The City & The City

The City & The City

By China Miéville

Del Rey Paperback/352 pages


ISBN: 9780345497529

Release Date: April 2010

There is the city of Beszel and there is the city of Ul Quoma. In contrast to Beszel’s traditional, rundown European metropolis, Ul Quoma is a fast-paced, modern city. Not that any self-respecting Besz would admit being able to see the neighboring city. Beszel and Ul Quoma share an overlapping border where only the citizens’ determination to unsee their neighbors separates them. And if those borders are violated: Breach is watching. Breach is a power unto itself. This alien force materializes whenever a border violation occurs, the offenders lost forever to the mysterious place between the cities.

In Beszel, Inspector Tyador Borlyu of the Extreme Crime Squad investigates a puzzling murder. At first, he believes the victim is a street girl, but he soon learns the foreigner’s appearance has been altered. With good reason. She’s an American, completing her doctorate of archeology in the city of Ul Quoma. And she’s involved herself in a forbidden subject–a legendary third city.

Tyador, a jaded detective, must cross a highly guarded border to try and solve the case. He finds it difficult to unsee Beszel, the city he is no longer occupying, and to keep out of the clutches of Breach. The case threatens the ancient balance between the cities when Tyador discovers this murder extends to the highest authorities.

The City & The City is a radical departure from Miéville’s steampunk works set in Bas-Lag. The story is a first-person detective account with an Orson Wells feel. Big Brother is watching. The hidden force of Breach is in control, so doublethink or unsee before they take you away. Underlying this fast-past and tightly constructed novel, there is a pervasive political subtext. Themes of nationalism, revolution, and corruption are ubiquitous. An unfortunate flaw of this otherwise well-crafted story, is that the idea of the two cities existing in the same space is continuously shoved down the reader’s throat. Miéville is a very talented writer who should have trusted more in his ability to suspend reader disbelief at the beginning of the book. Despite this one drawback, Miéville weaves a highly entertaining and original concept. Like Breach crosses the boundaries between the fictional cities, The City & The City crosses the boundaries of genre.

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