This is my first ever double-review! I have borrowed the wonderful extra brain that is my friend Amy. We met briefly in England and now she’s in Georgia and I’m in Denmark. We’ve read the same book and then I’ve bombarded her with loads of questions in an effort to ensure that she’d do most of the work, because well Amy’s brilliant and I love hearing what she thinks. I, of course, stole these questions shamelessly from the internet so there is nothing original about anything in my side of this review. I answered some questions as well, trying to do it before knowing her answers to see if we’d come up with different things. We did and we didn’t.
First I asked her to provide a brief summary of the book.
(Amy) “As promised by the title, the main ‘characters’ in this book are really the two city-states of Beszel and Ul Qoma, legally in different countries but inhabiting the same physical space. Citizens walk the same intertwining streets and live in neighbouring houses but learn to ‘unsee’ the other city, living in fear of the shadowy ‘Breach’ which controls the border between them.
The story follows a detective, Tyador Borlú, investigating a murder which may have involved an illegal crossing between the two cities. As we follow the investigation, we find out more about the myths and politics of Mieville’s world, but you will probably end up with even more questions than you started off with…”
I put Amy’s summary first because it gives a bit of backstory to the book. I chose to not really say much about the unusual structure of the two cities in the novel, and instead present it as a fun crime novel which is, of course, grossly inaccurate.
(Mathilde) “Inspector Borlú is called to the scene of a crime. At first it seems like a routine murder in the city until a phone call from another country gives some new information. Suddenly Borlú is caught not just in a murder investigation, but in a war between two cities and mysterious third power inbetween.”
So, why did we choose to read this book?
(Amy) I love the author a lot and am constantly trying to get people to read his books! Hadn’t read this yet so thanks Mathilde for reading with me ?
(Mathilde) I knew I wanted to review a book with Amy, so, in the brief span of time we were in the same country, I asked her if she wanted to. She pulled out three books that she was currently reading and I picked this one because I’ve been meaning to read Miéville for ages and just never gotten around to it.
What’s your favourite quote/scene in the book?
“Books are always obviously having conversations with other books, and sometimes they’re amiable and sometimes not.”
I chose this one because I’m a sucker for quotes about books, but I also think it fits in pretty well with a novel that’s about searching for the truth. A large part of the novel deals with a banned book that supposedly unmasks a hidden truth about the cities. The author now denies the claims of the book, but it doesn’t matter. The book has it’s own life, it’s ideas have moved on to take their own shape. The author owns nothing.
And this is Amy’s quote
(Amy)I don’t want to be too specific and spoilery! I really enjoyed the whole middle section where solving the crime throws up all these strange conspiracy theories. The sense of panic and confusion is heightened by every second sentence going something like:
‘In the mirror of the car I saw Mr. Geary watch a passing truck. I promptly unsaw it because it was in Ul Qoma.’
I love the idea that Borlu is surrounded by all these strange and potentially suspicious figures but is never quite sure if they exist in the same reality (aka. the reality that he is allowed to see.)
What other books by this author have you read? How did they compare to this book?
(Amy) I have read – The Bas Lag Series – Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council – (amazing and bizarre worldbuilding, recommend so much), RailSea (super beautiful children’s fantasy) and Kraken (fab concept but not my favourite). I tried to read EmbassyTown ages ago but I just didn’t feel clever enough and gave up. I might try again but don’t start with it!
I think The City and the City is a good introduction to Miéville. His writing style can be very stylized and elaborate (lots of made-up words too) so it’s worth seeing if you enjoy it before diving into the Bas Lag books which are longer and more intricate.
Would you read another book by this author? Why or why not? (Mathilde).
I definitely want to read more of his books. The vibe in this book was delicious and the blending of a murder-mystery with fantasy elements opened up the story-world in a quite unique way where the environment both is, and is not, important.
Rate the book from 1-5 and tell us why.
(Mathilde) I give this book 4 stars. It is beautifully written the mystery is captivating and the pacing is quite well done. Once you get into it the world is pretty clear, but the characters never quite felt fleshed out for me so there was nowhere to hang my emotional hat. That means a four star rating.
(Amy) Four? I really enjoyed the book and the concept but found the ending a bit anticlimactic, which seems to be a common complaint about many of Mieville’s books. He’s spoken about not wanting to lay everything out for his readers (in contrast to more encyclopaedic fantasies like Lord of the Rings), so I’m not surprised to be left with so many questions. But if he wanted to add an appendix explaining everything about the world I would not complain…
So there you have it, a review and a review, but in the end we weren’t really all that different.
CBR10Bingo: Two heads are better than one.