City and the City

Mieville, China. The City and the City. Read by John Lee. New York: Random House, 2009.

Reason read: November is Imagination month and believe me, this book takes the imagination to the moon.

Despite the fact Tyador Borlu is investigating the murder of foreign student Mahalia Geary, the real main characters of The City and the City are the city and the city, Beszel and Ul Qoma. In order to wrap your brain around the plot you first need to understand the landscape. Each city shares essentially the same geographic space. Members of each city are trained to “ignore” the other and to perceive “their” city as different from that other one. Everything, from the clothes people wear to the architectural styles of the buildings, is seen as unique to the people within “their” city. Residents are taught to have different languages and mannerisms to further differentiate themselves; and to acknowledge the other city’s existence or “see” is called Breach. Breach is worse than murder. Residents need to learn how to “unsee” the other city or face the consequences of Breach. Only Copula Hall exists in both cities and is in fact the gateway to travel from one city to another.
But, back to the plot: murder victim Mahalia Geary was found mutilated in Borlu’s city, Beszel, but after some investigation Tyador Borlu learns she had connections to that other city, Ul Qoma. And to complicate matters, she was researching a third city, Orciny. Was her investigation getting too close to the truth? Was she murdered because she was about to expose a completely different society with nefarious activities? As Borlu gets closer to the truth he increases his chances of Breach.

As an aside, I now know why I don’t do well with fantasy and science fiction. The weird names that seem to be a staple of the genres are hard to pronounce and even harder to remember. No wonder I didn’t do well in my foreign language class.

Author fact: I read somewhere that Mieville wrote The City and the City for his dying mother since she loved police procedurals.

Book trivia: The City and the City won a Hugo award and many, many others.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter appropriately called “Travels to Imaginary Places” (p 236).

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