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The City & The City

The City & The City [Kindle Edition]

China Miéville
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Certain writers absolutely defy categorisation – and China Miéville is most definitely of that rarefied company. His prose is exhilarating, poetic, coruscating with ideas and atmosphere – and it has enhanced a body of work that has almost no parallels in modern writing. Heretofore, if Miéville has brushed shoulders with any identifiable genres, they are those of fantasy and science fiction – which makes his remarkable new book, The City and The City, such a surprise. The author’s publishers compare this novel to Philip K Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984 – which at least gives a series of corollaries for this book, however tentative. There are elements here of the crime thriller, but very much refracted through Miéville’s highly individual imagination.

The body of a murdered woman is discovered in the remarkable, crumbling European city of Besźel. Such a crime is par for the course for Inspector Tyador Borlú, who is the premier talent of the Extreme Crime Squad – until his investigations uncover evidence that bizarre and terrifying forces are at work – and soon both he and those around him will be in considerable peril. He must undertake an odyssey, a journey across borders both physical and psychical, to the city which is both a complement and rival to his own, that of Ul Qoma.

Like all of China Miéville’s work, The City and The City will not be to everyone’s taste – the very individuality of the prose and the surrealistic inventiveness will not attract those preferring more prosaic fare. But for readers who hanker after untrammelled imagination – and look for literary fare unlike anything they have read before (even, it has to be said, by Miéville himself), then this is a journey to be undertaken. But with caution, perhaps… --Barry Forshaw


'A murder mystery set in a surreal, Blade Runner-esque urban landscape.'
-- Shortlist

'An extremely ambitious work with a grand finale which won't disappoint fans of either genre.'
-- Timeout

'Beautifully, seamlessly, effortlessly created.'
-- American crime writer Laurie R King

'Miéville again proves himself as intelligent as he is original.'
-- Guardian

'The names of Kafka and Orwell tend to be invoked too easily for anything a bit out of the ordinary, but in this case they are worthy comparisons...a gripping and thought-provoking read.'
-- The Times

'This is Miéville's most accomplished novel since Perdido Street Station. It is fantastic in the careless, colloquial sense.' -- Spectator

'This is a fable, just like Clockwork Orange was a fable... The fable is just extraordinary and within this is a very good murder mystery.'
-- Front Row, BBC Radio 4

`Both utterly fascinating and his most brain-scrambling work yet.' -- SFX

`His most disciplined and sharply focused novel to date.' -- Locus

`It is simply unlike anything you...have read...The sheer scale of its ingenuity is just phenomenal.' -- The Truth About Books

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More About the Author

China Miéville lives and works in London. He is three-time winner of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award (Perdido Street Station, Iron Council and The City & The City) and has also won the British Fantasy Award twice (Perdido Street Station and The Scar). The City & The City, an existential thriller, was published in 2009 to dazzling critical acclaim and drew comparison with the works of Kafka and Orwell (The Times) and Philip K. Dick (Guardian).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The City and The City 1 Aug 2011
By TomCat
Neither pure science fiction nor entirely naturalistic, China Miéville's The City and The City functions in a strange hinterland between genre spaces. Significantly influenced by hardboiled noir detective fiction (notably Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy) and taking cues from Kafka, the novel is strikingly difficult to pin-down; and although many reviewers have tried resorting to long compound chains of genre labels (`post-modern-sci-fi-detective-noir' etc.), this is probably more confusing than helpful. So I think it's best if we stick with Miéville's own self-disclosed moniker `Weird Fiction' [his capitals], which though concise and a tad self-satisfied, is nonetheless a pleasingly eloquent descriptive of what is a damn unusual book.

As the name suggests, The City and The City is a novel rampant with doubling: it's set in two fictional cities in Eastern Europe: Bes'el and Ul Qoma, which although being different administrative, legal and cultural entities, nonetheless share the same physical space, topographically speaking; so one street may be in Bes'el, whereas the street immediately adjacent might belong to Ul Qoma. The citizens of each city must ignore the existence of the other entirely (`unsee' it - strikingly Orwellian neologism?); if they don't, then they are said to have committed a crime called `Breach', and weird things happen to them. Principally the novel concerns a by-the-numbers `extreme crime' detective called Borlú, who's tasked with investigating the murder of a Bes'el woman by a citizen from Ul Qoma; all the while Borlú becomes more and more obsessed with pseudo-academic theories that a third city called `Orciny' exists - functioning entirely unseen between the other two.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 27 Mar 2012
By John W
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Some reviews have portrayed this as a murder mystery set against the backdrop of two very unusually interlaced cities. I'd turn this around and say it's a mystery about the nature of the cities, set against the backdrop of a murder investigation.

I was initially frustrated that I couldn't quite grasp what was going on with the cities, then after a while I thought I understood, and then later came to have that understanding subverted. In the end I was just gobsmacked by the audacity of the whole thing. This reminded me a little of The Bridge by Iain Banks, in terms of there being a mystery in the book which is not explicitly pointed out.

This is a very good book, I really enjoyed it.
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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dystopian Police Procedural 7 Mar 2010
By Bâki
The City & The City is the latest by an author who has garnered quite a reputation these past years for being original, insightful and basically pretty damn good. The City & The City comes loaded with plaudits, A Nebula Award nomination, and enough cover quotes to ensure even the most insecure author feels the love. Miéville is even compared to George Orwell and Franz Kafka...

Now here's a thing, with all this adulation from the critics you might think I'd be extremely keen to read this book, right? Well the truth is I've wanted to read something of China's work for a while, but I was by no means certain I'd like it. I couldn't help but wonder if it might all be drearily pretentious. You know the kind of book? Difficult to read, self-indulgent drivel, that our cultural tastemakers often effuse over. The ones that leave us mere mortals - who're only looking for a good read - feeling inadequate on account of our inability to invoke the same level of excitement for them. The quote from Socialist Review on the cover also made me groan a bit. Knowing China's politics - was this going to be a disguised party manifesto?

So a little apprehensive and ready to stand against the wave of support for this book if need be, I plunged in, and bugger me - It IS really good! My initial reservations turned out to be completely unfounded. I didn't even mind that it's told in the first person, which as a point of preference is not by favourite narrative perspective.

Inspector Tyador Borlú is the person telling this tale, an investigator in a specialist division of the Bes'el City Police. Borlú is assigned to investigate the murder of a foreign woman, whose body is discovered abandoned by his officers.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amazing imagination, disappointing delivery 16 Oct 2010
Two cities, Beszel, a decaying soviet style society and Ul Qoma, near Eastern in style. The body of a murdered young girl found in the vandalised playground of a sink estate by Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad [for some reason, annoyingly, Amazon doesn't seem to support accents, but there are acute accents over the first e in Mieville, the second in Beszel and the u in Borlu, which give an indication of the slavic slant of the language of the latter two]. But all is not as it seems, and Mieville's detective story is, Borlu says of his case on page 9, 'considerably more Byzantine than it had initially appeared'. I won't give anything away, but the reference to Byzantium, also known as Istanbul and Constantinople over its history, as well as the meaning of 'byzantine' itself give clues to just how much of a ride Mieville takes you on. Brilliantly conceived and written
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction or a philosophical exploration
Whilst being set in an alternative universe this book raises interesting questions about such issues as what makes one "human", ethical scientific "progress",... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Gripping. The strange geo-politics give a new twist to the murder inquiry genre.
Published 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars dull
railsea brilliant as were the scarandperdido this must have been written by someone else orwell it certainly aint winston would be turning in his grave if we could but see him
Published 25 days ago by Fraser Gardner
4.0 out of 5 stars A very clever idea
There's not much to add to what the most helpful reviews have already said, although I do want to reinforce that it doesn't translate well over to Kindle - I wish I had bought the... Read more
Published 28 days ago by DB
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
Thoroughly enjoyable. Takes some time to become comfortable with the idea of the location(s) but one you do it is a very compelling read indeed.
Published 28 days ago by Leem
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting premise
I love a good dystopian novel and really liked the premise here, but the dialogue was just too dense - lots of unanswered questions (literally) and statements unresponded go - very... Read more
Published 28 days ago by M. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Was given this book by my driving instructor a few years ago and loved it, just bought it for my mum for mothers day.
Published 3 months ago by Andrew Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars Poirot on Steroids
Imagine a city in which one group of residents routinely “unsees” the other. The fact that it isn’t so hard to imagine is what gives China Miéville’s The City & The City its... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Snowman
4.0 out of 5 stars great story on different levels
not just a gripping detective / action tale referencing soviet/ fascist states but also conveying the passive/ uncritical populations false consciousness of nationalism. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Kevin Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your classic Chine Mieville
Two cities in the same space, each unseeing the other until a murder draws a Besel inspector into the dark search for the third city of Orciny...with interesting outcomes.. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mark taylor
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Popular Highlights

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But pass through Copula Hall and she or he might leave Besel, and at the end of the hall come back to exactly (corporeally) where they had just been, but in another country, a tourist, a marvelling visitor, to a street that shared the latitude-longitude of their own address, a street they had never visited before, whose architecture they had always unseen, to the Ul Qoman house sitting next to and a whole city away from their own building, unvisible there now they had come through, all the way across the Breach, back home. &quote;
Highlighted by 5 Kindle users
Such polite stoic unsensing is the form for dealing with protubs – that is the Bes for those protuberances from the other city. There is an Illitan term too, but I do not know it. &quote;
Highlighted by 4 Kindle users
With a hard start, I realised that she was not on Gunter-Strász at all, and that I should not have seen her. &quote;
Highlighted by 3 Kindle users

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