Review of The City and the City by China Miéville

 It took me over 100 pages to start caring about this book, but I did enjoy it by the end.  The opening relies a lot on setting and tone to pull the reader through, and while the setting was interesting, it wasn’t enough for me to really care about the story. 

The story opens with a corpse.  The main character, Inspector Tyador Borlú, is a homicide detective.  He investigates the dead woman’s murder. 

What makes this story special is the setting.  Borlú is in Beszel.  His city happens to occupy the same space as Ul Qoma.  Citizens in either city spend a lot of time "unseeing" the other.  If they interact with the other city, they’ve committed a breach.  There’s a special branch of enforcers (called Breach) who make people who breach vanish.  Breach is scary.  Citizens spend a lot of time making sure that they don’t breach. 

This interaction between the cities is the only speculative element in the book.  There are factions who want to join the two cities together and factions who want to limit exposure even more drastically. 

Borlú discovers that the dead woman was living in Ul Qoma, and he hopes that he can turn the case over to Breach.  Through political machinations, that ends up not happening, so he has to go to the other city to help investigators there.  The dead woman was an archeology student interested in the rumored city between Beszel and Ul Qoma. 

The investigation gets more intense and Borlú ends up committing breach.  Breach swoops in, takes him away, and recruits him.  This is when the story really got interesting for me. 

Overall, I’d give the book a 3/5.  The story is too plot driven for my taste, but it’s well written, and if you like police procedurals, even the beginning probably works.  And the ending is pretty great.  

About Jamie

Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cats. She has over 160 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Escape Pod. She has a novella and two short story collections available from Air and Nothingness Press. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, and hiking. You can find her online at

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