“The City and the City” by China Mieville

Recommended to me by: jesse-the-k

Starting out, this books feels like a lovely magical little airship, lifting off into possibilities. By the end, the airship is limply deflated on the ground.

Detective novels aren’t my favorite genre so I haven’t read that many, but I don’t think it’s usual for clues to be Obviously Laid Out for the reader, but missed entirely by the super-competent detective. I could see plot holes being backfilled in the editing phase, too. Someone carefully Leaves the Keys in the Ignition so our hero can grab the car later.

The book might be an allegory about gender. Or not. I still rolled my eyes at the terrified women rescued by male actors. There is a competent female sidekick detective, and a female professor (with last name Nancy to make sure we notice), but the action centers on men from beginning to end.

I also noticed that the back cover has a large image of the author’s face with five o’clock shadow, presumably so we’ll know that China is male.

Interesting, but not my genre.

Available at Powell’s Books.

2 comments to “The City and the City” by China Mieville

  • Jesse the K

    You economically highlight all the grump-generating bits. Detective fiction divides into several styles, and yes, one approach pumps up the reader’s self-image at the expense of the detective’s.

    China needs no internet to amplify his self-presentation. My favorite parts were the architecture and the dual populations, seen and unseen. For readers without visceral knowledge of Lenin, Franco, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and such, I think Mieville’s representation of politically controlled awareness could be a useful teaching tool.

  • Thanks for clarifying that the clue-dropping is intentional, although I didn’t notice it affecting my self-image.

    I agree that the handling of controlled perception is interesting and educational. It’s done well enough that I find the ideas disturbing!

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