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The City & The City by China Mieville
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The City & The City (original 2009; edition 2010)

by China Mieville

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,9602691,295 (3.97)1 / 549
Member:whiten06
Title:The City & The City
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Del Rey (2010), Trade Paperback, 312 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, 2009, Clarke, BSFA, Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy

Work details

The City & The City by China Miéville (2009)

  1. 150
    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. 101
    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. 91
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (ahstrick)
  4. 80
    Anathem by Neal Stephenson (chmod007)
    chmod007: Both novels depict coexisting-but-dissociated societies — drastically foreign to the world we live in — but help us reflect on it.
  5. 50
    Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges (bertilak)
  6. 51
    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.
  7. 40
    Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (ShelfMonkey)
  8. 30
    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.
  9. 30
    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)
  10. 20
    Embassytown by China Miéville (Anonymous user)
  11. 20
    Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Jannes)
    Jannes: Two noir-ish thrillers with (vaguely) supernatural themes. Centered around sort-of-contemporary, yet fantastical urban landscapes. Both are very unique, and feels alike even if there's not many superficial similarities. More to the point, they're both damn good reading.… (more)
  12. 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
  13. 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.
  14. 31
    Wave Without a Shore by C. J. Cherryh (reading_fox)
    reading_fox: Covers the same ground regarding visualising concepts.
  15. 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....
  16. 10
    The Kindly Ones by Melissa Scott (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Similar themes of parallel societies.
  17. 10
    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.
  18. 10
    The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (ShelfMonkey)
  19. 10
    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)
  20. 10
    The Power by Naomi Alderman (charl08)
    charl08: Both books ask questions about what we take for granted in our everyday realtors..

(see all 30 recommendations)

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English (261)  French (5)  Polish (1)  Spanish (1)  Romanian (1)  All (269)
Showing 1-5 of 261 (next | show all)
Very cool sci-fi noir thriller about a murder that takes place in two cities that occupy the same geographic space but are actually different countries. The borders are maintained only by citizens in each city "unseeing" every that happens in the other, but the murder threatens the integrity of these psychic borders. Cool idea, and deftly executed. Originally read October 2014. Even better the second time. ( )
  jalbacutler | Jan 10, 2017 |
I've learned China Mieville is quite the fantasy fiction author, written such works as Perdido Street Station, the Scar and Iron Council, although I'm unfamiliar with these works. I found that he wrote The City and The City, which tied with a Hugo award for 2010 with The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi.

The City and The City was a tough read! Seems that Mieville was going for an old-fashioned Dashiell Hammett-style detective novel but it does not quite pan out for me. And this is not even a science fiction novel, really. It takes place in the near future, complete with cell phones and modern politics in an unnamed area of Europe (Hungary/Romania area perhaps?)

Mievielle goes to great pains to describe the two cities as neighbors yet not neighbors. That have rules that one city cannot recognize the other city purposely. To become involved in the other city is a crime. You will be taken by the unknown agents of Breach and be shuffled off to some unnamed area, never to be seen again. To Breach is nearly a death sentence.

To not recognize something belonging to Bezil or Uo Quoma (the two "cities") you need to "unsee" or "unhear" these. I thought this odd use of verbs was quite interesting. Obviously you see something, but to "unsee" it you do not even recognize its existence. We do this all the time with the mailman, the plumber and others in the street, but to do it purposely without thought is quite interesting.

With these parameters in place, how do you solve a murder mystery that happens in one city, but the perpetrators occur in the other? Quite a problem!

Inspector Burlu is quite a character. Mieville pumps him up as almost a Bogart-type character with the wit and the will to solve this crime. As I've read in other mystery books, we have the main character who narrates for us, who knows what's going on better than others and so on. But there the cliché ends. Burlu has his "Dr. Watson" in the foul-mouthed Corwi ("What the f*ck boss?") who I thought was the most interesting character in the whole book.

Burlu's counterpart is the equally foul-mouthed Dhatt. He's with the Ul Quoma police (or militsia) and though he resents it terribly, goes along with Dhatt. Both Corwi and Dhatt support Burlu as he discovers the murdered girl may have been in a conspiracy to unify the cities and to discover the mythical city Orciny, which may or may not exist.

Who would be motivated to silence her and why? And if you discover Orciny, did you just sign your own death warrant?

Mieville's writing is hard to get. He uses so many foreign-created names that they're hard to follow. There are no Bills or Susans. There are only Khurusch, Corwi and Shenvoi. Hard to keep in mind who is who at times, too. I've always considered myself having a decent vocabulary, but spent more time than I should in a dictionary. Not that there's anything wrong with looking up words, but the five dollar concatenation of words was just a bit much!

I can recommend this book as an analogy to how cities and how people perceive themselves. The interesting manner in which the citizens avoid "Breach" and how the murderer takes advantage of these to get away with murder is quite compelling.

However the style and substance is tough to get through.

Time to check out The Windup Girl. Hopefully it's an improvement!


( )
  James_Mourgos | Dec 22, 2016 |



The City and The City was my first Miéville book to make it to my TBR pile, but I’ve got Bad News. It’ll be awhile until my TBR stack will see another Miéville…

I’ve found it wanting, mostly. It seemed like an ambitious exercise that was poorly executed. For the most part, it’s a withered novel, and the story suffers as a result. There’s not a lot of world-building, and in an existential and fictionalized world, it takes away from the reliance of these places. It just seems like a run-of-the-mill crime novel in an extraordinary location. The main character, Borlu, suffers from chronic lethargy and a lack of personality. The other characters, namely Corwi, were bland nothings. Simple as that. He tried to stay away from the usual cynic that we see in the best Crime Fiction, but left me seeing no personality. Borlu was more a vehicle than anything. There are lots of gaps between me and what he was trying to communicate. His made-up words, without either defining them or including them in a context that might have implied their meaning is what creates the abovementioned gaps. I kept wondering whether he had established a SFictional vocabulary in other books. In every great book there’s always a dividing line between a writer’s understanding of their own ideas, and the readers’ grasp of that same ideas. Good writers manage to offer cognizance over that line, without actually stepping over it. Not having read anything from him before “The City and the City”, I’m not sure what to think. At the end of the day, I didn’t care about the world he had conjured, because it seemed only half thought-out.

Another pet peeve for me was the fact that he kept spelling out the main themes of the book in the dialogue of his characters (a really, bad, bad literary device in my book).

Concept wise is the only point where Miéville scores and he scores in a big way (3 stars for that). Unfortunately cool ideas are not enough to make a book.

SF has a lot more to offer than being just okay. I can’t see how it won the Clarke Award, I sure don’t.



" ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
This book is an intriguing police procedural with an insane sci fi/urban fantasy premise, and I mean that in a good way. Two cities occupy the same space and their respective citizens studiously ignore (unsee) each other. They don't even speak the same language. There is Breach, an elite force that punishes unauthorized travel between the cities or intentional contact between citizens. When the body of a murdered young woman is dumped in one of the cities, the police of both cities must cooperate to solve the crime. Oh, and there may also be a third city between the other two. This book was fascinating and very elegantly written. I would love to have a sequel to this. John Lee, the narrator of the audiobook, was very good. ( )
1 vote fhudnell | Nov 10, 2016 |
Despite the fact Tyador Borlu is investigating the murder of foreign student Mahalia Geary, the real main characters of The City and the City are the city and the city, Beszel and Ul Qoma. In order to wrap your brain around the plot you first need to understand the landscape. Each city shares essentially the same geographic space. Members of each city are trained to "ignore" the other and to perceive "their" city as different from that other one. Everything, from the clothes people wear to the architectural styles of the buildings, is seen as unique to the people within "their" city. Residents are taught to have different languages and mannerisms to further differentiate themselves; and to acknowledge the other city's existence or "see" it is worse than murder. Only Copula Hall exists in both cities and is in fact the gateway to travel from one city to another.
Murder victim Mahalia Geary was found mutilated in Borlu's city, Beszel, but after some investigation Tyador Borlu learned she had connections to that other city, Ul Qoma. And to complicate matters, she was researching a third city, Orciny. Was her investigation getting too close to the truth? Was she murdered because she was about to expose a completely different society with nefarious activities? ( )
  SeriousGrace | Nov 10, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 261 (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 (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mège, NathalieTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mäkelä, J. PekkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nati, MaurizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"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
Dedication
In loving memory of my mother,
Claudia Lightfoot
First words
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 Italian 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!
(ed.pendragon)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345497511, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, June 2009: The city is Beszel, a rundown metropolis on the eastern edge of Europe. The other city is Ul Qoma, a modern Eastern European boomtown, despite being a bit of an international pariah. What the two cities share, and what they don't, is the deliciously evocative conundrum at the heart of China Mieville's The City & The City. Mieville is well known as a modern fantasist (and urbanist), but from book to book he's tried on different genres, and here he's fully hard-boiled, stripping down to a seen-it-all detective's voice that's wonderfully appropriate for this story of seen and unseen. His detective is Inspector Tyador Borlu, a cop in Beszel whose investigation of the murder of a young foreign woman takes him back and forth across the highly policed border to Ul Qoma to uncover a crime that threatens the delicate balance between the cities and, perhaps more so, Borlu's own dissolving sense of identity. In his tale of two cities, Mieville creates a world both fantastic and unsettlingly familiar, whose mysteries don't end with the solution of a murder. --Tom Nissley

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:38 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Inspector Tyador Borlu must travel to Ul Qoma to search for answers in the murder of a woman found in the city of Beszel.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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