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The City & The City by China Mieville

The City & The City (original 2009; edition 2011)

by China Mieville

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3,2242161,711 (3.98)1 / 366
Title:The City & The City
Authors:China Mieville
Info:Pan (2011), Paperback, 500 pages
Collections:Your library, #1book140

Work details

The City & the City by China Miéville (2009)

2009 (27) 2010 (23) 21st century (20) cities (26) crime (126) crime fiction (22) detective (77) dystopia (20) Eastern Europe (21) ebook (38) fantasy (323) fiction (418) Kindle (28) murder (42) mystery (210) new weird (41) noir (47) novel (53) police procedural (23) read (45) read in 2010 (23) science fiction (320) sf (88) sff (29) signed (37) speculative fiction (61) to-read (93) unread (30) urban fantasy (91) wishlist (19)
  1. 120
    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 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. 40
    Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (ShelfMonkey)
  7. 40
    Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges (bertilak)
  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. 31
    Wave without a shore by C. J. Cherryh (reading_fox)
    reading_fox: Covers the same ground regarding visualising concepts.
  12. 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....
  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. 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.
  15. 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)
  16. 10
    Embassytown by China Miéville (Anonymous user)
  17. 10
    The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (ShelfMonkey)
  18. 00
    Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko (julienne_preacher)
    julienne_preacher: Both books are about divided realities (and both books are awesome).
  19. 00
    Soft City by Jonathan Raban (sek_smith)
  20. 00
    The Kindly Ones by Melissa Scott (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Similar themes of parallel societies.

(see all 28 recommendations)


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English (208)  French (4)  Polish (1)  Spanish (1)  Romanian (1)  All languages (215)
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
I don't even know how to talk about or describe this book, except to say I loved it. It's just ... *happy sigh*

In simple terms, this is the story of a murder and the investigation by Inspector Tyador Borlu. This investigation is complicated by the fact that he lives in Beszel, a city that lives sybiotically with a foreign city, Ul Qoma; the two cities physically exist in a delicate balance and the mysteries that unfold from this one murder threaten to disrupt that balance.

The worldbuilding in this blows my mind. Such an imaginative place and a fully realized cultural and political systems for both cities and inbetween. The layers here are astounding. I could see this strange implausible city and city existing in East Europe somewhere.

The characters too were great. I immediately grew attached to Tyador, who is our weathered investigator. Somehow Mieville managed to portay Tyador as knowledgable and "having seen it all" without being entirely jaded. There's this sense that beneath it all, he really cares about and respects people, and I love that.

This is the first book by Mieville I've read. I've heard a lot about his writing style being elaborate and challenging, so I expected this to be a beautifully written but slow read. Indeed, it was beautifully and clearly written and I poured through it quickly, carried along by the characters and the story.

If there was one frustration (not a bad frustration), it's that I didn't fully understand the consequences of breach and why it was such a terrible crime. It made the law seem arbitrary in a way and I wondered if that might be partly on purpose. It could be arbitrary or it could be vitally important. I don't know which it is and it I suppose it doesn't matter. It has me sitting pondering, making me want to reread.

It was a fantastic and, as I read the last line, I held the book to my chest and just sat there for a few moments soaking it in. ( )
  andreablythe | Apr 3, 2014 |
Ugh, I feel like such a jerk. This book has received such praise, so my expecations were pretty high. I had read more than my fair share of excellent reviews, so I felt I was in for a treat.

I really tried to like this - I really did. I thought the premise was absolutely brilliant. I just felt like it was either his prose or just the way the story itself came together that I didn't "get". I've yet to read a book that made me feel so confused.

Please don't hate me goodreaders! I tried, I really did. ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
Phew! I've been meaning to read Mieville for years. This was my first Mieville, and what an introduction! I understand from having read other reviews that this is not the most typical of Mieville... But I think I get the picture.

So, I was about 30-40 pages in, and I had to stop reading to do some research on what the F was happening. The story is about two cities that share the same space on a map, but which do not engage with one another at ALL, without express permission from the appropriate governmental authorities. If citizens of one city interacts with the other city at ALL without such permission, a "breach" is deemed to have occurred. A murder happens in one city, and the detective assigned to the case believes that breach is involved. In such a case, an entity that oversees even the governments of the two cities--itself called Breach--takes over. The detective proceeds thusly, but there are, of course, complications of the factual-type, the political-type, the potentially-supernatural-type, etc.

After about 30-40 pages, I still could not figure out if the two cities were interposed on one another in some kind of magical way (as I had assumed upon first reading the description of the book), or if it was a political/governmental separation, involving no magic. I read one review that said that at about 70 pages, it becomes more clear and sorts itself out. So I kept reading. At about 70 pages, I still felt like my question was answered. Frankly, I think it is HELPFUL and makes for a better read of the book if you understand which is happening, so I will tell you. But I will couch it in SPOILER protections in case you don't want to know ;)

The Spoiler: They are in the same location on a map and are in the same place physically and there's nothing magical about it. THAT is, frankly, one of the things that I think is so brilliant about this book. I've lived in a very big city, and when you live in that big city, you stop noticing people as individual persons and start just treating them as physical objects you pass. Take that and mix with it a sort of Dr.-Seuss-Stars-on-Chest mentality, then make it serious and brilliant, and you have The City & the City. Something happened years ago, we never know what and the characters in the story are not clear, the the two cities were either merged or split, thus creating the current situation. There are two cities, governmentally, mentally, and in every single other way, except physically. Certain portions of the geography are exclusively in 1 city OR the other, and various portions are in both, or what they call "cross-hatched." In a cross-hatched portion of the city, one building in 1 city could be immediately next to a building in the other city, or one floor in a building could be above a floor in another building. In these cross-hatched portions, the cars drive on the same road, but they have to act as if the other does not exist. You can imagine what happens in ambulance-type situations! But Mieville pulls this off and makes it believable.

And then, overseeing the two cities is Breach. And involved in this whole murder mystery is the question of whether Breach is good or bad, real or perhaps imaginary, supernatural or political, in a war with another potentially existent supernatural-or-not "city"in the cracks..... It's so complicated and SO well done and SO recommended. ( )
  avanders | Mar 6, 2014 |
the premise: interesting, up to a point. Having two cities with entirely different laws, language, and culture superimposed on a single space with a panopticon gvt agency exercising near-superpowers that prevents the two kinds of citizens from looking at each other? And meanwhile, the divide between them completely ignored by people from other countries?? It is full of wtf-ery. The traffic laws alone break my head. /o

presumed shout-outs: to Bon Cop, Bad Cop and possibly to the Inspector Lynley series(?) (Corwi and Havers should go have a pint) were cute, and it's nice to see Canada get mentioned.

the setting: a really interesting allegory to large cities with large populations who speak different languages: Arabs in Paris, Latin Americans in Miami, Quebecois in Montreal, etc.

the structure: Agatha Christie at her worst, complete with pointless byzantine counterplots and an obnoxious reveal at the end.

women: exist only to be killed, fucked, proved wrong, grossly taken advantage of, and/or totally undervalued. Or else they can be bystanders who never, ever intervene. OTOH, they're never defined by how attractive they are or aren't, and it was nice to see beauty plainly ignored as a form of cultural currency. Also nice to see women shown as variously brilliant or dumb as the men.

queer people: apparently don't exist in this 'verse except for the secret drag show in a crime boss' hidden bank basement bar. Apparently drag shows are illegal there?

men: fairly anonymous heroes and villains. Our hero is supercop but has no friends, family, or anything he really cares about. He has no stakes, so the ending is totally predictable.

characterization: the only characters with any depth are the two women who die, although a couple of other women have brief good moments. Everyone else, protagonist included, comes off as a cardboard cut-out.

in sum: a sequel might be better, assuming he can figure out (and figure out a better way to present) the rules of his 'verse. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
What a ride. This is one of those books that make you want to read them again immediately because the first time around you missed half the meaning - and for sure in the first part (the standard noir detective story) there are so many strange things, names and concepts flying around that you are overwhelmed.

But then Mieville jumps from the city into the city and lets you actually join the world he's created - the fantastic side of the story starts to seep into the narrative and you finally begin to understand what amazing place you are in.

And as if that was not enough, in the last part the pace intensifies and the whole thing simply explodes. The ending is great and part of me regrets that this is the only book in this made-up world. I will read more of his works this year for sure. ( )
  trueneutral | Jan 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (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 (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary 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
First words
I could not see the street or much of the estate.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.

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Book description
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:53 -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 6 descriptions

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