Review: The City and The City

Posted: August 1, 2009 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: China Miéville, Mystery, Supernatural Thriller

Read on for our completely incredible opinions on THE CITY AND THE CITY by China Miéville (Amazon).

China Miéville is an author who doesn’t settle for one genre. He has sampled many, many different genres, and somehow manages to give them each a unique creative style all their own. While many might argue what genre to lock Mr. Miéville in, we at Elitist Book Reviews think he is nearly as awesome as we are and doesn’t need to be bound to a single style.

While THE CITY AND THE CITY is a fairly large departure from his previous works, Mieville blends the familiar and the unknown together to create a believable mystery. The protagonist, Tyador Borlú, loves his city and country of Beszel, and works there as a police inspector.

The story begins when Borlú becomes involved in the murder investigation of a postgraduate woman, whose body was dumped in Beszel. Throughout the murder investigation we become acquainted with the very special and peculiar relationship Beszel has with the city and country Ul Qoma.

These two very different countries occupy the same physical space. Even us of great intellect and ability for the abstract thought were just a bit boggled. As we read about Borlú’s investigation we were continually exposed to words/terms like crosshatching, grosstopically, unseeing, and breaching.

if you want an intelligent and brain-bending setting that will leave you thinking, THE CITY AND THE CITY is a book for you.

The relationship between the two cities will hold your attention–much more so than the actual murder investigation–and may just frustrate readers as the bizarre relationship is never completely clear. However, we felt this lack of clarity makes the book even that much more fun and unconventional as we tried to figure out if there is some fantastical element to the division of the cities, or if it is simply laws and customs separating one city into two distinct entities.

The plot is intriguing enough to keep reading, but it is stretched thin and somewhat predictable in a number of places. Without the unique relationship of the cities, this would read as a very simple mystery book where the readers, especially if you are as awesome as we are, figure out the ‘whodunnit’ way before the characters do. With the addition of Beszel and Ul Qoma, THE CITY AND THE CITY becomes an extravagant tale of political intrigue and will spark your imagination in ways no other author has yet.

Miéville is one of our favorite authors, and is a favorite author among other authors. Perhaps we had our expectations a little bit too high as we approached THE CITY AND THE CITY but despite how enjoyable it was, the execution seemed somewhat lacking and the length was disappointing. However if you want an intelligent and brain-bending setting that will leave you thinking, here is a book for you.

In our opinion which should be, as we have said before, fact to you, THE CITY AND THE CITY was worth our money and is most likely worth yours, go pick it up here:

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: Borlú and his teammates swear like professionals
  • Violence: There is very little actual violence in the main segment of the book, consisting of largely a few gunshots, but being a murder mystery, implied violence is abound
  • Sex: There is a slight bit of nudity described

Special Note: Keep in mind that when you do read and love this book, this isn’t quite like Miéville’s other novels. Though we LOVE his other works, PERDIDO STREET STATION (Amazon) and THE SCAR (Amazon), there is a possibility that you won’t like how graphic or foreign they can be.


  • Lindsay says:

    I really enjoyed this book. I've never read anything that could be classified as dark fantasy. If this is indicitive of the genre than I plan on reading more of it. I liked how it stretched my mind to think in new and fascinating ways. This was a great recommendation.

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