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The City & The City by China Miéville

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

by China Miéville

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,7372521,397 (3.97)1 / 537
Title:The City & The City
Authors:China Miéville
Info:Del Rey (2009), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The City & The City by China Miéville (2009)

Recently added byJeremyBillingsley, Leticia.Toraci, SaraNoH, AltheaAnn, private library, Snoek-Brown, wdyt, walktapus, mdagtek
Legacy LibrariesLeslie Scalapino
  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 (244)  French (5)  Polish (1)  Spanish (1)  Romanian (1)  All languages (252)
Showing 1-5 of 244 (next | show all)
My pick for "best book I've read this year."

The City & the City got nominations for both the World Fantasy Award and the Hugo Award; it won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Science Fiction Award for 2009. Regardless of this, I will still argue that this is neither a fantasy or a science fiction novel. Rather, it's a noir mystery and a story of political metaphor, taking place in a fictional city.

Although the setting (Besźel and Ul Qoma) is a believable if bizarre additon to the world we know, and is not as vividly alien and grotesque as that of Mieville's New Crobuzon, it is equally original and imaginative. Structurally, I believe that this book is Mieville's best work yet. Content-wise, it is sucessful both on the level of a murder mystery, and as a pointed criticism of artificial political distinctions and the ridiculous lengths that people will go to in order to maintain their 'differences.' Overall, an excellent book. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
It took me a little while to get into Mieville's swing of things, but once I did I found it quite powerful and haunting. The city...and the city. Seeing...and unseeing. Read this book and then take a walk down the streets of your city or town. Tell me, not what you see, but pay attention, rather, to what you unsee. ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
What begins as a typical police procedural quickly evolves into a surreal psychological and political thriller. Taking place in the present day, the story offers us two fictitious eastern European city-states, Beszel and Ul Qoma, that are fighting not merely over a shared border but literally the same piece of ground. The cities exist atop one another. The citizens of both "unsee" those of the other city, even though they pass one another on the streets and their buildings stand beside one another. Beszel and Ul Qoma have distinct cultures, languages, architecture, cuisines, economies, fashions and even colors. Residents of each city grow up having to ignore and carefully "unsee" each other.

Violations of this bizarre boundary are considered Breach, and harshly punished by a mysterious Orwellian law enforcement body who somehow exist independently in both cities. This doesn't stop either city from developing the expected rebel countercultures like unificationists, who favor the assimilation of both cities. There appears to be no religious, cultural, or political divide that separates the Besz and Ul Qomans. The citizens of each city don't really seem to have a problem with one another. They maintain their strict separation because laws demand it, laws only a few bother to question.

Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad of Beszel is tasked with solving the murder of a young woman who is found near a desolate housing project. He must navigate the convoluted borders that separate the two cities and allow himself to perceive what he's spent a lifetime "unseeing” and "unhearing". The paradox Borlu faces is that if he solves the crime, he must risk violating an even greater societal taboo than murder, one that could trigger his own disappearance.

It took me quite a while to read the first quarter of this book. I had a hard time understanding the two cities existing in the same space. In fact, I was listening to the fabulous audiobook narrated by the incomparable John Lee. I got a library copy to make sense of the first few chapters. Once I “got it,” I was completely hooked. I saw a blurb on the hard copy that said “If Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler's love child were raised by Franz Kafka, the writing that emerged might resemble China Mieville's The City & the City." I know that this author intrigued me and I plan to try some of his other work.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
This is a good book don't get me wrong but somehow I feel I should like it more than I do.

My full review on my blog Thank the Maker: http://girlsguidetoscifi.blogspot.ca/2013/06/choose-wisely-review-of-city-city.h... ( )
  Girlscifi | Jan 16, 2016 |
To me, this novel seems a bit like the story was draped rather flimsily over a really interesting concept. While this is often a downside to most novels, China's writing is so absolutely riveting, it doesn't even matter. It's fast-paced, elegantly detailed, and thoroughly entertaining. It's a wonderful, captivating tale that sticks with you for days after you've finished it. ( )
  NathanielPayne | Jan 12, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 244 (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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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 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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