Customer Review

28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing book from one of my favourite authors., 21 Jun. 2009
This review is from: The City & The City (Hardcover)
OK, so every review I read said that this would not be a typical China Mieville book. An existentialist murder mystery? OK. I like a good murder and I like a bit of existentialism, in moderation. I also like China Mieville books, and variety is a good thing, right?

As a premise for a book it was promising - a murder to be solved in two cities which geographically overlap but whose seperateness is ensured by some vast, abstract entity called Breach. The inhabitants of one city, though they can be walking down the same street, must not notice or interact with the inhabitants of the other. So far so good.

But the book itself was a bit dissatisfying. It was never really explained why so much time and effort was expended on solving the possible murder of one girl, when it was clear that the police resources were overstreched and in demand. The protagonist's motivation was a little unclear. But more importantly the thing with the two-cities-for-the-price-of-one started as quite a clever premise but quickly became irritating as it was never really fully developed. My favourite thing about Mieville's writing is the way that the cities take on a life of their own, whether it's the London of 'King Rat' or the, uh, un London of 'Un Lun Dun', or the New Crobuzon of 'Perdido Street Station' and the rest. This city had very little description devoted to it, which was kind of a shame because it made the two different cities difficult to visualise. Maybe I'm thick, here, but I needed some sort of pronunciation guide too.

There was alienation aplenty, and lots of interesting subtext which I'm not going to analyse because I'm not an Eng Lit student any more. Philosophically it was probably quite an interesting book. It lacks the overt politicism of most of Mieville's other stuff (I think that's a bad thing, but I guess it depends on your preferences). I just didn't think much to the actual story.

Now I'm going to sit and re-read 'The Scar', and hope that China Mieville writes another good book soon.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Mar 2010 11:46:02 GMT
SP Crowley says:
I understand your comments but feel that, like a lot of Mieville's loyal readers, you are as disappointed by his change of direction and this has blinded you somewhat to the qualities this book has. It's not a sci fi fantasy novel and experience of his other books needs to be put aside before reading. Gone is the richness, the broad brushstrokes and the lush descriptive writing. Gone too are the creatures and lands of fantasy that pervade his earlier work.
One reason people are disappointed is that, he doesn't feel the need to overdo the description. Everyone has been to this City. It's Budapest, Prague, Berlin, Warsaw but also, prosaically, London. You want to see/unsee a crosshatched City of opposites take a walk from Highgate through Archway then Tufnell Park then Kentish Town then Camden then Regents Park. Sorry if you're not a Londoner but that's what he's writing about. Areas of utter squalor literally one street away from extreme wealth - neither noticing or interracting with the other - it IS a political book.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2012 09:51:03 BDT
Kosmische says:
Very interesting, SP Crowley. I hadn't thought about that interpretation at all. Have to say I hated this book and didn't finish it but you're making me think it might be worth another shot.

Keep the insights coming! Makes such a change from the kind of crap you get on, for example, the IMDB message boards or YouTube, to give two of the most egregious examples.
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