Wow, what a book!
I was a little worried at the beginning, I had a hard time getting into the audiobook– I couldn’t get a handle on the world for a while. In some ways, I never did, but I think that was deliberate.
Imagine two countries, cleaved apart at some point in the past. Some event, momentous enough that citizens of each are not permitted any contact with the other, even to acknowledge the existence of a person or place belonging to the other.
Now imagine that they share neighborhoods, even streets.
The plot (starting with a dead body, and going from there) was interesting. The characters were intriguing, even if they weren’t the focus of the book. The thing that makes this book amazing is its world.
The two cities are somewhere in a Europe that much resembles our own, but the rules there are nothing that I’d recognize. A tremendous amount of time is spent exploring the implications of this situation– from the day to day details of life to how it plays in international relations. I really enjoyed this, but if a fast paced plot is important to you, these side journeys might get in your way.
If your book club is willing to take on The City and The City, I think it could lead to an interesting discussion.
Over all, I found The City and The City very readable, very thought provoking, and a great book.
Production: I had a little trouble focusing in on the narration at the beginning, but I don’t think that was a problem with the production, but was just the way the story itself unfolded.
Audio vs. Print: This is a very dense book, one that requires a lot of attention to detail. It’s also a little slow to get started, and that takes even longer in audio. On the other hand, I think that being forced to take it more slowly as an audio than I would have in print allowed me to appreciate the details more. I think ideally, I would have torn into the print version first, then appreciated the audio for a reread. I will be listening to the audio again at some point.
Publisher’s summary via Audible.com:
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlof the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.
Borl must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma.
With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borl is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.
What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.