The City and the City

Well, he’s done it again. China Mieville’s amazing genre blending journey is a very interesting read. He introduces us to Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad who is investigating a murder. A woman has been found on a housing estate by a group of young kids. This is all quite Chandleresque in its approach here until you find out that Beszel, where the action takes place, is a city unlike any other we have experienced. It is a ‘crosshatched’ city with Ul Qoma as its siamese twin. However, you soon realise theat the citizens of both cities cannot, or will not, see each other. In fact, they actively ‘unsee’ one another’s citizens, buildings and cars (!).
This is so deliberate that to fail to do it will invoke ‘Breach’ and this is dangerous. Breach are the body that oversee it’s citizens’ laws in relation to seeing each other.
Borlu soon realises that the crime is more complex than he at first thought and when Breach tell him that it is not their problem, he has to cross over into Ul Qoma. It is here that the real action begins.
Mieville takes a bit of time to get to the action, and given the complexity of the construct it’s easy to see why. I did find myself losing a bit of patience with the backstory and the contextual stuff, but once the story proper began I was enthralled. His use of language, as usual, is inventive and clever. His writing is unobtrusive and seamless and the plot, once it got going, had enough twists to keep me entertained.
A great read if you can be patient with the first quarter or so of the book.