: Two books that expand the scope of detective fiction beyond the genre's traditional concerns and constraints, one existentially and one sociopolitically.
  15. 31
    Embassytown by China Miéville (Anonymous user)
  16. 20
    A Maze of Death by Philip K. Dick (AlanPoulter)
    AlanPoulter: Two tales of paranoia and murder set in very odd worlds that just get stranger....
  17. 20
    The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (ShelfMonkey)
  18. 31
    Wave Without a Shore by C. J. Cherryh (reading_fox)
    reading_fox: Covers the same ground regarding visualising concepts.
  19. 20
    The Kindly Ones by Melissa Scott (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Similar themes of parallel societies.
  20. 20
    A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon (grizzly.anderson)
    grizzly.anderson: Detective stories set in cites that are turned about 90 degrees from the reality we understand.

(see all 33 recommendations)


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English (298)  French (5)  Polish (1)  Spanish (1)  Romanian (1)  All languages (306)
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
So this is the first of Miéville I've read, and I have to say it's made me keen to read more. This even though the book is very complicated, and the denouement had me frowning in confusion – I feel like the last quarter all unfolded too fast, or else that I wasn't taking enough time to read it.

But regardless. This is more than a crime novel; it's an illustration of this weird concept Miéville has come up with, the uneasy coexistence of the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These cities don't just intersect, but parts of them (the "crosshatched" areas) are parts of both, and citizens of each city go out of their way to "unsee" or "unsense" whatever's taking place in the other, lest they "breach" – the most grievous crime that exists in this society. It's really complicated, but as you read the novel it becomes clear how things work. It also becomes clear that the cities are kept apart as much by nationalism, capitalist ideology, as by geographical quirk; the fact that this setting is not quite divorced from our own world, and comments on social issues affecting our Eastern Europe as well as the one here, appealed to me.

So for fans of fantasy or crime fiction (but preferably both) I really recommend this. Just to comment on the quality of the Kindle edition though, for some reason it always shows the name of Besźel as "Besel" (sometimes broken between the 's' and the 'e' over a line break), and the font had me thinking Ul Qoma was UI Qoma until about halfway through the novel. I can't really blame the publisher or the Kindle platform for my inability to decipher 'Ul Qoma', but misspelling 'Besźel'? Seriously? I guess Miéville depicted a place just too foreign for my Kindle, hey… ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
The City & the City is a very impressive scifi book, but while I can appreciate its coolness and weirdness, and I can't point to a single flaw, somehow the story didn't quite grip me, although the concept of the two cities was introduced beautifully. ( )
  _rixx_ | May 24, 2020 |
In both China Miéville novels I've read, I've been struck by his ingenuity. I wish I could say this in a less nerdy way, but here it is anyway: he comes up with really cool ideas! In The City & the City, Miéville creates an incredible situation where two distinct cities share almost the exact same physical space but are fiercely divided to the point where citizens are supposed to force themselves to visually block out what's right in front of them. It's a horrendously difficult concept to pull off in a book, but Miéville somehow manages to make it work seamlessly while also telling a great story.

Most importantly though, of Miéville's books that I've read, this one has the fewest people who worship a squid god. I hope going forward this continues to be the case. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
A two-in-one police procedural in a pair of cities unlike any other. This is my favourite of the books I've read by Miéville. ( )
  pjohanneson | May 5, 2020 |
As a lifelong city dweller and lover, this pushes all the right buttons for me. This book is a manifesto of urban life, the beautiful and the frightening and the unjust. ( )
  dreamweaversunited | Apr 27, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
Subtly, almost casually, Miéville constructs a metaphor for modern life in which our habits of "unseeing" allow us to ignore that which does not directly affect our familiar lives. Yet he doesn't encourage us to understand his novel as a parable, rather as a police mystery dealing with extraordinary circumstances. The book is a fine, page-turning murder investigation in the tradition of Philip K Dick, gradually opening up to become something bigger and more significant than we originally suspected.
added by andyl | editThe Guardian, Michael Moorcock (May 30, 2009)
Readers should shed their preconceptions and treat themselves to a highly original and gripping experience.The City & The City is still Urban Fantasy, yes, but don't look for elves on motorcycles or spell-casting cops. China Miéville has done something very different, new, and — oh yeah — weird.
added by PhoenixTerran | editio9, Chris Hsiang (May 28, 2009)
The novel works best when Miéville trusts his storytelling instincts. I was immediately entranced by the premise of doppel cities and didn't need it explained at every turn.

At times, I appreciated the intellectual brilliance of "The City" more than I lost myself in it. Borlú seemed an archetype more than a fleshed-out character. That's OK. The real protagonists here are the mirror cities themselves, and the strange inner workings that make them, and their residents, tick.
Miéville’s achievement is at once remarkable and subtle. His overlapping cities take in an aspect of our own world—social conventions—wholesale. But by describing those conventions using conceptual tools borrowed from traditional “worldbuilding” fantasy, he heightens awareness of the unnoticed in our own lives. He doesn’t give us symbols. He gives us real life rendered with all the more clarity for its apparent weirdness.

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bauche-Eppers, EvaÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drechsler, ArndtCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mège, NathalieTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mäkelä, J. PekkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nati, MaurizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Deep inside the town there open up, so to speak, double streets, doppelganger streets, mendacious and delusive streets."
   -- Bruno Schulz, The Cinnamon Shops and Other Stories
In loving memory of my mother,
Claudia Lightfoot
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I could not see the street or much of the estate.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Haiku summary
Can cities really
co-exist in the same place?
Beware the frontier!

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