Posted on | June 21, 2011 | Comments Off
I want to be careful to avoid spoilers here. Perhaps I’m just hopelessly ill-informed but I came to The City and The City without knowing what it was all about. Because of this I was able to discern the arena of the book gradually. And Miéville does draw that arena carefully and naturally. There’s no telegraphing, no clumsy exposition—I learned things as the protagonist drip-fed them spontaneously into his story. It’s entirely possible that I was the only one to do this as, subsequent to my finishing the book, I happened to spot a review (I was looking up one of the blurb-suppliers) that explains, in great detail, everything that I’d read. If I’d read that review before the book, I’d have been mightily pissed off.
So, mostly spoiler-free version:
Inspector Tyador Borlú is a senior homicide detective in Beszel, an eastern-European city-state. Beszel is pretty run-down and runs on the remnants of post-Soviet bureaucracy. Getting anything done here isn’t easy but Borlú’s good at his job. When investigating the murder of a young woman, however, he finds more and more barriers placed in his way. Someone’s doing their best to keep him from the truth.
On a basic level, The City and The City is a good, old-fashioned police-procedural-type of story. Miéville, however, adds a layer—that arena, I mentioned earlier—that brings that genre somewhere else. It’s pretty intriguing (especially if you haven’t read a review that lays it all out on a plate and shoves it into your gob on a massive spoon).
The blurb I was looking up, by the way is one stating that ‘comparisons to Kafka and Orwell are thrown around too readily these days…’ before going on to liken Miéville to Kafka and Orwell. I thought this a pretty lazy comparison and it annoyed me enough to try find the review. This annoyance is directed at the reviewer, by the way and is in no way intended to be a slight on The City and The City, which I enjoyed immensely and have no problem recommending. It’s original, intelligent and gripping.
And, if I know you’ve begun reading it, I’ll email you spoilers unless you send biscuits.