November 30, 2010
The City & The City - China Miéville
The City & The City is the first China Miéville book I've read, the previous urban fantasy new weird stuff didn't appeal to me (although, yes, everyone says they are awesome), and it felt like a good place to start seeing as it's won a bucket full of awards and is described as the most Science Fictional of his novels. Unless you listen to China, who says it's a crime novel.
And the start of the novel is a crime novel, but it has a dark sheen that feels Science Fictional, in the way that the Sprawl feels Science Fictional. The true Science Fictional nature of the story is revealed slowly, which is one of the joys of this novel. Slowly, slowly the world is revealed as the plot unfolds. It's great fun to realise what's going on and guess what will happen.
That is perhaps the big criticism of this novel, the idea at the centre of it overwhelms the plot. And it's a wonderful, brilliant idea. An idea that lingers and lingers. Days after finishing the book I was still thinking in terms of "unseeing" things. That's not to say the plot isn't any good, because it kept me hooked and it builds to a very clever crescendo. There are plenty of twists and blind turns and sleight of hand. At times it's the sort of plot in which you realise that none of the characters really know what is happening.
I'm being deliberately vague about the plot and the ideas, as I enjoyed discovering it all so much for myself and don't want to spoil it, but I recommend it highly. I'm going to label it Science Fiction for the wonder of its brilliant central idea, but if you like crime stories you'll probably enjoy it too.