The City and the City - China Miéville Miéville ’s merits populate the internet, so there is not much need to repeat what can easily be found elsewhere. The City & The City follows the efforts of a local detective unraveling a murder in true noir fashion but within the fascinating conjoined urban landscape of Miéville’s main character; the city of Beszel/Ul Qoma. The two cities, set in an imaginary Eastern European location, share a space where areas are “crosshatched” between the two distinct cultures and each of its citizens learn to unsee the shadow city’s sections that “grosstopically” border their own.

After lurching through the first 50 pages or so, I eventually suspended my suspicions about Miéville’s ability to pull off this premise and stepped into stride with the story. A rewarding decision. Not only does Miéville’s probe of the psychology and construct of the cities ultimately pay off in a brilliant unfolding, but he also does not lose sight of the original storyline. Simply as a detective story, you follow the first-person narrative of Investigator Tyador Borlu as he uncovers clues of a deepening conspiracy. At times, the logical leaps made in the course of the investigation are not completely linear which may frustrate some. In an interview by Miéville, he addressed this and intentionally crafted the plot to include revelations that may not have been able to be completely deduced from the text, but which still make sense. A stylistic rendering that appeals to his personal preference in his own reading of detective novels.

At times, the reading suffers from his stylistic choices. Some of the passages, especially between Borlu and his Ul Qoma partner Dhatt, had to be reread to digest the content. The use of narrative sentence fragments between lines of speech gave the conversations a more clipped, urgent tone but were at times confusing and distracting.

In my particular edition, there is a short interview with Miéville at the end of the book. When questioned about the allegorical or metaphorical nature of his work, he provides this excellent observation (which I shall include in annoying length blockquote):
Personally, I make a big distinction between allegorical and metaphoric readings (though I’m not too bothered about terminology, once we’ve established what we are talking about). To me, the point of allegorical readings is the search for what Fredric Jameson calls a “master code” to “solve: the story, to work out what it’s “about,” or worse, what it’s “really about.” And that approach I have very little sympathy with. In this I’m a follower of Tolkien, who stressed his “cordial dislike” of allegory. I dislike it because I think it renders fiction pretty pointless, if a story really is written to mean something else- and I’m not suggesting there’s no place for polemical or satirical or whatever fiction, just that if it’s totally reducible in a very straight way, then why not just say the thing? Fiction is always more interesting to the extent that there’s an evasive surplus and/or a specificity. So it’s not saying there are no meanings, but that there are more than just those meanings. The problem with the allegorical decoding as a method isn’t that it reads too much into a story, but that it reads too little into it. Allegories are always more interesting when they overspill their own levees. Metaphor, for me, is much more determinedly like that. Metaphor is always fractally fecund, and there’s always more and less to it.”
Miéville once again floods the levees with originality and The City & The City is well worth wading into.