The City and the City was my return to sci-fi after a brief foray into the new Southern Gothic…some thoughts:
- I have not flown through a Mieville novel since Perdido Street Station – everything I have read of his has been brilliant, but I also struggle to connect with his characters sometimes. Maybe it’s still the image of the bug and the human having sex…
- I think unlike his other novels this one did not feel like it had as many levels to it, which still meant that it had far more than most other comparable novels…
- The basic idea, that a city inhabits the same physical space as another city, is interesting enough…
- Of course, Mieville takes that basic world build to a new level by identifying the rigid set of structures and codes that the people who inhabit the two cities have to go through…they have to figure out how to not see each other while also not hit each other.
- Any time that either side acknowledges the other results in a Breach, a crime punished by seemingly superhuman folks who kill or disappear those who commit the crime.
- In the mythos built up about Breach they appear to be a sort of Orwellian super-state, but in reality although they have amazing powers (which are not explained by Mieville in a way that I admire for its sheer cussedness).
- The crime that the detective in the novel has to investigate turns out to be sort of a typical Mieville one – the murder of someone who became disillusioned in her search for hidden knowledge.
- I imagine that Mieville ends like this because he does not want us to read for plot or character. I am not sure of the critical approach he is asking us to take, but the idea of laying one map on top of another to demarcate the same physical space, and then documenting the highly ritualized codes of behavior that have to be installed to keep this map in place is fascinating. Some of the ways I think of it:
- Avoiding the homeless by not seeing them
- Avoiding the hidden rules that hinder those who don’t know them from being successful academically and professionally
- Looking at political events as horse races rather than longstanding policy debates.