Saturday, 27 March 2010

The City & The City by China Miéville

Forgive me for reviewing yet another China Miéville novel; he is just one of my favourite authors & I read anything of his I can! The City & The City is a deviation from most of his previous work; its a murder-mystery set against a realistic eastern European backdrop populated by human beings rather than in the fantastical monster-ridden realm of Bas Lag, the setting of three of his previous books.

Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Beszel Extreme Crime Squad is called to a derelict estate in a corner of greying Beszel when a young girl's murdered body is discovered under a mattress. Borlu may have thought he'd been in the force long enough to have seen it all, but his investigation into this murder gets more complicated with every followed lead, and eventually takes him on a journey to another city. Ul Qoma: a modern, brightly-lit metropolis gaining international trade despite its somewhat vagabond status. It has been a long time since Inspector Borlu has visited Ul Qoma, even though he has walked past many of its streets & sights every day for his whole life. As alibis unravel and anonymous tip-offs result in successful interrogations, Borlu realises that rather than getting closer to solving the case, he is unearthing a deeper conspiracy that could affect the fates of both cities, and whatever the force is that binds them together (or keeps them apart).

In this shadowy tale of seeing & unseeing, politics & revolution, murder & police procedure; Miéville exaggerates the human need to cling on to illusions in order to see their desired social reality. His experiment is riveting and complete, his cityscapes deliciously fleshed-out and their cultural dynamics scrutinized. Not usually being a crime reader myself, I found The City & The City a real noire delight - it has just the right balance of crafty Miéville imagination & traditional Kafka-esque detective story to be a unique, exciting book that YOU SHOULD READ!

In advance: you're welcome!

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