Sunday, September 27, 2009

_The City & The City_, by China Mieville

I'm a big fan of China Mieville's, but nearly all of that is due to my boundless affection for _Perdido Street Station_. His two other books in the same world, _The Scar_ and _Iron Council_...they're less a trilogy than three books in the same setting...didn't thrill me to the same extent; their darkness was leavened with less light and less heart.

_The City & The City_ is something different. It's tied more closely to the real world, while still being strikingly odd. It's basically a detective novel, set in a pair of cities that are intertwined. It's not just a case of a city that was split by a political boundary; it's two cities that share space but studiously avoid each other. The residents of one city encounter their counterparts every day...but they pretend not to see each other...and this social barrier is raised to taboo status and enforced with terror.

This book has its dark moments, but is much lighter than the other Mieville books I've read.


I kept expecting a monster, alien, or wizard to pop up, given the general weirdness of the setting and knowing Mieville's proclivities...but it never happened. There are some hints that maybe there are high-tech, inscrutable artifacts to be found in the city, tied up with the origin of the split societies, but our protagonist never establishes whether these are real or rumor.

My only complaint about this book is that I thought we might get to find out why or how the cities were split in two (my bet was on aliens from about third of the way in) but we don't. However, I feel like any answer would have been anticlimactic. I liked the air of mystery. We did get to find out some of the secrets of the Breach, and that'll have to do, I think.

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