The City & the City

China Miéville
The City & the City Cover

The City & the City


China Miéville says he writes weird fiction, and my reaction to The City and The City is a definitely a weird one.

The worldbuilding is exceptional, and feels real and very, very human. In the first part, I loved the meta-story, about the setup of the city and the city, and the way they were working together. The story itself, well, I can't say I cared about that. The chemistry between the characters seemed off, and the characters themselves seemed completely flat. Even the case the hard-boiled detective was working on seemed without any significance.

Suddenly. as I got in deeper and deeper, I somehow stopped caring about the setting, and I basically started seeing (or unseeing) Beszel and Ul Quoma as two separate and definitive entities - two different physical states, with only a single border crossing. And then, the pace of the story picked up.

The characters still remained stereotypical for the most part, but that did not bother me, as the main story itself was masterfully executed and concluded. The beauty of this book is in the setting, not just the places but the people who inhabit them, and the mental model that must be built within each of them to enable people to actually live in their shared hallucination.

As I live in a city that is becoming a city and a city more and more, I think anyone living in Sarajevo or Jerusalem would be hard pressed not to see himself in the shoes of the people of Beszel and Ul Quoma.