China MiÃ©ville has made his name via award-winning, genre-bending titles such as King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council. Now, in The City & the City, he sets out to bend yet another genre, that of the police procedural, and he succeeds brilliantly.â€©There is a corpse, of course. And cops. But not long after these staples of the procedural are provided, we realize that we are on unfamiliar terrain, literally. For MiÃ©villeâ€™s genius here stems from his telling a seemingly familiar story set in a wholly unfamiliar world.â€©The titular cities are Beszel and Ul Quoma. Though decidedly Eastern European-ish, the cities do not, in fact, exist; however, by novelâ€™s end, the reader would swear they do. While drawing the reader into Inspector Taydor BorlÃºâ€™s investigation of the murder, MiÃ©ville deftly sketches in the details of these two cities, divided and united by a shared border. He has even invented languages (Besz and Illitan), and BorlÃºâ€™s non-native English allows MiÃ©ville to craft an idiosyncratic, hugely interesting narrative voice. â€©Though the occasional Renault or iPod is to be seen in one or the other of the cities, Beszel and Ul Quoma are isolated places (albeit ones served by BeszAir and Illitania). They are inhospitable neighbors separated since â€œthe Cleavage,â€ places of Orwellian paranoia heavily policed on both sides. A third place, Orciny, factors in as well. Is this the ancestral city, known now by its much-sought artifacts? Or is it merely a myth perpetuated by â€œBreach,â€ the mysterious force maintaining order in this dystopian world, disappearing those who â€œbreachâ€ via such infractions as failing to â€œunseeâ€ their neighbors?â€©Piecing together these worlds as an amateur ethnographer â€” their land, their language, their lives â€” is as much fun as sleuthing alongside BorlÃº. Yet that is not to say that MiÃ©ville slights the precepts of the procedural here. Rather, he expands upon it in this extraordinary, wholly engaging read.â€©James Reeseâ€™s latest book is â€œThe Dracula Dossier.â
Book review: China Mievelle's thoroughly compelling crime thriller, 'The City & the City'
© 2014 Tampa Bay Times
The City & the Cityâ€©By China MiÃ©villeâ€©Random House/Del Rey, 312 pages, $25