Review of China Mieville’s The City & The City

The City & The CityThe City & The City by China Miéville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

China Mieville’s Hugo award-winning The City & The City poses as a noirish murder mystery set in two fictional Eastern European cities, Beszel and Ul Quoma.

It starts out, as most mysteries do, with a dead body, a woman brutally murdered and dumped in a Beszel skate park. Assigned to the case is Inspector Tyador Borlu of Beszel’s Extreme Crime Squad.

His investigation is complicated by the nature of the two cities—Beszel and Ul Quoma go beyond being neighboring, though somewhat antagonistic cities, they exist in the same space. The murder victim, an American student, it turns out was murdered in Ul Quoma.

Though the cities are crosshatched, their citizens do not coexist; under threat of severe penalties administered by an Orwellian organization known only as Breach, the two cities’ citizens must refrain from interacting in every way imaginable: they practice “unseeing” each other; each city is treated as a separate entity, having its own airports, its own communications.

To complete his investigation, Borlu must get permission to enter Ul Quoma, and can only do so as an advisor to the Ul Quoman detective Qussim Dhatt. The two get caught in a strange web that may or may not involve a third city Orciny that also shares the same space Beszel and Ul Quoma, and catches the attention of the all-seeing Breach.

Mieville’s novel is intriguing, in particular the idea of two cities sharing the same space, though their citizens are forbiden to interact.
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5 thoughts on “Review of China Mieville’s The City & The City

  1. I really liked City and the City, but I didn’t think it was Mieville’s best work. I loved the idea of the two cities, and I wish he had gone into more of that.

    • This was the first of Mieville’s books I’d read, and I noticed it was pretty slim. I liked the novel, but I agree—I wish he had gone into more detail about the cities’ shared reality. Perhaps there will be a series in the works?

    • I liked the noir style of the novel too.

      Which of his books would you recommend to a newcomer to his novels?

  2. hmmm…. I’d recommend either The Scar, or Iron Council, both of which are part of his Bas-Lag series, and they can both be read as stand alones. Bas Lag is populated by humans and others, and all sorts of fantastically bizarre political things can happen.

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