The City & the City

China Miéville
The City & the City Cover

The City & the City


Two cities with a curious thing in common ruled by the mysterious Breach, a murder occurred in strange circumstances, legends about a conspiracy... These are the premises of the not-so-weird novel of Miéville, The City & The City.

The setting is interesting, shown by the point of view of Inspector Borlù, the policzai working on the murder case, and the concept of unviewing is fascinating - but if you are searching something really weird this isn't the best book of Miéville to start from, because the plot is developed as a "simple" mystery novel; and, apart from the two cities, there aren't other weird elements.

Sure, it's a good mystery novel. The focus is on the investigation, and so we follow the inspector between the two cities struggling to discover the truth. The plot is not predictable - but a little too slow in the first part, when the author infodumps a lot about the two cities - and there are some good plot twists, especially the final one. The rythm is slow in the first part, and it never reaches the fretic pace of some novel like Finch (talking about mysteries with fantasy settings), but the reader is caught up in the conspiracy beyond the Breach and its consequences.

Unfortunately, this novel has also some flaws, and one is the protagonist: the Inspector Borlù isn't a good character. The novel is told in first person, and this makes the protagonist transparent; he is always predictable, without any internal conflict, even where there could be. For example, he has two lovers, and at one point of the novel he has to leave them for an indeterminate amount of time. The reaction? "Oh, yeah, buy some presents."

Why? Also with colleagues it is the same: he asks them to do many things considerably dangerous and illegal; you would expect a refusal at some point. But the scheme is always the same: angry refusal - "I'll think on it" - "Okay, I'll help". WTF? At the third time I was yawning at their apparent anger. So not only the protagonist emerges as a bland character, but also the others aren't interesting at all.

The other fatal flaw is the style. Miéville is slow - though not as slow as in Perdido - and provides his readers with a lot of unnecessary explanation. If this explanation sometimes is hidden by Borlù's memories, sometimes it's simply useless and annoying; the final dialogue itself is redundant.

Overall, The City & The City is a good mystery novel, but it is not recommended for those who are searching for a weird book or a book with intriguing characters.