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The City & the City

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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. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.

What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.

312 pages, Hardcover

First published May 26, 2009

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About the author

China Miéville

146 books14k followers
A British "fantastic fiction" writer. He is fond of describing his work as "weird fiction" (after early 20th century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigons. He is also active in left-wing politics as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He has stood for the House of Commons for the Socialist Alliance, and published a book on Marxism and international law.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,007 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book82k followers
August 29, 2020

The premise is extraordinarily interesting and meticulously developed. The question posed: what if two opposed cities existed side by side (with more than an occasional overlap) but were separated, not by an actual wall like East and West Berlin, but by the deeply inculturated habit of deliberate ignorance, a studied denial of the other, a fierce determination not to see? The central dilemma: when a murder is committed in one city, and the body is dumped in the other, how do the detectives investigate the crime without violating the taboos of their society?

The first third of the book (and a brief coda at the end) are filled with symbolic resonance. Unfortunately, however, the mystery itself is conventional, the action predictable, and the murderer easily guessed. The second third is less effective than the first, and the final section less effective still.

If Mieville had embodied the symbolic essence of his original conceit in working out his plot, this might have been a work worthy of Kafka and Schulz--its major influences. As is, it is a so-so mystery with a hauntingly memorable setting.

Then again . . . the setting continues to resonate long after the book is completed, for it has much to say to us about the uneasy compromises we make in a complex urban environment. Perhaps, after all, this resonance is enough.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,380 reviews12k followers
March 29, 2022

Wow! Make that Double Wow!

Unsurpassed imagination and invention. All within the context of detective novel that's a turbocharged page-turner.

The cityscape China Miéville creates here is neither Kafka absurdist nor Dali surreal, his novel’s two cities are every bit as substantial and realistic as Jo Nesbø’s Oslo or Tana French's Dublin or Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm – and it’s this grounding in realism that makes Miéville's weird elements all the weirder.

I completely agree with Stephen King who has stated emphatically again and again that book reviewers and writers of dust jackets usually go overboard and give away far too much, especially when it comes to mysteries and thrillers. Thus I'll avoid plot development and stick with describing a number of keys for The City & The City.

Crime scene - In the weeds in an open area among drab buildings, police gather around a murder victim, a twenty-something woman, naked. Was she a working girl? A hooker? Why was she dumped here, far out from the heart of their city of Beźel? The name of the first detective on the scene - Bardo Naustin. Nice touch, China! Bardo is a term from Tibetan Buddhism referring to “the between” usually associated with the state between an individual’s final breath here on earth and their next rebirth. Much of the novel’s action takes place in those multidimensional “between” spaces, between the two cities, between myth and history, between perception and reality.

As if out on the fringes of Eastern Europe, poor, dingy Glasgow and rich, glittering Dubai are contiguous, so close the cities share streets and intersections as well as intersecting histories. For China Miéville, these two cities are Besźel and Ul Qoma.

Besźel – “Poverty deshaped the already staid, drab cuts and colours that enduringly characterized Besź clothes – what had been called the city’s fashionless fashion.” Over the course of two hundred years, refugees from the Balkans flooded into the city’s previously Jewish ghettos, swelling the number of Muslims. For many decades it has been common to see coffeehouses side by side, one Jewish, one Muslim, with a single name and sharing tables and chairs for customers. Also worth noting, the few booming Besźel businesses include liquor stores and women selling sex. However, with its unique geography and architecture, including many cathedrals, Besźel still attracts a fair share of tourists.

Ul Qoma – Money and more money from foreign investors – mostly Canadian – has been flowing into this secular, slick, ultramodern metropolis. Tall skyscrapers are rapidly replacing traditional baroque buildings and one prime Ul Qoma attraction is the impressive Temple of Inevitable Light. There are sports stadiums and community gardens and parks where Ul Qoman natives mingle with Kurds, Pakistanis, Somalis and Sierra Leoneans. Ul Qoma has its own language and dialects, mostly but not entirely separate from the language of Besźel.

Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Besźian Extreme Crime Squad - Our perceptive first person narrator is a native of Besźel and is totally dedicated to uncovering the truth surrounding the murder of that twenty-something young lady. Inspector Borlú’s personality and dogged relentlessness call to mind investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist from Steig Larsson’s Millennium series.

Constable Lizbyet Corwi - Officially, she's Borlú's assistant but her intelligence and abilities with the computer make her more of a partner than mere assistant. Very much like Borlú, Lizbyet Corwi is a tenacious truth seeker willing to make sacrifices and put her life in danger in order to crack a case.

Senior Detective Qussim Dhatt - The murder investigation takes Inspector Borlú to Ul Qoma. He is assigned to work with Dhatt, a hardliner from the old school. Dhatt detests what he considers ragtag troublemakers, such as the unificationists who want nothing more than to obliterate any distinction between the two cities. Dhatt hates to work outside official lines so when Borlú brings certain facts to his attention, the Ul Qoma senior detective has a series of life and death decisions to make.

"Unseeing" - A truly unique part of the novel. The citizens of Besźel are trained at an early age to "unsee" anything relating to Ul Qoma, the people, the buildings, their merchandise, their streets. If someone is caught not unseeing there will be most unpleasant consequences. Likewise, for citizens of Ul Qoma - they are required to "unsee" anything relating to Besźel. This choosing to see and not see reminds me of the 18th century philosopher George Berkeley and his "to be is to be perceived." In other words, if I do not see something, that something does not exist.

Crosshatching - Areas and street and intersections belonging to both Besźel and Ul Qoma. All citizens from both cities must be particularly alert when approaching or crossing such crosshatched areas since one wouldn't want to be caught not unseeing. This even goes for the police - many the time Borlú, Corwi and Dhatt flip into a kind of hyperawareness when dealing with crosshatching.

Breach - The truly weird part of The City and The City - Breach is a shadowy third city existing in the hidden margins between Besźel and Ul Qoma. Their police force seems to have powers bordering on the miraculous. If someone violates their laws and "breaches" then those unfortunates are instantly swarmed on by the powers of Breach. And perhaps never heard from again. And Breach doesn't abide by either city's laws; rather, they establish and enforce their own laws. The forces of Breach - not only weird but eerie and creepy bordering on sinister.

Orciny - There are legends and myths and fairy tales revolving around the ancient city of Orciny that predates Besźel and Ul Qoma. Some say the ancient city still exists in secret hidden places. Since ultimate power is very much part of the legend of Orciny, there are speculations as to its relationship with Breach. Is Orciny the ultimate counterforce to Breach? Or, perhaps is Orciny just another name for Breach? Mystery upon mystery.

Linguistics - For those readers interested in language, China Miéville's novel will be a treat. Here's a snip of what the author offers: "If you do not know much about them, Illitan and Besź sound very different. They are written, of course, in distinct alphabets. Besź is in Besź: thirty-four letters, left to right, all sounds rendered clear and phonetic, consonants, vowels and demivowels decorated with diacritics - it looks, one often hears, like Cyrillic (though that is a comparison likely to annoy a citizen of Besźel, true or not). Illitan uses Roman script. This is recent."

High Culture and Popular Culture - The novel takes place in the first decade of the 21st century. The culture appears to be not that much different from what a traveler would find in Paris or London (two cities Tyador Borlú visited in his younger years). There's mention of one underground novel about secret forces at work in the two cities and Borlú reflects on a "glitzy Ul Qoman Fast Economy Zone full of horrible but big public art," but that's about all the references to literature and the arts.

Violent Crime Fiction - Readers wary of gratuitous violence will be pleased to know there is none to be found in this China Miéville novel. Matter of fact, the violence in The City & The City is nowhere even close to what one will encounter in Jo Nesbø or Stieg Larsson.

Dogs and Cats? - I don't recall any dogs or cats but what I do recall is mention of wolves prowling around in both cities. One of the curiosities I wasn't expecting.

Genres - Is The City & The City science fiction or fantasy? Well, perhaps there are elements of both at work in the novel but first and foremost this is a crime thriller, where the detectives chase down clues in both cities and all the weirdness in between. A special book - one very much worth the read.

British author China Miéville, born 1972
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
December 12, 2020
O Happy Fault

I have never underestimated China Mieville’s writing talent. But until recently I also hadn’t realized the depths of his thought. The City & the City is not merely a cleverly structured detective novel, it is also a rather profound anthropological analysis.

The premise of the book is that the City in question is divided in two by a sort of psychological Iron Curtain, sometimes at the level of individual dwellings. The two parts of the City intertwine physically, but the residents of each half are not permitted to see, hear, smell, touch, or otherwise interact with the residents of the other half. Each population is restricted to its designated spaces in which everyone lives apparently normal lives but with no awareness of the others who live among them.

Residents from each half may visit the other half by transferring through a sort of border tunnel in the middle of the City. Having crossed from one half to the other, the visitor is required to participate fully in its life. He or she must ‘unsee’ everything with which he is intimately familiar from his half. Any lapse in this protocol is considered a Breach and is dealt with harshly as a matter of law.

There are certainly a variety of ways in which Mieville’s imagination can be interpreted: for example, as a representation of the human psychological ability to simply ignore what it does not wish to see; or as the regrettable compartmentalization of modern life in which certain moral behaviors are permissible in one ‘box’ but anathema in another; or as a critique of the economic, social, and racial ghettoization of not just cities but also of whole societies.

My first reading resulted in an interpretation of the City as wallowing in an unfortunate fate, implicitly waiting and hoping for some sort of redemptive unification of the City. The separation of the two parts of the City was the result of an obscure historical act equivalent to Original Sin. No one remembers what the act was or when it was committed but its effects persist in the rigid and unnecessary conventions that dominate the City’s life.

Upon reflection, I have come to a very different interpretation of the book thanks to the influence of an unexpected source, a discussion of so-called ‘religious aesthetics’ by a theologian named Frank Burch Brown [see: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...]. Brown’s analysis opens up a very different possibility for understanding Mieville’s idea of parallel worlds occupying the same geographical space but alien to one another.

This alternative explanation is based on some rather interesting observations on aesthetics, the study of choosing the filters by which we allow ourselves to perceive the world. Generalizing his conception a bit, what Brown suggests is that Mieville’s type of split world is not a flaw or distortion but a necessary condition for human beings to avoid falling into the trap of their own hubris.

Each world in fact helps to make the other visible. The unique social conventions, mores, architecture, literature, cuisine, and routines of one can never be taken entirely for granted because there is another set of these cultural conditions, literally just around the corner. This fact ensures that neither half of the City can ever turn itself, its particular concerns, aims, and prejudices into idols because ‘This is the way the world really is.’ They are forced in daily life to recognize the existence of the ‘other’ precisely through the persistent demand to not notice it. Brilliant.

So the ‘split personality’ of The City & the City is not a flaw resulting from some horrible primordial mistake, but a well-conceived design executed by some wise folk to to keep the residents from that most dreadful mortal sin of believing one’s own press.
Profile Image for Adina .
892 reviews3,554 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
August 17, 2020
I am throwing the towel at 35%. As per my 50% rule I will not rate the novel. However, I will share my motive for quitting. The writing was too difficult. I thought is was only because my English is not my first language (although i don't usually have problems) but I read complains by native speakers so... The struggle to understand what the author was trying to say, the weird choice of words and phrase construction made me detached from the plot and the characters. I did not care about anything except the slow increase in the read percentage. I first gave up at 25% but I pushed on a bit more without any happy result. I told myself that i will not struggle anymore with books that I do not enjoy so ...bye, bye. On to the next ones.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
785 reviews12.5k followers
April 26, 2023
Wow. Okay, I'm definitely fangirling for China Miéville. I love his limitless imagination, the skill to effortlessly make an unbelievable premise feel real, and ability to turn any setting and place into a true protagonist.


This is my first non-Bas Lag novel, set in the (more or less) real world. But no reason to worry - this remains as much of "weird fiction" as anything else by His Chinaness. As Miéville tries to write a novel in every genre of fiction, this time he tackles a hardboiled noir crime mystery. A murder of a young woman, investigated by a slightly cynical but good and incorruptible detective Tyador Borlú of Beszel Extreme Crime Squad, quickly evolves into a much larger mystery plot. It is a detective story, a hard-boiled crime with all the specifics and peculiarities of this genre. We have a murder mystery, high reliance on dialogue, fast-paced plot, many logical leaps and jumps that may confuse the reader about certain plot points but that still shed light on the story as a whole.
"We are all philosophers here where I am, and we debate among many other things the question of where it is that we live."
But the mystery plot, albeit engaging and interesting, feels just as an excuse to introduce the reader to the fascinating world of quasi-Eastern European twin cities of Beszél and Ul Qoma. The cities are the true protagonists, not Detective Berlú whose character is little more than an outline, the window into this world. Once a single city, Beszél and Ul Qoma were split apart by a mysterious Cleavage centuries ago.
"From that historically brief quite opaque moment, came the chaos of our material history, an anarchy of chronology, of mismatched remnants that delighted and horrified investigators."

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These are two separate nations with distinct languages, customs, clothes, economics. They do not like each other much. And yet they are not separated by any physical barrier - the division between them is done by their citizens who have been conditioned since the early age to 'unsee' and 'unhear' the citizens of the other country, even if they share the same streets and buildings in the 'crosshatched' areas belonging both to Beszél and Ul Qoma.

The cities share their past and present and their geography, but rigidly maintain the invisible lines of separation. Simply seeing and acknowledging someone from the other city - who can be within inches of you on the same street, on the same sidewalk, but yet in another country - is the ultimate crime, the breach.

And it is this semi-willing separation between Beszél and Ul Qoma that brings out the overarching themes of this book. The City & The City addresses the question of national identity and how it is determined. There is much more than simple geography that goes into creating a people, a nation. There are subtler things like bits and pieces of learned behaviors, strange and puzzling to the foreigners beliefs and habits, time-tested social conventions, seemingly ridiculous taboos based on strange old traditions. It's the amalgam of the little seemingly senseless and hard to understand things that defines a nation. As I'm visiting my Eastern European motherland right now, I'm struck by the realization of the same - how much the national identity is the direct result of little idiosyncrasies. And the question arises - what will become of the nation itself if its beliefs and peculiarities are questioned? Is there a comeback from that?
"It's not just us keeping them apart. It's everyone in Beszél and everyone in Ul Qoma. Every minute, every day. We're only the last ditch: it's everyone in the cities who does most of the work. It works because you don't blink. That's why unseeing and unsensing are so vital. No one can admit it doesn't work. So if you don't admit it, it does. But if you breach, even if it's not your fault, for more than the shortest time ... you can't come back from that."
As usual, Miéville presents us with superb and sophisticated world-building. The both cities are vivid and memorable, the atmosphere in both is depicted with skill and depth, and the nuances of this world are revealed subtly and unobtrusively without overt clunky exposition. As I came to expect from him, China Miéville takes a concept that is rather difficult to swallow - the duality of this world, relying on little else but the tradition to keep it going - and develops it so well that by the end of the book it felt real to me.

The language of The City & The City, when compared to the Bas Lag books, is quite simple, even minimalistic. It is not luxurious or flowing; on the contrary, it is crisp, clear, and devoid of any extraneous words, any extraneous descriptions, any possible fluff. It was the first book by Miéville that I found a quick and easy read. And yet, despite the surface easiness, it is still incredibly sophisticated and very visual.

This book fully deserves 4.5 stars. I highly recommend it both to Miéville fans and those who for whatever strange reason have not read his books yet.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews928 followers
May 4, 2022
“He walked with equipoise, possibly in either city. Schrödinger’s pedestrian.”

The City & The City coming to TV in April 2018 - Pan Macmillan

What at first simply seems interesting (the overlapping geographical space of the two distinct cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma) by turns becomes an absorbing part of the mystery in China Mieville's The City & the City. As Extreme Crime Squad Inspector Borlu investigates the death of archaeology student, Mahalia Geary, it quickly becomes clear that so much more is going on than just a murder. Mieville's novel combines 'weird fiction' (the genre with which Mieville is associated) with the police procedural (in the tone of noir detective fiction). It took me a bit of time to fully immerse myself in this world, but once I did I really enjoyed it!

The way Mieville delineates the shared geographical spaces of the two cities and the rules surrounding what constitutes Beszel and what Ul Qoma is really incredible. How the residents of the two cities must (upon penalty of Breach) treat the cities becomes inseparable from the plot (solving the murder). Admittedly, solving the case takes a backseat to the novel's other concerns. Still, it's interesting to see how residents of Beszel and Ul Qoma learn how to 'unsee' what isn't really part of their world. This is something I think happens in lots of places we live. What, for instance, constitutes the city we live in and that which we refuse to see or acknowledge in the same city?

If residents of either Beszel or Ul Qoma want to visit the other city, they must cross over at a designated point (with proper paperwork). When Inspector Borlu tells a joke about the weather in the other city being worse, everyone knows it's a joke, but they can't treat it that way. I thought the moment was funny, but it was also revealing of the way the world is constructed. This world becomes more complicated when it's suggested that Orsini (a third city) might also share the same space as Beszel and Ul Qoma.

This was my first time reading China Mieville's work, but I plan to read more!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
August 14, 2023
*** 2023 reread -

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Many reviewers have noticed similarities with Kafka’s work, because of the absurdist quality to this excellent story. I concur, Mieville did demonstrate a likelihood that he was inspired by Kafka and I think I even read where he said this as well.

But this time around I also noticed many allusions to Orwell’s most recognized work and the reason I chose to reread this book was to see if this also works as a political allegory. And it does to some extent, but Mieville was on to even more and I think the comparison to 1984 is apt.

To be certain, this is not about a totalitarian dystopia, at least not on the surface. What Mieville is up to is to show where deep set biases and beliefs, even when they are demonstrably ridiculous, can negatively impact the way people live their everyday lives.

It’s like if there was begun a game of make believe a thousand years ago and somehow everyone is still playing. Mieville anticipated the Gen X response of “this is stupid, I’m not playing anymore” and interjected the idea of an organization called BREACH into the narrative.

Breach is to The City & The City as the inner party is to Winston Smith’s 1984. They are the behind the scenes enforcers of the mass hypnosis or absurdist belief system, or whatever the hell is going on in Mieville’s mesmerizing world building.

There is actually mention of other cities that are a conglomerate: like East and West Berlin, Jerusalem, and Budapest. The cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma take being split to a new level of absurdity and fans of Mieville’s writing are here for it.

Bas-Lag gets a lot of his attention but I submit now that this is his most important work and his greatest contribution to our literature.


China Mieville is to modern fiction as The Clash was to popular music of their day: fresh, alive, vibrant, powerful, edgy, dangerous, misunderstood and by all accounts – original.

The City and The City is about as original an idea, concept, theme as I can imagine– and all put together nicely into an ostensible murder mystery. While that is the tone and structure, to me the real story was the absurdist city on top of or within, or beside or related to the other city. Or whatever.

Don’t want to add any spoilers but a reader will be well into the book on their own before they figure it out, if they do. Working well within its own parameters, I also saw the value of the concept in terms of allegory, perhaps a message about how boundaries, affected and arbitrary, are absurd and our beliefs and reliance in them equally as outlandish.

After reading Kraken, I placed the absurdist label on that writing, but not the Kafkaesque absurdity but rather the Monty Python kind. This one has the unmistakable influence of Kafka, but still with the charm and humor of Cleese, Palin and the rest of the troupe.

A very good read.

*** 2020 addendum - I don't know why I did not think of this years ago when I first read this and I am overdue for a reread, but this is also an allegory about political tribalism. Neighbors who ignore each other and pretend the others don't exist is a statement about how we can create arbitrary divisions.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for carol..
1,576 reviews8,239 followers
January 25, 2018
Can a city have a personality? I think so. Certainly the feel of Los Angeles is entirely different from NYC, and different again from Chicago, right? But what are the components to a city's character? Despite being the centerpiece of the novel, The City and the City never came alive for me. Half the time I felt as if I was reading a dusty encyclopedia description of a city and half the time an oddly paced but elaborate mystery.

The story begins typical for the detective-mystery genre: we follow Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad to the scene of a murdered and nude woman. It is a seedy, run-down area full of addicts, and at first it appears as if she's another lost soul from the streets. Tyador commanders an eager young subordinate, Corwi, for her street contacts and legwork. Before long, an anonymous tip points them in the direction of Il Qoma, the city that lives within/alongside/interstices with their own city of Beszel. The citizens of both places are monitored by Breach, a mysterious authority who will spirit away those who mistakenly acknowledge the partner city without following proper channels.

"'Why were you there?'
'... It was a conference. 'Policing Split Cities.' They had sessions on Budapest and Jerusalem and Berline, and Beszel and Ul Quoma.'
'I know, I know. That's what we said at the time. Totally missing the point.'
'Split cities? I'm surprised the acad let you go.'"

The idea of two cities, co-existing in shared spaces but actually separate nations, is a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, Big Idea is all that holds this story together, which has little to humanize it amidst a slow and painful investigation. It occurred to me that this is the premise of so many other books, the unseen co-existing with the seen, but I felt it was hard to get a grip on the intricacies of the schism.

Bezel and Il Quoma never truly differentiated for me. I think part of the reason is that Mieille relies on two main modes of describing his cities: the architecture and the political history. I felt very much like I was being given a lesson on Yugoslavia, or walled-Berlin, or one of the split cities so overtly mentioned. An example from page 43:

"In typical political cliche, unificationists were split on many axes. Some groups were illegal, sister-organisations in both Beszel and Ul Qoma. The banned had at varioius points in their history advocated the use of violence to bring the cities to their God-, destiny-, history-, or people-intended unity. Some had, mostly cack-handedly, targeted nationalist intellectuals--bricks through windows and shit through doors. They had been accused of furtively propagandising among refugees and new immigrants with limited expertise at seeing and unseeing, at being in one particular city. The activists wanted to weaponise such urban uncertainty."

I can appreciate such description, but does it resonate? Evoke emotion? I think of Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift series, how London comes alive with the lyrical descriptions, and wonder at the difference. Perhaps people would have helped, or further character-building of the ones we had. Histories of the characters could have been used to gain more insight into the schism between the two, but only Tyador's youth is shared in any detail. About the only person that stood out for me was the detective's superior, who humorously managed to undercut Borlu's complaints with every line of dialogue.

"'This is bullshit. We've been screwed.'
'It is bullshit, he tells me,' Gadlem said to the world. 'He tells me we've been screwed.'
'We've been screwed, sir. We need Breach. How the hell are we supposed to do this? Someone somewhere is trying to freeze this where it stands.'
'We've been screwed, he tells me, and I note he tells me so as if I am disagreeing with him. Which when last I looked I was not doing.'"

I enjoyed China's word-play, particularly 'grosstopically,' reference to things that are near in physical space but from different nations But the word-smithing didn't feel as sophisticated as Embassytown or as fun as Kraken, which is interesting, as they were published in a three-year span. Most of the vocabulary was created around the idea of 'unseeing' the neighbor city and it's occupants. Overall, the language felt stilted and excessively formal for genre fiction, further distancing me from the story.

It's not that I don't understand the exploration of the dissonant, conjoined cities. We take the noir detective format, incorporate a nice play on the idea of two cities, merged but unseen, occupying almost the same space with each other. It's actually a relatively common exercise in the spec-fic/sci-fi world, giving an author (and reader) familiar concepts to latch onto while the author forays into stranger places. There are times the Big Idea works well and can carry a novel on its own, but for me, this wasn't it. I'd suggest Only Forward if you want to play with the idea of city and identity.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
June 20, 2011

6.0 stars. We all know that relationships have there ups and downs and that spats are going to happen even to the strongest of them. Well a few months ago, after having a couple of incredible years with China Mieville’s books, (i.e., Perdido Street Station and The Scar and ), both of which are among my ALL TIME FAVORITES...suddenly turmoil. The cause of the turmoil was Un Lun Dun, which I just did not like and thought was UGH-LAME-DUMB.

All of sudden, what I thought was going to be a story-book, literary bromance was rife with doubts, questions and a whole lot of uncertainty. Well all that is past like gas my friends. I am here to tell you that The City & The City is the best apology/make-up reading experience I have ever had and has recharged my bookish man-crush on CM until it is once again at full throb.

I mean WOW! WOW! WUBBZY! everyone, this story is pure liquid gold, highly literate and puts the PRO back in prose in mind-bombing fashion. Photobucket
What I once might have said with irony, I now say with conviction...CHINA...MIEVILLE...IS...THE MAN!! Okay, as I imagine my gush will continue throughout this written version of a standing ovation, let me at least thumbnail the plot for you as it is a corker.

The book is framed as a crime/mystery/detective thriller. The main character is Tyador Borlu, a detective in the Extreme Crime Squad (ECS) for the City of Beszel, who is investigating the brutal murder of a young female student. While never geographically placed, Beszel is a fictional Eastern European city that I was thinking was somewhere in the vicinity of Bulgaria/Romania/Hungary. With me so far...okay...

...Now enter the completely original, BRAIN-CRAMP-INDUCING, OMGnormously brilliant central Mievillian concept...(NOTE: If you have mushrooms, peyote or some other mind-expanding substance, you might want to take some now before continuing

....AHHHHHH that’s better...but now...WOAH...everything is so GREEEEEN....sorry about that...where was I...oh yeah the awesomeness.

Major parts of Beszel are geographically located and exist in the same physical space as major parts of another city known as Ul Qoma. The history of how this happened is only hinted at and mostly shrouded in mystery but the result is that these two cities each have 3 distinct areas. Areas 1 and 2 are those parts of the cities that are 100% in one city or another (basically, what we would call normal). These are referred to by residents of the cities as either Total (what a citizen calls the parts that are 100% in their own city) or Alter (what a citizen calls the parts that are 100% in the “other” city).

Still with me...good because here is where it gets real tricky dicky. The third “area” type is referred to as “cross-hatched.” As the name implies, these are areas where the cities overlap and places appear in both cities. As Wackyspeedia puts it, “These might be streets, parks or squares where denizens of both cities walk alongside one another, albeit unseen .”

Now let’s talk about the “albeit unseen” because that is the crux of the fantastical element of the story. People from both cities are indoctrinated from birth to “unsee” people from the other city in those areas that are cross-hatched. To acknowledge or “see” someone from another city is the single worst taboo in both cities (more so even than murder) and is referred to as “breach.” I know, kinda hurts the head, but believe me when I say that CM does such an amazing job with the story that after the first 75 to 100 pages you are completely immersed in the world and it actually makes sense.

That’s enough plot background. From there you are on your own but CM has your back and you are in the most capable of hands.


First: The ability for Mieville to make this complex, cerebrally challenging world come to life and resonate with the reader. Basically everything I said above.

Second: As good as the concept was, the execution of this tremendously difficult idea is the single greatest accomplishment of this story and something that is almost never done successfully with this kind of difficult, central concept. The book stays in character THE ENTIRE TIME. There is never a moment when Mieville writes himself into a “cross hatched” corner or loses control of his grand idea. How many times have you been intrigued by a novel because of a cool idea only to have it be “too big” for the author to handle.

Well CM is up to the task. Once you accept the two cities occupying the same space, he never makes you regret it. There are no “gotcha” moments where the world-building fails or where the reader is left saying “that doesn’t work.”

Another author I like and respect, Michael Moorcock, put it this way:
On many levels this novel is a testament to [CM’s] admirable integrity. Keeping his grip firmly on an idea which would quickly slip from the hands of a less skilled writer, Miéville again proves himself as intelligent as he is original.

Third: The rest of my list are all things we have heard many times before applied to China Mieville, but they are worth repeating. Number three is his prose. Lush, poetic, beautiful and as addicting as a caramel sundae with “crack” sprinkles and a large order of duck fat french fries with liquid meth/heroin dipping sauce.

Fourth: Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue...CM is the deity of dialogue, the god of gab, and the kCing of conversation. His character interactions always feel authentic and believable and yet are so slick and breezy that the words slide right off the page.

Five: Plot/Pacing has been the one area where even my favorite CM stories sometimes fall a little short. NOT this time. The plot and pacing are just about perfect. The plot is complex, intricate and oh so engrossing and yet the pacing skates along at very good clip. I think a big reason for this stems from the story being only 300 pages long (whereas PSS and The Scar were both in the 700 page realm). 300 pages is the perfect length for a mystery story and China hits the bull right in eye on this one.

Well that’s about it, but I feel like I have to say at least something negative about the book so that it feels like an even-handed review. Okay, here are two “negatives”: (1) the cover art was pretty mediocre and (2) the book is still not as good as Perdido Street Station. There, satisfied.

Apart from that, I loved this book. I give it 6.0 Stars, have added it to my list of All Time Favorite novels and am very pleased that CM and I were able to get over our recent troubles. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!
Profile Image for Stephan .
32 reviews41 followers
April 15, 2017
Full on ★★★★★! This book is special. It's my first encounter with China Mieville and I'm very intrigued to read more. What a mind bending story. The 2 city concept is so challenging & fantastic, not just a great idea but something very hard to really grasp in detail.

The language is brilliant and fits perfectly in creating this noir detective story feel, the way the story is told, unfolding it layer by layer without ever being presented with a final truth and creating an atmosphere of strangeness and fascination!

In other books I would have taken issue with the lack of explanations starting very soon in the book. But the way Mieville presents the mysteries and the what-the-hell-is-happening-here is so authentic. It's written from the perspective of the main character - and he is not explaining himself to the reader.

It didn't take long for me to get hooked on the story and there wasn't a moment of slowness in it for me. In my edition there was an interview with the author at the end, which I found deepend my understanding of the author without revealing more about the mystery. I'm looking forward to read more of his books. Thanks for the wonderful ride!

I just learned this book is being adapted to film. I really would like to see how that turns out! David Morrissey will be playing the inspector.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,185 followers
February 23, 2021
"There's a series of random and implausible crises that make no sense other than if you believe the most dramatic possible shit. And there's a dead girl."
That quote from a character in the book, sums this up very well.

I enjoyed the concept, the wordplay, and the impossibility of categorisation: it's a detective story, with strong political themes, but it's set in a world that is not exactly dystopian or futuristic or fantastic - but it isn't quite realistic either.

The Cities

The title relates to a divided city that operates as separate cities, but it's not like Berlin, Budapest, Belfast, Nicosia or Jerusalem because

In such a setup, no one fully belongs to their own city because in some senses, it is not fully a city. For those who have to visit the other city, things are even stranger.

It is this brilliantly weird central premise that makes the book so good. If you don't know about it when you start reading it, the clues are gradually built up, but knowing it, as I did, didn't spoil my enjoyment.

Ultimately, the division is maintained by consent, like the Emperor's New Clothes: "It's not just us keeping them apart. It's everyone in Besźel and Ul Qoma... It works because you don't blink." Mind you, there is very limited political freedom in either city (UQ is a one-party state, in Besźel, dissident groups are monitored, and both cities are under the mysterious power of Breach), so the idea of consent is somewhat moot.

Differences Between the Cities

I didn't get hung up on which real world cities might have inspired this (I doubt there would be a simple answer). However, I was interested in the ways in which they apparently differed, the "intense learning of cues" required of all children (and the few tourists). "We pick up on styles of clothing, permissible colours, ways of walking and holding oneself." Some colours are actually illegal in one city, and one is more diverse .

As a reader, one has to learn these cues very gradually. Even half way through I didn't have a very clear picture of the different appearance, culture or politics, other than that .

Their languages use different alphabets and it is heretical to say they are the same, and yet they are mutually intelligible.

Tyador Borlú, the hero and from whose point of view the story is told, is from Besźel, but I would rather live in UQ.

Murder Mystery and Themes

This situation creates a variety of intriguing and sometimes amusing complications and paradoxes which hamper police operations. The impetus of the story is the discovery and subsequent investigation of a woman's body, and uncertainty about which domain the crime occurred in, compounded by the fact she's not a resident of either city, but is American. There are disputed zones - shades of Rumsfeld's "known unknowns" and even when authority is agreed, the normal difficulties of solving a crime are compounded by the complexity of the two cities.

"Smuggling itself is not breach, though most breach is committed in order to smuggle."

These issues raise all sorts of questions about the nature and power of the state and its police, and particularly about the relevance of intent in determining whether something is a crime. "Because you may not see the justice of what we do doesn't mean it's unjust" (neither does it mean it is just).

Cop Drama Tropes

I'm not really a follower of detective stories, either on the page or on screen, but Mieville tips a hat to many of the clichés of the genre: good by psychologically scarred cop (Borlú)/bad cop (various, fluctuating, minor), the sparky relationship between partners (Borlú with Corwi and later with Dhatt), following hunches, breaking the rules for the greater good, messy love life, a few car chases and so on.

The chapters are mostly short and punchy, and each ends with a revelation or cliff-hanger (or both). Yet it doesn't feel hackneyed, perhaps because the setting is so startlingly original. In fact, Mieville confronts the risk of cliché head-on, writing of one character:
"His fidelity to the cliché transcended the necessity to communicate."

Wordplay and Writing Style

Mieville has fun with neologisms and a few existing but esoteric words. At times he explicitly defines them when context and etymology make that unnecessary (e.g. gudcop and mectec), which is irksome, but nevertheless, some of the words are good. For example:
* Grosstopically:
* Topolganger:
* Alterity:
* Insiles: Sort of the opposite of exiles.
* Glasnostroika: Glasnost + Perestroika, and the cities have echoes of central and eastern Europe.
* Gallimaufrians are mentioned: perhaps a nod to Dr Who?
* Cleavage: The reason for there being two cities - in both senses of the word: "was it schism or conjoining"... "split or convergence"?
* Crosshatching: A whole new meaning to a familiar word.

As in The Scar, there are a few awkward or ugly sentences that I had to reread, but far fewer. A couple of examples (for my own reference more than anything else):
"He came to UQ, from where he went to B, managed I do not know how to go between the two of them - legally I assure you - several times, and he claimed..." Just adding a single comma would make all the difference.
"Unlike for my distance viewing of the night, up close the walls blocked off the site from watchers."

There are others that are convoluted in a clever and amusing way, though: "I couldn't help fail to completely unsee"!

I think my only quibble with the story-telling is the quantity of rushed explanation and exposition towards the end, rather as Goldfinger or another James Bond baddie would do.

Favourite Quotes

* A dead body: "skin smooth that cold morning, unbroken by gooseflesh... like someone playing at dead insect, her limbs crooked, rocking on her spine... Her face was set in a startled strain. She was endlessly surprised by herself."

* "Those most dedicated to the perforation of the boundary... had to observe it most carefully."
* At an archaeological site, "Security guards, keeping safe these forgotten then remembered memories".
* "the explosive percussion of the bullet into the wall... Architecture sprayed."
* There is an unreal, almost supernatural quality of Breach (and their forces have a distinctive and intimidating gait): "The soundlessness was enervating... he was a cutout of darkness, a lack... clothes as vague as my own... Their faces were without anything approaching expressions. They looked like people-shaped clay in the moments before God breathed out." And yet it turns out that Breach uses cameras to watch the fringes (shades of Peake's "Titus Alone"), when I was expecting something less tangible.
* "Students might stand, scandalously, touching distance from a foreign power, a pornography of separation."
* A helicopter is "percussion in the otherwise empty locked-down sky".
* "Schroedinger's pedestrian... That gait... rootless and untethered, purposeful and without a country... He.. strode with pathological neutrality."

Missed a Trick

The book mentions fracturedcity.org - twice - but it just redirects to the publisher's page: http://www.randomhouse.com/!

Related Reading

Mieville is the sort of author I expect and want to like, but I didn't feel the love with my first encounter, The Scar (see my review HERE). This second foray into his works was far more rewarding, and my third, Embassytown, was even more so (there are some interesting parallels, too, which I've outlined in my review HERE.

I read this in the middle of reading Alistair Reynolds' Century Rain (see my review HERE). Neither is typical of the author's works, but both are noirish detective thrillers, featuring archaeologists and set in two versions of a city, albeit a very different sort of separation. Reading one enhances enjoyment of the other.

See Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which I reviewed HERE, and also has contrasting, connected realms.

An interesting Q&A with China, here on GR: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5..., including references to TC&TC.

BBC TV adaptation of 2018

I've watched the four-part series. I'm relieved and impressed.

From the start, there's much more explanation of the cities' unique setup, but that's probably necessary for the change of medium.

They've also changed Borlú's love life, so that the stereotypically troubled cop has a specific and very personal interest in this particular murder investigation.

Generally, it's excellent. The look of it, especially. It was filmed in Manchester and Liverpool and somehow captures the slippery and more exotic culture and geography: lots of familiar things, but too much of a mix to pin it to a single place. Even the unseeing works.

Also, they seem to have set it up to make it easy to extend it to a series!

* 40 second trailer: here.
* Besźel Tourist Orientation 1-minute video: here.
* imdb listing: here.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,715 followers
March 7, 2011
I see why so many people are underwhelmed by The City and The City, China Miéville's strange and wonderful homage to the mystery genre and his mother.

It is because while The City and The City is both of those things, it is also -- and more powerfully -- a love letter to his fans and an act of oeuvre snobbery of the first order.

What Miéville has done is to build a story upon his favourite themes, and to require that his audience is familiar with other occurrences of these themes in his work to fully appreciate what he's done (perhaps inadvertently, but there it is). The unseen and the uncity occur throughout his work in varying forms, but they come together in The City and The City with an intensity and concreteness that he has only flirted with before.

Saul Garamond (King Rat), Silas Fennec (The Scar), Toro & Spiral Jacobs (Iron Council), The Weaver (Perdido Street Station), are all characters that move unseen. Each have their own reasons for moving unseen and their own methods for achieving it, but all of them move in and through the spaces that others cannot see or fail to see or choose not to see. And all of the motives and reasons for unseeing these characters culminate in the Beszel/Ul Qoma /Breach unseeing that Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Besz Extreme Crime Squad moves through in his search for the killer of a young American archaeologist.

But the murder mystery, and even the potential conspiracies that swirl around the murder, are nowhere near as important as the way these two cities crosshatch and overlay and grosstopic, and the way people from the mundane to the Breach move through and around and in and outside all the permutations of these places in one place.

And that concept of cities being more than what we are willing to see is the other piece of Miéville's narcissitically intertextual puzzle. In The City & The City it is two cities in the same space with a possible third city in the cracks. In Un-Lun-Dun it is an ab-city for every city. And in Reports Of Certain Events In London, Varmin Way is a rogue street that hides and moves and won't let itself be found, and Miéville himself is the care taker of the files that speak of the streets existence.

And even when Miéville's cities are behaving like cities should, their presence is so powerful, like Armada and New Crobuzon, that they are almost entities in their own right.

The City and The City is the culmination of just over ten years of China Miéville's already impressive career, but it won't receive the love it deserves, at least not for now. Once David Fincher or some other visionary director decides to put it on film, however, it may well become Miéville's most respected work. Too bad Orson Welles wasn't still alive. The City and The City would be right up his dissensi.
Profile Image for Philip.
513 reviews683 followers
May 26, 2017
4.5ish stars.

This is a simple, classic noir detective story. Except it's anything but a simple, classic noir detective story. The story at the heart of the novel isn't really out of the ordinary. But the way it takes place is bonkers.

The setting of the book is in two separate cities existing within the same geographical ("grosstopical") area. How is that possible? It's honestly pretty hard to figure out at first. There's very little exposition; we're thrown into this world, having it explained in bits and pieces through the eyes of our narrator. Inspector Tyador Borlu is from the Extreme Crime Squad in Beszel, one of the titular Cities and he's got a mystery on his hands...

Mieville gives us an absolutely brilliant interpretation of segregation, cultural differences, political influence, governmental authority etc. in his creation of this fascinating world . Is the world ridiculously stupid or immediately believable? We're left with lots of questions to ponder and discuss which is just as much fun as reading.

I didn't find the characters or the dialogue particularly fascinating but that doesn't even matter. The true main characters of the story are the Cities themselves and they shine.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book937 followers
October 20, 2020
China Miéville is probably one of the most acclaimed British sci-fi and fantasy authors today (perhaps in the overcasting shadow of Neil Gaiman and a couple of others, but still). The City & the City does have weird speculative elements but isn’t a science fiction novel proper. It is nonetheless an incredibly clever piece of fiction, at the junction of different genres. In a way, it works like the city the book talks about: in short, this is The Book & the Book.

On the one hand, the Book (setting-wise) is set in a city that seems to come straight out of some of Calvino’s Invisible Cities. The urbanisation depicted in the story is imaginary, possibly situated somewhere in the Balkans or around the Black Sea. What is quite fascinating is that it is not one city, but two completely separate cities, possibly even rival cities, that are sharing the same geographical space. This might suggest something like Berlin before the fall of the Wall, or perhaps the disputed status of Jerusalem in the Israel-Palestine conflict. But in Miéville’s fiction, the cities of Besel and Ul Qoma share the same streets, the same buildings, and yet work like completely foreign entities. A schizophrenic place, where people from one city are trained to shun whatever or whoever belongs to the other city:

Ul Qoman man and Bes maid, meeting in the middle of Copula Hall, returning to their homes to realise that they live, grosstopically, next door to each other, spending their lives faithful and alone, rising at the same time, walking crosshatched streets close like a couple, each in their own city, never breaching, never quite touching, never speaking a word across the border. (p. 133)

Such an insane situation is almost at the level of 1984. Added to this bipolar city, to this doppelgänger urbs, is Orciny, a third dimension, into the past, the archaeology of both cities, the Ur-urbs, that once was one.

In a nutshell, The City & the City is an utterly compelling novel on the subject of borders: borders between countries, spaces, economies, religions, languages, people, borders even inside one’s brain — and the fact that these boundaries are at the same time tangible (“breaching” through the frontier between cities has dire consequences for the trespassers) and entirely imaginary, a mental construct. One can hardly overstate how relevant this is to our current reality, where open globalisation coexists with communitarianism and segregations of all kind, to the point where people purposefully cease even to see (unsee) their neighbours and fellow humans and consider them foreign, barbarian and hostile.

But then, on the other hand, the Book (plot-wise) is also a classic murder mystery/police procedural — with evidence gathering, search warrants, interrogations, etc. —, in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler (note the similarities in the names of the detectives, for instance: Marlow / Borlú), spiced up with a dash of conspiracy theory and secret societies, redolent of Umberto Eco or Dan Brown. Somehow, this sort of genre “crosshatching” reminded me also of J.G. Ballard’s early novels, for instance, The Drowned World, where Ballard combines a fascinating setting (London as a prehistoric laguna) with a rather conventional adventure story.

And so, although Miéville manages to play his cards and weave his double-city concept quite decently into the police crime genre, the whole investigation between the cities tends to muddle the stakes of his initial idea into something that feels a bit formulaic and chewy. By contrast, in the realm of whodunits + speculative dystopia, Blade Runner was a masterful example, mainly because it ultimately made us feel the metaphysical question of what it means to be mortal. Miéville, in my view, falls somewhat short of creating a similar masterpiece, because he fails to push his idea on borders, identity and otherness quite to the same hypnotic degree. He remains, instead, in the rut of a murder investigation, with diminishing marginal results.

Edit: Just finished watching the four-episodes BBC miniseries adaptation of the novel. It’s a decent piece, with a very interesting visual rendition of the city imagined by Miéville. The plot and characters differ somewhat from the book however — there is a whole thread about inspector Borlú’s wife which is completely made up by the screenwriters, possibly to enhance the audience’s emotional involvement. Still, the ending is just as confusing (if not more confusing!) as in the book.
Profile Image for HaMiT.
169 reviews33 followers
September 5, 2021
دلیلی که هر شخص بوی بدن خودش رو تشخیص نمیده اینه که مغز به معنای واقعی به این بو عادت کرده و کلا نشنیده‌ میگیره. وقتی هم که به خودمون عطر میزنیم، اولش مغز واکنش نشون میده ولی بعد از گذشت مدتی باز هم دیگه بوی عطر رو تشخیص نمیدیم و مغز دوباره شروع به نشنیده گرفتن میکنه. پس برای تشخیص بوی بدن یا دهن خودتون باید از دوستانتون بپرسید و به دماغتون اعتماد نکنید
مغز همیشه در حال دریافت پیام هست و بعد از اون واکنش عصبانیت، ترس، انزجار، خوشحالی، بی‌تفاوتی و.. نشون میدیم
حس بویایی از لحاظ عادت کردن از همه‌ی حس‌ها قوی‌تر عمل میکنه. بینایی و شنوایی شاید به تمرین و تلاش بیشتری نیاز داشته باشن ولی فکر میکنم هر روز در حال انجام دادنش هستیم. به خبر جنگ بین اسرائیل و فلسطین عادت کردیم و ندیده و نشنیده میگیریم و برامون مهم نیست، در حالی که این وسط کلی آدم کشته و کلی خونواده از بین میره. ولی اگه خبر یه حمله‌ی تروریستی توی فرانسه یا ژاپن رو بشنویم، واکنش بیشتری نشون میدیم و هشتگ میزنیم چون چون مغز به دیدن و شنیدن همچین خبری عادت نداره. خیلی وقت‌ها فقر دیگران رو نادیده میگیریم تا شب بتونیم راحت بخوابیم
مرزبندی‌هایی که بشر برای خودش مشخص میکنه تأثیر عجیبی روی نادیده گرفتن داره. این مرزبندی‌ها میتونه اجتماعات خیلی کوچک مثل یه کلاس یا محله باشه و به تیم فوتبال، شهر، کشور و ملیت، دین و ایدئولوژی ادامه پیدا کنه. بخاطر همین هست که سیاست‌مدارهای یه کشور میتونن خیلی راحت مردم کشور خودشون رو به خاک و خون بکشن، چون مرزهای اون سیاست‌مدارها با مرزهای اون مردم متفاوته و درد و مرگ و رنجشون رو نادیده میگیرن و براشون اهمیتی نداره

داستان شهر و شهر طرفای اروپای شرقی جریان داره، جایی که دو شهرکشورِ بشل و القوما توی یک نقطه‌ی جغرافیایی قرار گرفتن و داخل همدیگه هستند. هر شهر برای خودش سیاست‌، فرهنگ، زبان، پرچم و واحد پول جدا داره
فضای شهریِ بشل شبیه شهرهای کمونیستی و قدیمی اروپای شرقیه. درب و داغون، کثیف و دلگیر که پیشرفتی هم نمیکنه ولی القوما شبیه شهرهای مدرن غربیه که توی شب نورپردازی‌های نئونی جلوه‌ی زیبایی به شهر میدن و برعکس بشل، هر روز در حال پیشرفته
دو شهر بعد از جنگهایی که باهم داشتن، حالا در صلح هستن اما قوانین خاصی وضع شده. شهروندای هر شهر تحت هر شرایطی باید به طور کامل اتفاقای توی شهر دیگه رو نادیده بگیرن و به اونها واکنشی نشون ندن. هر اتفاقی هم بیفته مهم نیست. مثلا خونه‌ی یک نفر توی القوماست، اگر شب به خونه‌ی همسایه‌ی بشلی حمله کنن و شوهر خونواده رو به قتل برسونن و به زن‌ها و دخترهای اون خونه تجاوز کنن، همسایه‌ی القومایی باید ندیده و نشنیده بگیره و حق هیچ واکنشی نداره و حتی تلفن زدن به پلیس هم جرمه. حالا اگه این وسط یه شهروند قانون رو بشکنه چه اتفاقی میفته؟
یه سازمان برادر بزرگ‌طوری به اسم "نقص حریم" وجود داره که مواظب رفتار شهروندای هر دو شهر هست و نقض‌کننده‌های حریم رو محو میکنه! به همین سادگی

در مورد داستانِ اصلی و پرونده چیز زیادی نمیگم. راوی یه بازرس بشلی از دایره‌ی جنایات حاد هست به اسم بورلو و اول داستان جنازه‌ی یه دختر پیدا میشه و ادامه‌ی ماجرا که خودتون میخونید
مثل اکثر داستانای پلیسی گاهی حس میکنید که از داستان عقب افتادید و سرنخ‌ها رو نمیگیرید ولی در پایان همه‌چی به خوبی کنار هم قرار میگیره

از ترجمه هم راضی بودم. فقط ترجمه‌ی کتابی دیالوگا به من نمیچسبه و کتاب رو خشک درمیاره
آپلود عکس
بی بی سی هم یه مینی سریال 4 قسمتی از روی کتاب ساخته که خیلی پرت و پلاست و اصلا و ابدا پیشنهاد نمیکنم
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews277 followers
September 25, 2020
This Subterranean Press hardcover is numbered 227 of 500. and is signed by China Miéville.

The City & the City by China Miéville

This novel is A blend of near-future science fiction and police procedural. It is somewhat reminiscent of a Jack Vance story.

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. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.
Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.
What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

Mieville provides no overall exposition in this book, leaving it up to readers to piece together the strange co-existence of Beszel and Ul Qoma.

Miéville was born in Norwich and brought up in Willesden, a neighborhood in northwest London, and has lived in the city since early childhood. He grew up with his sister and his mother, a teacher; his parents separated soon after his birth, and he has said that he "never really knew" his father. He is an alumnus of the public school Oakham School, where he studied for two years. In 1990, when he was eighteen, he lived in Egypt teaching English for a year, where he developed an interest in Arab culture and Middle Eastern politics.

Miéville acquired a B.A. in social anthropology from Cambridge in 1994, and a Master's with distinction and PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics, the latter in 2001. Miéville has also held a Frank Knox fellowship at Harvard. A book version of his Ph.D thesis, titled “Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law”, was published in the United Kingdom in 2005.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
May 10, 2011
Tyador Borlu of Beszel's Extreme Crime Squad is assigned to the murder case of an unknown woman. To find her killer, Borlu must go to the neighboring city of Ul Qoma and team with Qussim Dhatt of the Murder Squad. Can the two detectives from different cultures figure out who the victim is and why she was killed?

Wow. The core premise of The City & The City requires some explaining but I think I'm up to the task. Remember those perceptual illusions you were so enamored with when you were a kid? Like the old woman/young girl:

Okay. Instead of images of an old woman and a young girl, picture instead two cities that overlap. People from one city are trained from birth to unsee/unsense people and buildings in the other city. Still with me? Now picture a murder mystery set in one of the intersections between the two cities. Yeah, it was one mindbender of a read.

While The City & The City is firmly in the new weird genre, it's also a gritty crime story, which makes it substantially more accessible than many of Mieville's works. Tyador Borlu and Qussim Dhatt are the bickering cops that secretly grow to respect one another as they unravel a mystery than snakes back and forth between the two neighboring cities. Kind of like Jim Belushi and Arnold in Red Heat, except good.

The thing that makes The City & The City work is that the cities are quite different from one another. While Ul Qoma and Beszel aren't as detailed as New Crobuzon, they are both distinct entities. While the idea of being in one city or the other is really odd, Mieville does a good job of explaining it and making it seem plausible. How often do you actually remember what homeless people look like, for example.

The concept of the Breach is also part of the glue that holds the story together. Part police force, part bogey man, the Breach enforce the unseeing/unsensing of the other city, keeping people from going back and forth between cities with impunity.

There's not a lot else I can say without ruining key plot points. If they were to make a movie of one of China Mieville's books, this would be the one. I kept seeing Ewan MacGregor and Jason Statham as the cops. It reminds me of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles at times, Neverwhere at others, and Jeff Vandermeer's Finch at still other times. I didn't like it quite as much as Finch but it was still spectacular. For fans of both detective fiction and the new weird, it's definitely a must-read. 4.5 out of 5.
Profile Image for Brandon.
914 reviews235 followers
August 12, 2011
Ugh, I feel like such a jerk. This book has received such praise, so my expecations were pretty high. I had read more than my fair share of excellent reviews, so I felt I was in for a treat.

I really tried to like this - I really did. I thought the premise was absolutely brilliant. I just felt like it was either his prose or just the way the story itself came together that I didn't "get". I've yet to read a book that made me feel so confused.

Please don't hate me goodreaders! I tried, I really did.
Profile Image for CC.
97 reviews88 followers
January 27, 2023
On the lowest end of 3 stars.

It was only two months ago when I first heard of either The City & The City or China Miéville, but since then those two names seem to be everywhere. Two of the very few authors I follow were reading this book / had it on their shelves; multiple reviews for Vita Nostra, which I enjoyed thoroughly last year, called it "Harry Potter written by China Miéville"; even the blurb itself reminded me a whole lot of City of Stairs, another book I loved. So it's only natural that my expectation was high going in.

Well ... Of course things never turn out the way I expect them.

The premise of this book (not a spoiler--all these are quite spelled out by page 40 or 50) is great. Two cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, coexist in the same physical space, and their respective residents are forbidden from seeing/hearing/registering the other city in any shape or form. This is done through a process called "unseeing" (you can kind of guess what that means), and if one fails to follow the rules, there will be dire consequences.

I'm a fan of psychological weirdness, and I love how unnatural this idea is. I also appreciate the in-depth exploration of this concept, which made it the essence of the story rather than just a McGuffin. But... The more of those explorations I read, the less interesting the premise became. Miéville obviously wanted to give this setting a very realistic backdrop, placing it in the contemporary world (with multiple characters from real countries such as US and Canada) and going into lots of detail on how "unseeing" is done on a behavioral level. Yet the combination of a very uncanny idea and a very realistic depiction of it resulted in a strange limbo that didn't fit my genre expectation--everything was too handwavy to pass as science fiction, too mundane and "unmagical" to pass as fantasy, and too full of plotholes to pass as realistic/nonspeculative fiction . Maybe that's the charm of Weird Fiction and maybe that's precisely what other readers might like, but for me, it just wasn't enough to let me suspend my disbelief and feel immersed in this world. It didn't help either that all the expositions on "unseeing" were dry and unengaging as well, told mostly in the form of the main character's internal monologues.

The language was another issue. Miéville's writing feels a lot like Lovecraft, filled with long and meandering expositions, odd word choices, and highly stylized dialogues. While Lovecraft writes conversations like this: "Curse ye, dun’t set thar a-starin’ at me with them eyes—I tell Obed Marsh he’s in hell, an’ hez got to stay thar!", Miéville writes like this: "They have them in Ul Qoma, too, you know, those stories. We don't just keep documents on, you know, just just what we're into, you know?" The rest of the narrative didn't feel much less jarring either, and I had trouble understanding why many readers praised the prose in this book. Or perhaps that's just another sign of Weird Fiction not getting along with me.

So while I'm glad to check this multiple award winning book off my list, I can't say that I felt it was the best investment of my time. I did like the premise and the social representation of all the political stuff, but I could've gotten all that in a one-page synopsis, and I would have enjoyed it as much as the book itself.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
875 reviews2,273 followers
October 24, 2011
Urban Recall

I read this almost 12 months ago, which makes it difficult to recall and recount the tone of the writing.
However, I would like to make some general comments about the novel.

An Abstract High Concept Novel

In one sense, it is an abstract high concept novel.
What does this mean?
It's high concept in the sense that it takes a basic concept and explores it in detail.
And it doesn't stray very far away from that concept.
It's not "Snakes on a Plane".
It's far more abstract than that.

The Concept

The concept is basically: what if two cities and cultures or civilisations co-existed in the one physical city?
I don't mean two distinct areas with a wall separating them like Berlin or Jerusalem.
I don't mean two sides of the same street being administered by different councils or governments.
One analogy for the City in the novel would be one city populated by some people and administered by one council during the day, then everybody moves out and it's a different people and council at night.
If that makes sense so far, then this City has one difference.
It isn't separated by day and night.
The two Cities within the City co-exist in time, but in the same geographical space (hence, the City and the City).
Everybody is everywhere at the same time, but they are separate.
They walk down the same streets, they drive on the same roads, but they are legally separate.
They aren't allowed to look at each other or acknowledge each other's existence.
Each City must act and behave as if the other City isn't there.
So this is the abstract high concept.

Mixing Genres

Mieville explores this fantasy concept within the crime thriller genre.
Some readers question whether this is the right vehicle for the concept.
They feel it makes the cardinal error of mixing genres.
But I think it makes sense.

The Law

The two different Cities are basically legal constructs.
They need the law to make the separation concrete.
The law sits at the interface between the two Cities and enforces their separation.
Any breach has to be detected and punished by the law.
Therefore, when a breach occurs in the novel, we find out the true nature of the Cities, the law and the justice system.

The Corruption

As usual, there is too much law and not enough justice.
As you would expect, these institutions end up being corrupt, not because they are institutions, but because they are institutions established and maintained by humans for human reasons.
The novel is really the story of these institutions and their corruption.

The Detective and the Crime

Like crime fiction, it is told through the eyes of a detective investigating a small crime, which ultimately leads to the detection of a big crime.
You could almost say it is the story of the Crime and the Crime (so I will).

The Tone

Whether Mieville gets the tone right is a subjective issue.
We don't know a lot about the back story of the characters, we don't get a lot of physical descriptions.
We do get a well-constructed feel for the Kafkaesque atmosphere that defines this city.
People walk its streets like automatons or ghosts, unwilling to look left or right, for fear that they will breach the separation of the two Cities.
So if characters don't seem like they're human, if a reader feels that they are just cyphers, it's because the City has stripped their humanity away, it's the result of a stylistic choice (not the result of poor writing).

Abstract but Powerful

I admired Mieville's ability to construct these worlds and explore them credibly, while making the novel work at a metaphorical and political level.
The novel could describe life in a totalitarian state, it could describe life in a separated city or nation, but it might also symbolise cultures where people co-exist, but don't acknowledge each other's existence or right to participate in institutions as equals.
This could describe Christians and Jews, Christians and Muslims, whites and blacks, men and women, the rich and the poor.
This differentiation exists everywhere, Mieville's genius is to explore it through a highly abstract, but powerful, metaphor.
So comparisons with both Kafka and Chandler are apt.

Collins St, 5pm


I don't want to spoil the visuals of the book for you, but below is a link to a wiki article about a 1955 painting that the book evokes for me.
The painting explores a similar concept as a metaphor for alienation.
One warning before you view it though: Partly because of the cover, I imagined The City as a blue/grey world, the world of this painting is brown.
So if you want to leave scope to choose your own colours, you might not want to visit the link until you've read the book.


Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
November 1, 2015
You don’t have to be crazy to read this book, but it helps.

Nah, I jest. The basic idea of this book is not hard to understand, but it is a springboard to an extraordinary level of weirdness. The book is set in two cities that occupy the same geographical space. Imagine two cities existing side by side and then whisk them so that they are all jumbled up. That is one way of looking at the setting. The citizens of Besel* and Ul Qoma are not permitted to interact with the citizens, objects, or ground space of the other city. They are not even allowed to sense them except to avoid a collision. Of course actual seeing and hearing cannot be helped but they have to “unsee”, “unhear”, “unsmell” etc., a kind of mandatory constant denial.

The main story is basically a murder mystery where a body of a “Jane Doe” is found and it is the job of a police detective to find her killer. It turns out that both cities are involved and maybe even a third secret city also occupying the same location. The world of The City & The City is actually Earth apparently in the present day with references to the internet, MS Windows and Tom Hanks movies to vaguely indicate the time period. The two city-states are located in what appears to be Eastern Europe.

Usually, I try to avoid reading a book’s synopsis before I start reading it. I enjoy discovering the plot, the setting and characters as I read, but as far as The City & The City is concerned this may not be such a good idea, Miéville does not start the narrative with any kind of exposition to set the scene. The readers are pretty much left to immediately fend for themselves from the first page. This is not really a problem if you already have a little prior knowledge of the very odd setting from a summary.

Reading this book is not a walk in the park, China Miéville made an effort to create such a bizarre world and culture for you to explore and some exertion is expected from the reader. As can be expected of any China Miéville book the writing is excellent, the characters are interesting (though take a little getting used to) and a little dry humour is scattered in several places. The climax is mind bendingly imaginative and the ending is rather poignant.

The City & The City defies simple categorization though “speculative fiction” is the most suitable as it is a very broad term that encompasses both science fiction and fantasy, and anything else that falls in between (maybe the fiction & the fiction?). This review is of a reread and it made me realize that the major disadvantage of rereading a whodunit is that I already know who did it as soon as the character’s name is mentioned in the book, fortunately, the why of it, in this case, is fairly complicated and has to be rediscovered. More importantly The City & The City has much more to offer than a conventional crime fiction novel. This is not a breezy read, but it is a book that I would like to recommend to everybody; give the ol’ little grey cells a nice workout, and while it is challenging it is not overly formidable and certainly an enriching experience for the mind.

*The name of the Besel city seems to be spelled differently in some editions.
I just realised that I have to do some "unseeing" all the time when I am typing on my English/Thai keyboard:

When I am typing in one language I have to "unsee" the alphabets of the other language. It is very disorienting when I switch from typing in one language to another. Living in either Besel or Ul Qoma would quickly drive me insane.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
1,018 reviews1,184 followers
February 8, 2019
More like 4 and a half.

If there is one thing you can expect from China Mieville, is that his stories are pretty much impossible to summarize or classify. “The City & The City” is an amazing and mind-bending blend of P.I. noir and surrealist weird fiction. It starts off is a straightforward enough way: a foreign student is brutally murdered and disfigured, and detective Tyador Borlu, of the Beszel Extreme Crime Squad is assigned the case. Things become complicated when he must team up with a detective from the “neighboring” city of Ul Qoma – because citizens of Beszel are not supposed to see or hear the citizens of Ul Qoma… To “breach” that convention is a serious and harshly punished crime.

In typical noir fashion, the motive of the murder turns out to be much more nebulous than originally suspected and it will make detective Borlu question a lot of things about the authority he works for and the structure of the strange world he lives in. But where Mieville goes full weird is when he introduces the concept of overlaying boundaries and realities: to the question “Who murdered this young woman and why?” is added “How can two cities occupy the same geographical space while still being two different places?". But once your brain starts untangling this incredible world Mieville created, you are in for a challenging treat.

Years of cultural conditioning to ignore or “unsee” people and buildings did not seem that unbelievable to me; we do that about unpleasant things all the time - and I feel like there are plenty of historical examples that could be cited as inspirations Mieville must have drawn on when he imagined his overlapping cities (the Berlin Wall being the most obvious one). I am fascinated with the idea of national and cultural identity, which is what this book really is about once you look past the hard-boiled detective tropes and the wildly surreal setting. Ul Qoma and Beszel are described as incredibly different and unique places: the clothing and architecture of one city are radically different from the other city’s, in order to draw a very clear line between what is part of Ul Qoma and what belongs to Beszel. And yet it is strongly suggested that the cities were not always separate…

As a former archaeology student, I really appreciated Mieville’s exploration of the professional shunning and discrediting that goes with being openly interested in arcane theories about the past of human civilization; I didn’t get past a B.A., but I can easily imagine that embracing more esoteric concepts would stunt a scholar’s career and make it impossible for them to move past youthful enthusiasm for unorthodox concepts. Orciny is the Mieville equivalent of claiming to a thesis advisor that you believe in Atlantis: you will be labeled a nutjob forevermore! That sort of thing happens because it is considered unscientific to believe in what is commonly accepted as myth or folklore, but also because admitting the possibility of such things being facts means we can question everything we think we know about our own history… and the established academics are not about to rock that boat!

I am always impressed by Mieville’s boundless - and yet meticulous - imagination, by how far he pushes the envelope with every novel. He is an urban fantasist, and makes his settings as rich and as fascinating as any character – especially in this book! As usual, I loved his baroque and poetic prose, and I love how challenged my little brain was by his massive talent. Do not miss this book!

(As I was reading « The City & the City », this article about my hometown surfaced, and somehow it felt very à propos: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/05/wo...)


I was so curious about this book being adapted for TV by the BBC, because as gorgeous and brain-twisting as Mieville’s work is, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine how that would translate to a visual media. To the show creators’ credit, the cinematography of their adaptation of “The City and the City” is simply stunning. The colors, architectural styles, the way they used lights and framing and subtle blurring: holy cow! Amazing! I’m not sure this is quite how I pictured Beszel and Ul Qoma, but I will never be able to imagine them differently now. David Morrisey is a wonderful Borlu, and I loved Mandeep Dhillon as Corwi (though her accent was thick to the point of undecipherable from time to time). They did add some elements to the story (I assume to give Borlu a more personal motivation to launch himself in the investigation), which worked, but only up to a point. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but the way they wrapped up that more personal story line didn’t quite satisfy me. But that’s a minor complaint: if you enjoyed the book, you should definitely check out the TV series if you get a chance.
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,944 followers
February 4, 2015
In The City & the City, China Mieville blends fantasy, sci-fi and crime fiction into one of the most interesting books I've read in a while. It's a tale of two cities set in eastern Europe. One, Beszel, is in decay; the other, Ul Qoman, is much more prosperous. The kicker is that the two cities share the same physical space and the citizens of one city are strictly forbidden from interacting with citizens of the other.

Citizens of one city are prohibited from even looking at each other or into each others' cities. Should they do so accidentally, they are required to immediately look away and "unsee" what they have just seen. There is one legal border crossing where, with a good enough reason, a citizen of one city may legally cross into the other. To do so otherwise, or to notice something or someone in the other city without looking away, is to be in Breach, and the punishments for being in Breach are beyond severe.

As the story opens, a woman is found murdered in Beszel, and Inspector Tyador Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad is assigned to investigate. Borlu quickly discovers that the woman was actually killed in Ul Quoma and dumped in Beszel, which would be a clear case of Breach. Borlu assumes that the case will be taken away from him and that the killer or killers will be found and punished by the Breach authorities who deal with such matters.

Because of a technicality, though, it turns out that the murder was not in Breach and so the case still belongs to Borlu. To investigate, he must cross over into Ul Quoma, where he is teamed with a detective named Qussim Dhatt who leads the investigation there. The two quickly discover that something much more sinister than a run-of-the-mill murder may be going on here.

Tyador Borlu is, at heart, the archetypal detective with roots all the way back at least as far as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. He's determined to solve this case and find justice for the victim, no matter the odds and personal danger that might be involved. But he must do so in a world that neither Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Harry Bosch, nor any other such detective could ever have imagined.

It took me a while to get into this book and to buy into the principle of the two cities, but once I did, I was completely hooked and couldn't wait for the climax. There's an awful lot going on in this story and I'm probably not smart enough to appreciate half of what Mieville is attempting to accomplish here.

At one level, the book may be seen an allegory about the worlds that each of us live in and the worlds that occupy the same space but that we might prefer not to see. Think, for example, of the reaction that many people have when seeing a homeless person shuffling down the street, pushing his or her liberated grocery cart full of possessions along the sidewalk. The tendency we often have is to look away, or to "unsee" the person, and to proceed about our business as if problems like homelessness didn't exist in our world.

This is a very interesting and stimulating book, one that the reader will be left thinking about for a long time.
Profile Image for Ms. Smartarse.
604 reviews259 followers
October 31, 2022
The victim of a gruesome murder has been found on the outskirts of the city of Beszel. A random woman dumped in a trash heap, doesn't appear to be more than the unfortunate victim of a sex-trade gone bad. However, when inspector Tyador Borlú receives an anonymous tip, pointing fingers at the neighboring city of Ul Quoma, things start to get awfully messy.

You see, while jurisdiction between most neighboring cities may simply lead to petty police squabbles, Beszel and Ul Quoma actually make up two separate countries, albeit with multiple intersection points, but only one single border crossing. So you'd best "unsee" the other city in general, or else...

Map of Beszel and Ul Quoma
Click for full size (beware of spoilers!)

China Mieville's narrative voice just doesn't agree with me. I get bored of it in minutes, and my mind inevitably ends up wandering off. Initially I figured it was all me, whose English is not as fluent as I like to think.

I tried re-reading sentences several times, and even reading aloud. Unfortunately, most of it only led to my cat falling asleep... more often, that is. I even tried to listen to the author read an excerpt during a book-related event, and it still didn't help.

Sleeping cat
Caught mid-sleep, after 5 minutes of listening to me read aloud.

On the one hand, the prospect of dropping yet another book annoyed me to no end. On the other hand, this book has several glowing reviews from a lot of popular and accomplished reviewers, so I definitely had to be missing something. All I can say, is that somewhere along the 30% mark I found its appeal and couldn't let it go, till the story was finished.

Although the novel starts off as a police procedural, it eventually turns into a social commentary on the fictional life as a citizen in either of the two cities.
How do the inhabitants deal with having to ignore half of the things they actually see?
Why do these cities exist in this way?
How do foreigners adapt to these rules?

Score: 3.8/5 stars

Perhaps I should've just relented and read the Romanian translation (*BLASPHEMY!*), instead of getting annoyed at my lack of immersion. But we all know by now that I'm too proud for that. So I guess you'll just have to take my word, that if you persevere through the first 100 pages, there's a high chance that you'll get used to writing style, and start enjoying the rest of the book.

This will definitely not be my last Mieville book, but I'm already dreading having to get used to the writing style in his next book. >_<
Profile Image for Paul Sánchez Keighley.
151 reviews100 followers
October 15, 2018
There was a time I hung out with Sudanese asylum seekers in Tel Aviv. Their status as refugees was never officialised, so they lived in a sort of legal limbo. Whenever we’d go for a walk, even if we were ambling down familiar streets, it felt like we were in a different city altogether. We’d turn into alleys I’d never noticed and find Eritrean families huddled around coffee pots on small fires; walk into previously unseen shebeens that stood quite literally between shops I’d frequent on a regular basis; rattle open a garage door to reveal a mass being held complete with clappy East African hymns...

This book reminded of many such instances. In it, two cities, Besźel and Ul Qoma, share the same geography but never overlap, their turfs winding around each other like the pieces of an elaborate jigsaw, and whose citizens make a conscious effort to ‘unsee’ any people or buildings they cross on the street who are, in fact, in the other city.

The concept Miéville explores rings so true it practically reads like a work of realism. It’s so easy to believe humans would be able to inhabit and willingly comply with the norms of such a stifling setting. This man is devilishly good at coming up with a screwball scenario and then exhaustively explore every possible implication it would have for its people, laws, philosophy, economy…

It’s obvious enough Miéville loves cities, but he also deeply understands their makeup. I loved the fact that Besźel has a little UlQomatown, and that there are underground anti-establishment movements made up mostly of young impressionable punks and old stoned hippies. These are the sort of details that make Miéville’s cities feel alive.

Perhaps my only complaint is that I wish the more existential aspects of the cities, which is touched upon in the first third, played a greater role in the story. As it progresses, the cities seem to become more of an interesting backdrop to a pretty straightforward murder mystery, and I found my interest waning when the book focused more on the crime than on the cities.

Still, it’s a blast to read and I imagine I’ll remember it often whenever I catch myself ‘unseeing’ certain parts or peoples of the city I live in.
Profile Image for fourtriplezed .
467 reviews100 followers
January 30, 2020
I had read 2 reviews on Goodreads that had initially attracted me to this book.
Glen gave me a magnificent overview that had me very interested.


Black Oxford had his usual high quality analysis that on rereading after I had finished my read took me to areas that I would never have thought.


So with me eventually diving into and now finishing this popular piece of modern Sci-Fi I have to say that I join the praise. It has actually had me thinking that it has covered apartheid. The demands of the authorities to all that they be apart, not especially via race or religion but via their city, is a concept that was fascinating to me. Could mankind actually force peoples to be so apart but be so close in proximity without any acknowledgment? And all that in what is really a detective novel? Sounds simple but it is an amazingly interesting and complicated mix.

I have little more to add other than I have just had a look at the trailer for the TV series and will not bother. It is not how I envisioned either the city nor the city and I do not want my imagination tarnished.

Recommended to anyone that wants their fantasy to be believable.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews664 followers
May 19, 2014
This book has been causing thoughts since I finished it a couple of days ago. About cities, and what we see and don't see. And how those kinds of seeing are conditioned.

And then something happened yesterday that was both funny and a little frightening, illustrating exactly how much I might be missing as I walk down the streets of my city. My husband and I were walking towards the local gaming store, towards the lures of Free RPG Day, talking. I would have thought that I was fully aware of my surroundings, but...apparently not.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,174 reviews8,403 followers
January 15, 2016
This was such a solid read. I listened to the audiobook which was at that 10-hour sweet spot I love. And overall the story was incredibly well-crafted and engaging. The way that Mieville blends the detective/crime fiction genre with pseudo-sci-fi elements was really ingenious. It was complex and imaginative but never too hard to follow. I would highly recommend this one to people who enjoy either crime novels or sci-fi, but with a twist. He goes beyond the expectations of both genres and delivers something with more depth, especially the sociopolitical commentary on refugees. 4/5 stars.
Profile Image for Eliasdgian.
413 reviews117 followers
June 4, 2018
The City & the City. Η Μπεσέλ και η Ουλ Κόμα. Δεν πρόκειται για μια ακόμη διχοτομημένη πόλη, όπως το Βερολίνο κάποτε ή η Λευκωσία και η Ιερουσαλήμ ακόμη, αλλά για δύο χωριστές πόλεις – κράτη που αλληλοπλέκονται χωρίς να αλληλεπιδρούν. Αντί φυσικού συνόρου (ενός τείχους ή μιας παρεμβαλλόμενης γραμμής), τις δύο πόλεις ξεχωρίζουν οι διαφορές στην αρχιτεκτονική, στον ρουχισμό, στη φυσιογνωμία των κατοίκων/υπηκόων τους, και στη γλώσσα: στην Ουλ Κόμα μιλάνε την Ίλιταν, στην Μπεσέλ την Μπες.

Οι κάτοικοι των δύο πόλεων διδάσκονται από παιδιά τους κανόνες: ποια είναι τα σύνορα των δύο πόλεων και ποιος είναι ο επιτρεπτός τρόπος ντυσίματος, στάσης και συμπεριφοράς. Πριν τα οκτώ του χρόνια, κάθε κάτοικος της Μπεσέλ και της Ουλ Κόμα γνωρίζει ότι κάθε παραβίαση των συνόρων είναι παράνομη και ότι οι κυρώσεις είναι σκληρές∙ και ότι παραβίαση δεν είναι μόνο η χωρίς άδεια διέλευση, αλλά και κάθε άλλη φυσική εκδήλωση ασέβειας προς τα σύνορα μεταξύ της Ουλ Κόμα και της Μπεσέλ.
"Πώς θα μπορούσε κάποιος να μη σκεφτεί τις ιστορίες με τις οποίες μεγαλώσαμε; Τις ιστορίες με τις οποίες σίγουρα μεγάλωσαν και οι κάτοικοι της Ουλ Κόμα. Άντρας από την Ουλ Κόμα και νέα από τη Μπεσέλ συναντιούνται στο Μέγαρο Ζεύξης και επιστρέφουν στα σπίτια τους, για να συνειδητοποιήσουν ότι γεωπροσδιοριστικά μένουν σε διπλανά σπίτια. Συνεχίζουν τη ζωή τους νομότυπα αλλά μόνοι, ξυπνώντας την ίδια ώρα, περπατώντας σε αλληλοπλεγμένους δρόμους δίπλα δίπλα σαν ζευγάρι, ο καθένας στην πόλη του, χωρίς να παραβιάζουν, χωρίς καν να αγγίζουν ο ένας τον άλλο, χωρίς να αφήνουν ούτε μια λέξη να περάσει τα σύνορα".

Τις κυρώσεις για την παραβίαση επιβάλλει η Παράβαση, μια (σχεδόν) ξένη δύναμη, η οποία παρεμβαίνει ακαριαία σε κάθε περίπτωση αδιαμφισβήτητης παράβασης. Αυτό που είναι γνωστό στους υπηκόους των δύο πόλεων είναι ότι οι ικανότητες της Παράβασης στην καταδίωξη είναι εντυπωσιακές και πως οι δυνάμεις της είναι απεριόριστες. Αυτά που δεν γνωρίζουν είναι όλα τα υπόλοιπα: ποιοι αποτελούν την Παράβαση, πώς δρουν, πώς κινούνται, που μένουν.

Τα σύνορα ανάμεσα στην Πόλη και την Πόλη, όμως, δεν είναι πάντοτε ευδιάκριτα. Υπάρχουν μέρη αμφιλεγόμενα, περιοχές που η Μπεσέλ πιστεύει ότι ανήκουν στην Ουλ Κόμα, και η Ουλ Κόμα ότι ανήκουν στην Μπεσέλ. Περιοχές που, σύμφωνα με τον θρύλο και μια επιστημονική διατριβή του καθηγητή Ντέιβιντ Μποντέν, συγκροτούν μια τρίτη πόλη, την Πόλη Ανάμεσα στην Πόλη και την Πόλη, η οποία προϋπήρχε του Σχίσματος που υποτίθεται (η ιστορική μνήμη χάνεται στην αχλή του χρόνου) ότι δημιούργησε την Πόλη και την Πόλη.

Σε ένα καφκικό γίγνεσθαι, όπου μια απρόσωπη, αδυσώπητη δύναμη (η Παράβαση) εμπλέκει τους ήρωες σε μια εφιαλτική πραγματικότητα τιμωρώντας τους για εγκλήματα που είναι αβέβαιο ότι διέπραξαν, ο China Miéville χτίζει ένα ατμοσφαιρικό θρίλερ μυστηρίου, το οποίο εκκινεί με τον μυστηριώδη θάνατο μιας αμερικανίδας φοιτήτριας αρχαιολογίας που (φαίνεται πως) δολοφονήθηκε στην Ουλ Κούμα, αλλά το πτώμα της αφέθηκε στην Μπεσέλ, και εντείνεται από τις αγωνιώδεις προσπάθειες δύο αστυνομικών (του επιθεωρητή Τίαντορ Μπόρλου από την Μπεσέλ και του ντετέκτιβ Κιούσιμ Ντατ από την Ουλ Κούμα) να βάλουν μια τάξη στα πράγματα, πριν η Πόλη και η Πόλη θρηνήσουν περισσότερα θύματα. Ανάμεσα σε Εθνικούς που επιδιώκουν τη διατήρηση του status quo και τους Ενωτικούς που πασχίζουν για την ανατροπή του και την οριστική συνένωση των δύο πόλεων, κάτω από τη δαμόκλειο σπάθη της επέμβασης των δυνάμεων της Παράβασης και υπό την διαρκή απειλή συνωμοτών, ο επιθεωρητής Τίαντορ Μπόρλου, με τη συνδρομή του ντετέκτιβ Κούσιμ Ντατ και της αστυνομικού Κόργουι, θα φτάσει στην άκρη του νήματος, έστω κι αν υποχρεωθεί τελικά να πληρώσει το τίμημα.

Γοητευτικά σκοτεινό, ατμοσφαιρικό και παράδοξο, το πολυβραβευμένο μυθιστόρημα του Τσάινα Μιέβιλ διαπλέκει το αστυνομικό μυστήριο με την επιστημονική φαντασία και δημιουργεί ένα εφιαλτικό και δυστοπικό παρόν, όπου ο απολυταρχισμός, η καταστολή, και η τυφλή υπακοή είναι ο κανόνας.
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Author 2 books1,715 followers
January 28, 2012
My first reread of The City The City was an experience as convoluted as the grosstopography of Beszel and Ul Qoma. A chapter read, four chapters listened to; three chapters read, two chapters listened to; and on. Teaching this book in a town in a different province than the town I live in, across a straight, over a bridge (my adopted country's longest, the adopted country that plays such an important role in the piece, which is itself a nation sandwiched between nations in our always); a soccer game was played with four teams and two balls, simultaneously filling the same grosstopography, unseeing each other, unseeing the other game, but there was I in net, in perpetual Breach, defending one goal from two teams, and my fellows from Breach were busy removing those who Breached during play. And I found myself loving the mystery of the book then thinking it was too weak then loving it all over again when the twist I'd forgotten reminded me of Miéville's genius and why the mystery really does work. And I found myself loving and loving and loving the alterity of the spaces that Tyador and Corwi and Dhatt navigated with their unseeing, unhearing, unknowing senses as they were forced to see and hear and know. The City and the City is a masterpiece. One hundred years from now this book, and others of Miéville's ouevre will be canon. He's the first writer I've discovered, and long before others had, that I can say that about. And one of the few of the future canon with whom I am contemporary. I am lucky to be reading him now, in his pomp, the way little boys were lucky to see Wayne Gretzky play hockey live. I will never see Miéville's like again.
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