The City & the City

The City & the City - China MiƩville This is the book of China Mieville I have enjoyed most, to date. The creative tension brought about by the heavily metaphorical divide between the two cities (unseeing, unhearing, cross-hatching, breaching) is both thoughtful and mind-bending. Mieville carried off the ambiguity between a "real" and a "psycho-social" divide with panache, never failing to challenge the reader to observe these divides in our own urban spaces. But far from heavy-handed, the book is carried by a moderately plausible detective scenario, and thus reads more easily than the two other Mieville books I have read, Perdido Street Station and The Scar.

What I like most about Mieville is that the most important character in his books is always the city itself (or, in the case of The Scar, the flotilla). This compensates for the weakness of his actual human inhabitants of these cities, who are always drawn either crudely or without any psychological interest. Still, since a city is its inhabitants, it would have been nice to see it reflected in some actual people. All we get, though, are a couple dead foreigners, a derivative cop and his sidekick, some crazy nats and unis, and a mysterious man of the Breach.

I won't soon forget Schroedinger's Pedestrian, though, and I really praise Mieville for his ability to leave absences in important places, as with the artifacts and, of course, the Cleavage itself. The dual nature of the Cleavage (bringing together, separating apart) which Mieville stresses in the post-book interview is precisely the right note to strike in this highly original book.