Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Books - 'The City & The City' By China Mieville

I am a fan of China Mieville.  Perdido Street Station is such an unusual fantasy novel.  Mieville almost seems more interested in the architecture and details of a city than the actual story itself, not that the stories aren't very good.

The City & The City is a mystery novel set in 2 non-descript European cities.  Where the book takes an odd twist is that the 2 cities are literally right on top of each other.  Citizens from both cities walk and live in the same streets, but are taught to ignore the inhabitants of the other city.  To acknowledge them results in a "Breach" and the citizens are taken about by a group of people known as the Breach.

The novel starts with the body of a 20-something woman being found in the city of Beszel.  Our protagonist Inspector Tyador Borlu is tasked with finding the murderer.  His search reveals that while the body was found in Beszel, the murder might have actually been committed in the second city, Ul Qoma.

What follows is attempts by Borlu and his Ul Qoma counterpart to unravel a mystery that may also unravel the very fragile fabric that is keeping their two cities functional.

It can be a lot to wrap your head around, but I found it to be a very satisfying read.  Very much like Kafka at times.  I also found myself wandering around Seattle after reading this and wondering what in the city do I "unsee" in an attempt to avoid things.  Are there people or details that I overlook?   Very interesting.