Review: The City & the City by China Mieville

Title The City & the City
Author China Mieville
Genre Crime, Mystery, Fantasy
Format Kindle Edition
Page Length 373
Publication Date 2009
Publisher Pan Books
Read Dates 10 May 2017
Rating 4.8632543212346549874561 stars – Recommended

When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.

This was so close to a 5 star read! Where do I even start? OK, I think (but could be wrong) that:

The City & The City is a noir crime novel set in twin, neighbouring cities, named Beszel and UI Qoma. Nothing too odd right? Wrong! The 2 cities occupy some of the same geographical space and due to political rivalry citizens of one city must actively ‘unsee’ anything to do with the other city. Including everything to do with the citizens of the other city and any buildings, architecture, road traffic, crime etc. The 2 cities have different culture and customs and citizens are brought up to unsee the other city. If someone accidentally sees something from the other city, they must consciously forget it (or at least never acknowledge it). To see or interact with the other city (at least without authorisation) is called ‘breach’. Breaching is viewed as the worst crime a citizen can commit and is heavily enforced by ‘Breach’ – a somewhat mysterious organisation of power. Just to complicate things (!) there are rumours of a third city existing between the other two.

The banned had at various points in their history advocated the use of violence to bring the cities to their God-, destiny-, history-, or people-intended unity.

When a Beszel citizen is murdered, Inspector Tyador Borlú, of the Extreme Crime Squad is assigned the case. It quickly becomes necessary for Borlú to travel to Ul Qoma to get to the bottom of the investigation. As expected for a crime mystery, things aren’t as clear cut as they first appear and Borlú must get more involved with Breach than ever before.

Breach has powers the rest of us can hardly imagine, but its calling is utterly precise. It is not the passage itself from one city to the other, not even with contraband: it is the manner of the passage.

Following along nicely so far? I wasn’t! I got lost so much whilst reading this. But don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. I used to think that I didn’t really like mystery/crime novels but I’m starting to think I do. I read this in one day. I was glued to it and there were enough twists in it to keep me wanting more. I wanted to know the answer to the major mystery, and I wanted to know more about Breach, and I wanted to know more about the two cities and their history and how the citizens survive and how tourists manage to not accidentally breach. It was so good! Even though it was a complete mind fuck. I’m sure I missed a shit ton of things and I’m sure this is the kind of novel that requires multiple reads to spot everything.

This was my first China Mieville novel and I’ve heard so many good things about his writing. I am definitely going to be reading more of his work. I can’t wait to read some of his more fantasy/sci fi/weird fiction stuff.

Anyway, I’m off to… probably try and figure out what happened in this novel. Peace and Love!

LINKSGoodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US


  1. Honestly? I don’t think I have enough smarties to get this book.. I am in awe at your skills to summarize it though, I’d have been a lost cause trying to get it into something easy enough to comprehend 😀 The concept sounds cool though… the unseeing and breaching- again, very controversial theme going on here… it kind of reminds me of communist Russia where they never had any crime, you know… no murderes, no thieves, nothing- all is just hunky dory… hmm..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I struggled with this myself because I just didn’t feel like I was the right kind of smart for it.
      The author is incredibly intelligent (I like listening to him talk about politics and the such), so it wouldn’t surprise me if communist Russia was an inspiration for the setting.
      There is a BBC adaptation of this novel being made at the moment (due out in 2018) – I’m really looking forward to it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh? An adaptation? Interesting… I have to remember this one.. I think visually it might be a bit easier to follow… and, now I have to check out the author more, too… thanks for the heads up!

        Liked by 1 person

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