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The City & The City by China Mieville

Imagine a drab, Eastern-bloc type of city side by side with a brighter, more prosperous city, with the border between them so undemarcated that people on one side of a street can be in Beszel and, on the other, in Ul Qoma, but where — in both places — it is a crime, a Breach, of unimaginable proportions to consciously notice people, shops, and restaurants in the street with you that belong to the other city. If you accidentally see them, you must immediately “unsee”. Travel from one city to the other is allowed only through the official border crossing checkpoint.

In this blend of crime fiction and speculative fiction by English author China Mieville, Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad in Beszel investigates the murder of a woman whose body was dumped in a rundown skate park along the border with Ul Qoma. While he follows leads to shadowy political organizations and academic archeologists rumored to have discovered proof of a legendary, original third city, Borlu is watched closely by the mysterious agents of Breach to see that none of the arcane laws and established protocols of the two cities are broken.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of alternative history, enjoy philosophical speculation about human behavior and government, or if you liked The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon, you should try this novel, which is a fascinating exploration into national and cultural differences and what, in our common humanity, transcends them.

China Mieville is known more for writing fantasy and s/f, but don’t let that scare you off from trying this book, which is very realistic in style once you accept the basic premise. Check out the author’s comments on writing crime fiction at author John Scalzi’s Web site here.

Check for availability of The City & The City in the Old Colony Library Network here.

One Response

  1. Can’t wait. Such an intriguing premise.

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