An absolute must-read !!
The City and The City is at its very core a crime novel. Detective Inspector Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad works and lives in Bes?el. He hear and “un-hears”, sees and “un-sees” people, buildings – things that are not in Bes?el, not a part of his city. A day like any other, he is called out to a crime scene. A murder victim. Female. All indications are that she was most likely a street-walker, but here Borlú dithers, neither convinced nor unconvinced. He becomes certain of a Breach, but invoking Breach is denied by the Oversight Committee; and therein lays the snag. Borlú is left to investigate the case within his limited means, and worse – he is sent to Ul Qoma. That other city, the one that is in another country and yet, is not. Borlú must use all his wits and intellect to uncover a conspiracy that has penetrated deep into the very fabric of these two cities, threatening to spill out and cause chaos.
The City and The City is at its heart a carefully constructed hypothesis about existentialism and pure science fiction. Two cities that are at once distinctly separate, judicially, legislatively and yet are geographically superimposed on one another. Two cities and two populations who are taught to ignore one another’s immediate presence and existence; taught to ignore their senses and direct their brains into un-seeing and un-hearing anything that does not transpire within their own city’s “boundaries” – boundaries, which are occasionally blurred and strained. In the middle are a group known only as “Breach”. The shadows, the overlords, the bogeymen. A breach occurs where the two civilisations intercept one another either inadvertently or deliberately; and no one does it deliberately for fear of Breach. What is real and what is not? Do we ever truly see our surroundings and the people in it?
Slow burning at the start, once it catches The City and The City is like a ferocious flame that consumes everything. It is simply unlike anything you are likely to have read or will ever read again. The sheer scale of its ingenuity (the creation of new city states, language and culture) is just phenomenal. It is an insurmountable feast for your brain. Miéville pivots and twists; crouches and leaps; tears and mends. There are, of course, some questions that fail to be answered – where does the Breach’s advanced weaponry come from? What are all the gears and levers in the archaeological dig all about? I am resigned to never knowing and for all that, I love this book. It is genius. Miéville is a scarily good writer of whom I am now in undisputed awe.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012