The City and the City

The City and the City

by China Mieville

Arlene Almas(08/30/12): Mieville's story is a strange combination of a murder mystery and alternative reality. Inspector Borlu of the Extreme Crime Squad in the fictional European city-state of Beszel is investigating the death of a young American woman, an archeology student working on a dig in the neighboring city-state of Ul Qoman. What makes this unusual, and unusually difficult, is that the two cities exist within the same geographical parameters, but the inhabitants of each have been trained since early childhood to "not see" anything of the other. Those who allow themselves to "see" citizens or buildings in the city that isn't their own, or cross the "borders," are considered to have committed a crime, and "Breach" operatives quickly remove and punish them. Borlu must partner with a police detective from Ul Qoman so that as a team they can run their investigation in both cities. In the process, Borlu learns much about citizens on both sides who want their state to take over the other, about some who wish to bring about a unification of the two, and about the mysterious "Breach" which is charged with maintaining the status quo. If you can suspend disbelief enough to accept the premise, you'll be able to follow the murder mystery to its resolution.
Rating: ***

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