Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Book Review: The City and the City

China Miéville is the master of the New Weird. Which makes his latest novel The City & The City an interesting departure. At it's core it is a police procedural mystery novel. When a young woman is found dead in Beszel, a crumbling eastern European type city, it is up to police inspector Tyador Borlú to find the culprit. Borlú's investigation leads him to believe that the murder took place in the neighbouring city Ul Qoma. Ul Qoma is a more middle eastern influenced city who is getting a cash infusion from North America.

Now the interesting thing is that these two cities operate as two independent countries. Think along the lines of East and West Berlin after the second World War. However, in typical Miéville fashion it gets weirder than that as the two cities occupy the same geographic location. Your house in Ul Qoma may be on the same street as others from Beszel but you are trained from birth to unsee anything in the other country. It is a hard concept to explain but it makes sense when you are reading the book.

Unseeing is enforced by a meta police force called The Breach. Anytime someone actively violates the unseeing principle it is called breaching and The Breach will be there to take care of the problem. How they take care of the problem is anyone's guess as no one comes back after being taken by The Breach.

Now Borlú must solve the crime while dealing with internal politics, trying not to create and international incident and avoiding breaching himself. The aspect of breaching breaths new life into an otherwise tired genre and I have to recommend this quick 300 page read.

If you are not familiar with Miéville's work I suggest reading Perdido Street Station which is my favourite.

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