The City & the City

China Miéville
The City & the City Cover

The City & the City


Some books are just hard for me to start. The more awards a novel has won the harder it is for me to start the book. I know that is crazy and have said in the past that I am some kind of reverse literary snob. I have had The City & the City by China Mieville on my reading list since 2013 and I just finished it. That is not to say I did not try to read it before now, I have gotten out of my library at least 3 times, but each time I returned it unread or unfinished. I was beginning to call this novel my white whale. Here's the thing, I really enjoyed this book. I just found it hard to finish, until the third time I got it out.

For one thing, this novel for me was not an easy read. The first time I tried to read it I could not figure out how the two cities of Beszel and Ul Ooma actually operated. I thought they were some kind of multidimensional entities which occupied the same space and was reading it as if it were the case. Wrong. This is actually a social construct created by a rift or (joining) of the cities sometime in the distant past. The citizens of the cities are taught from birth to "unsee" the city they are not in.

This novel must be read to be understood. I tried the audiobook version and got so confused by the language and writing style, I just returned it to the library after 3 chapters. I also think Mr. Mieville tends to use a lot of three dollar words I had to look up in the dictionary. Idiolect, Grosstopically (Made-up for novel), and Littoral, just to name a few. This really slowed down my reading of the book.

But for all that, when I finally started to read the book, I really, really liked it. Once you get past the language and the confusion with the how exactly the cities work the actual plot was excellent. This is a murder mystery and I love a good mystery. Now that I have read this novel by China Mieville, I will not be so hesitant to read his other work. I mean Perdido Street Station has been on my reading list for almost as long as this one has, maybe even longer.