The City & The City

Opening line: ‘I could not see the street or much of the estate.’

Somewhere in eastern Europe there are two cities: Besźel and Ul Quoma. They are neighbours, but not in a way that you might think. Both cities exist in the same geographical space, overlaying each other grosstopically. Existing in the same space, the inhabitants of each live in mutual ignorance of the other; the consequences of noticing your neighbour or your neighbouring city are dire. What starts out as a routine murder case for Inspector Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad in Besźel is nothing but usual. Each thread of the mystery leads to even more questions, involving not only one but both cities, conspiracy theories, dissident groups, the enigmatic Breach itself, and the folktale about a city between the cities: Orciny.

I enjoyed reading The City & The City by China Miéville, though I must admit that I spent most of the novel confused. The first three sentences of my above summary would have been really helpful in my understanding of what was going on — though I don’t think I’ve given anything away by providing a bit of setting. My confusion kept me reading, to find out more about this very detailed world, to see how all the pieces fit together. This is magical realism. It’s hard to explain. Even so, I will continue to read China Miéville. Now to decide which of his novels to read next…

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