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The City & The City by China Mieville

The City & The City (original 2009; edition 2010)

by China Mieville

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,5722381,480 (3.97)1 / 505
Title:The City & The City
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Del Rey (2010), Trade Paperback, 312 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 2009, Clarke, BSFA, Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy

Work details

The City & The City by China Miéville (2009)

  1. 130
    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. 70
    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.
  4. 71
    Neverwhere: A Novel by Neil Gaiman (ahstrick)
  5. 50
    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.
  6. 50
    Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges (bertilak)
  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
    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
  11. 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.
  12. 31
    Wave Without a Shore by C. J. Cherryh (reading_fox)
    reading_fox: Covers the same ground regarding visualising concepts.
  13. 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....
  14. 10
    The Kindly Ones by Melissa Scott (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Similar themes of parallel societies.
  15. 10
    Embassytown by China Miéville (Anonymous user)
  16. 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.
  17. 10
    The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (ShelfMonkey)
  18. 10
    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)
  19. 00
    La Vie des Insectes by Viktor Pelevin (sek_smith)
  20. 00
    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)

(see all 29 recommendations)


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English (230)  French (5)  Polish (1)  Spanish (1)  Romanian (1)  All languages (238)
Showing 1-5 of 230 (next | show all)
5+ out of 5. The high-functioning work happening here is just mind-boggling. You have to pay attention to this book in a way that people have to pay attention to science experiments - except that the book is also immensely readable and Miéville's voice carries you away. He blends highbrow and lowbrow so effortlessly that he creates something else, an Orcinian third. He's addressing really smart, important questions of nationalism and identity (on both the personal and national levels) while also wrapping it up in the most original, daring speculative concept I've encountered in a very long time. I wish I could go visit Besźel and Ul Qoma - in a way that I haven't thought about a fictional place since probably Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris. If you pointed me to a map, I'd swear it was "just right there, right?"

Just really smart, really cool stuff.

More at RB soon: ( )
  drewsof | Sep 30, 2015 |
nice idea, but too much politics and no real flow to it. main character a bit too superhero-like ( )
  calvin_xa | Jul 18, 2015 |
At its heart, this is a serviceable but unspectacular police procedural. A woman has been murdered: whodunit and why?

What moves this beyond a straight average read is that Miéville has done a rather remarkable job of creating a story in which it is entirely up to the reader as to whether he/she is reading a fantasy novel or one set in a city where the inhabitants entertain some rather (to our minds) odd perceptions of reality.

Some cultures think that spirits inhabit everything in the world, some cultures believe that time is circular, some cultures believe trickle-down economics work (*smile*)...the inhabits of the story believe that two separate cities are physically co-located, overlapping and intruding upon each other at many points. Miéville is good enough as a writer that he can draw you into the world enough that you understand its rules and believe in its characters yet, at the same time, stop just short of making a declaration of whether your choice is accurate. Or, rather, you can find several passages to confirm your belief...just as the exegetical work of those of the opposing viewpoint will indicate proof for their side.

I didn't enjoy this as much as my first venture into his Weird fiction, Perdido Street Station, but I did appreciate it. He has said in an interview that he dislikes allegory but it's hard not to read some into this story and to think about what it says about human perception. ( )
1 vote TadAD | May 18, 2015 |
Divided cities have always captured the attention. There are those split by a river such as Buda and Pest, Minneapolis and St Paul, or (perhaps on a less globally significant scale) Huntingdon and Godmanchester. Then there is the additional poignancy of those cities subjected to political or religious division such as Jerusalem or Berlin, which has offered great scope to the novelist. The initial scenes of 'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold', centred on one of the bleak checkpoints in the Berlin Wall, encapsulate the grimness of the Cold War and allows John le Carre to deliver one of the most gripping openings of a spy novel.

'The City and The City' is a dazzling and unusual story, gives the idea of divided cities an additional twist., being set in the twinned cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma. These cities are merged - neither split artifically like East and West Berlin, nor by a river like Buda and Pest. Instead, both cities occupy the same physical space but, essentially but through the acquiescence of both populations (reinforced by the threat of severe compliance action at the hands of a clandestine force known as "Breach)", they are perceived as two different and separate cities. Indeed, each city is its own, separate city state, with its own government and foreign policy (Ul Qoma being the more prosperous), and passports and visas are required for legal movement between the two of them. As a consequence, although aspects of each city are constantly potentially visible to residents of either city, they all follow a policy of 'unseeing', in which they consciously fail to notice characteristics of the other city.

For each set of citizens any street or building falls within one of three possible classes: total, alter or crosshatch. "Total" buildings or streets are wholly within their own city; "alter" ones are wholly within the other city, and consequently not to be recognised or acknowledged; "crosshatch" areas lie within both cities and are accessible to the residents of both, though Besz citizens will deliberately "unsee" their Ul Qoman counterparts (and vice versa). "Unseeing" is relaxed to the extent that while driving through crosshatched streets the residents of both cities are capable of avoiding accidents with vehicles from the other city. But that is as far as it goes, legally. While no physical barriers exist, few people from either city are tempted to cross from one domain to the other because of their fear of the punitive measures that might be taken by Breach, the secretive body that polices the borders.

This all sounds seriously complicated, but it is amazing how quickly the reader accepts this background, and gets sucked into the plot which revolves around the investigation into the murder of an American archeology student, Mahalia Geary, who had been researching some of the deep-rooted political sensitivities within both cities (each of which has its extreme nationalist tendencies but also committed movements seeking formal unification). Inspector Tyador Borlu leads the investigation within Beszel but soon runs into unexpected obstruction from senior local politicians from both the nationalist and unificationist camps.

This novel works very well both as a straight detective story and also as a dystopian exercise (I don't think that "science fiction" is an appropriate term as all the technology involved is entirely contemporary). Mieville is particularly deft at offering little touches to add verisimilitude, and it is a long time since I have read anything as imaginative. ( )
2 vote Eyejaybee | May 15, 2015 |
Mieville has done it again….. bending the boundaries of genres to come up with something new, different and yet at the same time, with recognizable elements to attract readers of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, police procedural and crime thrillers. Mieville continues to be one of the authors I would love to meet over coffee because I am pretty sure the conversation would be a fascinating one! His world build continues to captivate me - I love the whole idea of crosshatched cities and Breach! - but this story fell a little short for me in that police procedural and crime novels in general are not my usual reading fare, and I didn’t feel as absorbed into the setting of Beszel/Ul Qoma as I was with Bas-Lag and my read of Perdido Street Station. Probably because Mieville has kept our world (all those references to Canada, etc) connected to the story. This one works as a good grounding mechanism for readers who like to only lightly dip into the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but it left me wanting something more…. wanting something that would completely disconnect me from reality. The investigation into the crime was alright as far as investigations go but I really wasn't taken with any of the characters or the circumstances. As per other reviews I have read, The City & The City is a great book for a new Mieville reader to start with or if they find his other stuff – like Perdido Street Station – just a little to gritty, bizarre and ‘out there’ weird for their reading tastes.

Overall, an alright police procedural/crime story with ‘other world’ elements that kept me reading. Without the other world elements of the crosshatched cities and Breach, I probably would have abandoned this one. ( )
1 vote lkernagh | Apr 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 230 (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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"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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Haiku summary
Can cities really
co-exist in the same place?
Beware the frontier!

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)

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