China's a bit hard to pin down, isn't he? I'd heard so much about his mastery of fantasy-centered weirdness, so I was prepared for my mind to travel to uncharted, otherworldly realms. The City & The City
does give us the fractured city of Beszel-Ul Qoma, a setting the likes of which I've never encountered. So imaginative! But does the story cross into the fantastic? Not so much. It's as if Mieville was teasing me, opening up tons of possibilities, making me speculate, and then refusing to answer my questions. Loose ends abound.The City & The City
's a relatively straightforward murder mystery where the "good guys" solve the crime while leaving readers guessing on even bigger questions. Does Orciny exist? Why did Beszel and Ul Qoma split in the first place? Is the "Cleavage" between the two cities physical or social/psychological? What type of ancient "precursor" civilization would leave such steampunk-like artifacts behind? From where does Breach gain its authority? Mieville's nested approach to mystery makes for a very interesting read.
Can The City & The City
be considered genre fiction? Sure, if you're willing to shelve it in multiple genres. I found it in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section at Barnes and Noble. The book would be at least as comfortable alongside Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler among the mysteries. The Los Angeles Times
describes the genre-bending nature of the novel well: "If Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler's love child were raised by Franz Kafka, the writing that emerged might resemble ... The City & The City
." And Mieville has challenged himself to write stories in every genre possible. So until someone makes a valid argument to the contrary, I'm shelving this one as mystery.
Now that I've read Mieville's "tamer", less thesaurus-demanding work, I'm chomping at the bit to get to his surreal stuff. (Just don't mention Dali in his presence. Apparently, CM loathes the surrealist painter.) Perdido Street Station or bust...