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The City & The City Paperback – 6 May 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pan (6 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033053419X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330534192
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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).

Product Description

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By TomCat on 1 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback
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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John W on 27 Mar 2012
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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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Bâki on 7 Mar 2010
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on 15 Mar 2010
Format: Hardcover
By one of those odd coincidences, I came to "The City and the City" halfway through reading a much older series of books with a curious parallel - the Len Deighton "Game Set and Match" trilogy. Deighton's setting is the late Cold War setting of spies in early-Eighties Berlin, East and West, a time of betrayals, shifting loyalties, double- and triple agents - where every conversation was a careful diplomatic maze to be threaded at your peril, where if a man left a family behind the Wall he could expect never to see them again - a world that twenty years after the fall of communism now seems increasingly alien, even irrelevant.

So. The basic concept, and as usual it's an utterly original one, is this. In "The City and the City" the diplomatic maze is still there; but Mieville has taken it out of the internal world of verbal evasions, elusions, justifications, and mapped it outward - something like a reciprocal lattice - on to the streets of an actual city - or rather two intricately interleaved cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, each with its own completely distinctive character, language, cuisine, architecture, economy, etc - trodden, sometimes side by side, by two sets of citizens who are forbidden to interact, or even notice one another, under pain of attracting the notice of a terrifying faceless authority called the "Breach." In a reversal of Berlin (denied by the narrator, in what I take to be a bit of misdirection) the geographical Wall has changed places with convention; in this world, it's inside your head.

Set against this backdrop, we find Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Beszel Extreme Crimes Squad called in to investigate a dead body which has come to light on a low rent Besz housing project.
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