The City & The City
By China Mieville
(Del Rey, Paperback, 9780345497529, April 2010, 352pp.)
The Short of It:
Not your typical murder mystery.
The Rest of It:
Mieville’s writing has always intimidated me. In the past, I have tried a couple of times to read this one, only to put it right back down again. However, Care and a host of others decided via Twitter to read it together, and since they made it sound so doable, and not at all intimidating, I decided to join them.
This time around, I was not intimidated and in fact found myself marveling over the world Mieville created. This is really a murder mystery at heart, but it’s such a unique setting, that you can’t help but wonder what is going on in that mind of his.
I have to include this blurb from the publisher because describing it it too difficult:
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen.
Focus on that last line because these two cities share the same geographical space. They are differentiated by the clothes that people wear and the language that they use, but they walk alongside each other and choose to “unsee” the other. That’s right… you are walking in what is essentially a different city, yet you choose to unsee it, so therefore, it’s not there. Got it?
For the world building aspect, I give it many points but I still found myself lost at times. The vocabulary was hard to grasp and I often had to go back to re-read what I had just read. For a murder mystery, I still have yet to really understand what went down. To me, it just seemed as if the same thing was being said over and over again and that I was making little progress.
This aspect was of course, very frustrating and will probably keep me from reading any of this other books, but there was something to this one that made me want to finish it. Mainly, the respect I had for the idea itself. I felt as if I owed the author something since he constructed such an incredibly complex story for me to read.
As for the discussion, there were some Tweets along the same lines as mine (head scratching) but not much was said. Hmmm.
That said, I am glad I read it but now I am ready to move on.
Note from Ti: I also listened to this on audio in addition to reading it in print and it had the same, head scratching effect on me.
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