The City and the City

The City and the City - China Miéville I had mixed feelings about this book. I read it because I'd heard much praise poured upon the author and because comparisons had been made between it and Jan Morris's 'Hav', a book that I love (I saw a new copy of the latter, incidentally, on sale for 25 pence. If ever an illustration were needed of the disconnect between literary merit and author popularity, this was it...). I read it quickly and enjoyed much about it. I had serious misgivings too, though.

Let's be clear. No novel gets everything right. If it did it'd be the perfect book, and no such thing exists. There are always trade-offs (action versus character development, for instance). The evocation of place in the two imaginary cities described here was a genuine achievement. There was something about the plot's twists and turns that kept me reading. The characters, on the other hand, were hardly developed at all. And the stylised dialogue, which drove the narrative much of the time, was often clichéd and sometimes confusing. You couldn't always work out which character was supposed to be speaking since they all sounded the same and a paragraph might begin with one of them talking and end with another doing so. Bizarre. At other times, the disjointed patterns of real speech were reproduced brilliantly. And after so much build-up, the key revelation when it came was something of a damp squib. Still, on balance, I'm pleased that I read it and might yet try another.