Monday, December 19, 2011

what I've been reading lately...The city and the city by China Mieville

I have terrible eyesight and I often feel as though my peripheral vision plays tricks on me. I think perhaps that this is why I was really able to visualise Mieville's book, The city and the city.

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of 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 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.
Taken from book descriptions.

Basically two cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma overlap each other and it is illegal, or you are in breach if you see the other city. So even though you do see you must immediately unsee. Not only must you unsee, but you must also unhear too. So if you hear a tramcar going by in the other city, you are in breach of doing so. How would they police that? I hear you ask. Well Breach - who are the entity that do the policing - are a force unto themselves, mystical and magical.

An elderly woman was walking slowly away from me in a shambling sway. She turned her head and looked at me. I was struck by her motion, and I met her eyes. I wondered if she wanted to tell me something. In my glance I took in her clothes, her way of walking, of holding herself, and looking. With a hard start, I realised that she was not on Gunter Strasz at all, and that I should not have seen her. Immediately and flustered I looked away, and she did the same, with the same speed.

I would describe this book as a police procedural whodunnit crossed with urban fantasy. China Mieville indeed pulls it off. He is extremely talented and I love reading his work. He's said before that he wants to transcend genres and write in as many of them as possible.  This book is written in the first person through the eyes of Inspector Borlu investigating the case that leads him to an archeological site where he finds a major conspiracy between the two cities.  Uncovering the conspiracy also means uncovering the murderer.  The grittiness of the murder mystery is juxtaposed with the more fantastical or mystical elements.  If you are a mystery reader, it's quite wonderful to read something so familiar that is yet unfamiliar.

Other books that I have read of his and enjoyed have been Perdido Street station and King rat. At the moment I'm lucky enough to be on the shorter end of my Mieville TBR list, and I'm sort of hugging this knowledge to myself and eking out each novel. He's just one of those writers that needs to be savoured.

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