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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author China Mieville delivers his most accomplished novel yet, an existential thriller set in a city unlike any other, real or imagined.

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.

Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.

©2009 China Mieville; (P)2009 Random House

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 2010

"Daring and disturbing...Miéville illuminates fundamental and unsettling questions about culture, governance and the shadowy differences that keep us apart." (Walter Mosley, author of Devil in a Blue Dress)
"An excellent police procedural and a fascinating urban fantasy, this is essential reading for all mystery and fantasy fans." (Booklist)
"Mr. Miéville's novels - seven so far - have been showered with prizes; three have won the Arthur C. Clarke award, given annually to the best science fiction novel published in Britain…. [H]e stands out from the crowd for the quality, mischievousness and erudition of his writing…. Among the many topics that bubble beneath the wild imagination at play are millennial anxiety, religious cults, the relationship between the citizen and the state and the role of fate and free will." (The New York Times)

What members say

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  • Ryan
  • Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 02-24-12

China Mieville takes you to places that never were

I confess to being completely baffled by the first few chapters of the book: maybe I hadn't read the flyleaf or maybe I'm just dumb. But when I figured out that the City and the City occupy the same geographical space and how and what it meant to breach, I was captivated. The idea of two interlaced and superposed solitudes blew me away, and to tie a murder mystery into the mix absolutely brilliant. I would read this book again and I've recommended the author to many, and so I'm doing it to you too.

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  • Lynne
  • montclair, NJ, United States
  • 02-23-12

Fantastic premise!

What made the experience of listening to The City & The City the most enjoyable?

I read that this genre is called

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  • John
  • Fort Morgan, CO, United States
  • 01-07-12

Choosing Sides

If you could sum up The City & The City in three words, what would they be?

Excellent Political Allegory

Who was your favorite character and why?

Inspector Borlu was a great character for the reader to follow around. He is a cop but is very likeable with real emotions and a great arc.

What three words best describe John Lee’s voice?

Melodic, smoky, engaging.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Borlu confronts the professor in the boundary, I was riveted. China writes the book in a way that you can interpret the boundary as real, imagined, or magical and the story still makes sense. A perfect allegory for our made up boundaries in our own world.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Another Mieville Wonder

Wow, China Mieville has done it again. A great blend of sci-fi and hard-boiled genres. John Lee continues to amaze me as an outstanding narrator who lets the story take center stage. Excellent all way around.

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  • Bruce
  • Dublin, OH, United States
  • 10-25-11

Too slow/too fast

The story started out quite slowly, built up gradually and ended too quickly. Perhaps the lack of a detailed ending is an invitation to a sequel- I'd RSVP in the negative.

The "science" aspect of the fiction is odd and inadequately explored. I never quite got the significance or origin of the coexistence of 2 cities occupying the same physical space.

Mostly this is a murder mystery with the fantasy serving only an important piece of background.

Overall an adequate listen and fairly short, so nothing lost.

John Lee is my favorite narrator and did not disappoint.

  • Overall

A Silly Premise

The premise that one can suspend disbelief to such a degree as the author asks of his readers/listeners was a bit much. Only in Europe would one find the idiotic idea of two cities occupying the same patch of land, not in multiple dimensions, but in the really, really real world. The overlord policing organization "Breach" has unrealistic powers, abilities and weapons. For the most part it is a rather simple murder mystery that the author tried to make original by tossing the whole premise into a blender and expecting the frappe to be astonishing and amazing. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this book is such the buzz in the sci-fi and fantasy cliques.

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  • Trent
  • United States
  • 02-19-11

Not worth the time

I had Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" in my head when I read the synopsis of this book. It is nothing like that. In fact, the author uses made-up terms in a manner that just assumes you already understand them. So much so that for the first 2 hours I thought I was listening to the wrong book because it really didn't seem to match the description. Even after I started to put the pieces together, the plot was just not interesting to me. The author went so far out of his way to manufacture a compelling plot that it felt as such. Unfortunately for me, I have a hard time refusing to consume something that I've paid for, so I suffered through this overly drawn-out work for no good reason.

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  • David
  • Halifax, NS, Canada
  • 01-03-11


A perfect fantasy novel. Mieville creates a bizarre setting and makes it feel completely plausible. He then explores every possible permutation of it, drawing out the richness in the central conceit. It's a tour de force.

The reader is slightly irritating at first - he keeps pausing before the some of the hard-to-pronounce words - but you'll get used to his odd diction, and in a way it rather suits the novel, giving it a sense of foreignness.

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A Tough Leap

The author has a very creative idea about two cities belonging to rival nations. The people are trained not to see what goes on in the "other city" even when it is right in front of them. But after while this gets old and, finally, irritating. I stuck with the entire book and enjoyed it from time to time, but cannot recommend it.

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  • Steven
  • Nassau Bay, TX, United States
  • 10-17-10

How you can be two places at once!

Our world has had divided cities, Berlin wih it's wall, Jerusalem pre 1967, etc. In this novel there is a divided city split on quantum physics (That is my guess as i's never really fully explaned) where people in one can see those in the other, but are trained not to. It's as if there are two city maps one on top of the there, at some places they are the same, at others totally distinct. Once you get this premise down it is just a detective story, but set in a very different type of location. The novelty and writing skill come in making this seem plausible and in making the story utilize the uniqueness of this enviornment. I thought it was very well done. I also liked Perdido Street Station by the same author very much.