Friday, October 29, 2010

The City and the City - China Mieville (Audio)


I am a huge fan of the mystery thriller genre, but I would be the first person to admit that a vast majority of the plots out there are predictable and forgettable. I'm tired of the religious zealot/mother obsessed serial murderer that dismember/eat their victims/take souvenirs, I'm tired of the damaged protagonist's loved one getting kidnapped but living when everyone else dies, I'm even tired of the male and female protagonists that can't seem to cast aside their hangups and get together while chasing bad guys. Please, people, something original!!!!!

Ask and ye shall receive, says China Mieville.

Synopsis: On its surface, it is business as usual. Dogged investigator Tyador Borlu has been assigned to the murder of a young woman found in an empty lot in his home town of Beszel (vaguely Eastern European). Through the first person narrative, Borlu begins to suspect that this is not a straight-forward crime, but one that may have breached borders with Beszel's neighboring city Ul Qoma.

Borlu reveals a unique relationship between these two cities that exist amongst and betwixt each other. Beszel exists in the same physical location as Ul Qoma, but the inhabitants, their language, their dress, their architecture, their officials, their laws, EVERYTHING is separate. A passport must be used to travel from one city to the other. Political struggles abound. Citizens of either city are taught from an early age to "unsee" anything from the other side, and if they dare breach, a sinister KGB-ish group emerges from the mist to rain down all kinds of hell on them. So begins one of the most complicated cases of Borlu's career.

My thoughts: A little confused? Yeah, so was I for at least a disc or two of the book. The story lulls you into what seems like a typical police procedural, then it takes a 90 degree turn and you find yourself in very strange, unfamiliar territory. How did I get here? What on earth IS this? HELP!!!!! I've gotten lost before though, and my general response is to just relax and go along for the ride. In this case, it works itself out quite nicely. In fact, this was the equivalent of a 10K for the brain - it got those lazy cells humming. I marveled at the uniqueness, the cleverness of Mr. Mieville and figure he must be some kind of a genius. I know I am not alone in this sentiment. This book has been highly regarded in the book blogging community, justly.

So. Anyone out there want to see if some equally genius director make this into a movie? A show of hands?

A word about the audio production: Narrated by John Lee, he of the smooth and enticing British accent, and narrator of "Drood", "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society", "World Without End" as well as other Mieville audios, is flawless. He can utter his words through my headphones anytime. He makes an audiobook experience what it is all about.

4.5 out of 5 stars

22 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I'm amazed that this book worked on audio - I was confused when reading the print version and had to re-read several sections to understand it. I don't think I'd have coped without being able to do that, so congratulations to you :-)

I can't imagine this being made into a successful film - the different worlds would be very hard to get across. I would love to see someone try though!

Julie P. said...

It does sound like this one would be particularly difficult to follow on audio. Being a newbie to audio books, I would probably need to read this one in print.

bermudaonion said...

I'm not sure my brain is up to a 10K run these days, but the book does sound intriguing.

marthalama said...

My husband reads a lot of Chine Mieville. I can't say I have read any and I don't know if I'm up to this one. Good for you to getting through this book.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

Like Jackie, I'm kind of surprised that this worked as audio, if only because I know I had to attend to it so closely that I don't think I could have done anything else (like, say, driving or cooking) at the same time. But so so so glad you loved it! Mieville is fan-freaking-tastic.

Zibilee said...

I love Mieville! If you really want to read a weird and dark book, read his other novel Perdido Street Station. I think he is just super creative and has such an original voice. I have been meaning to read more of his stuff, and actually am really interested in his newest book. I am glad that you ended up liking this one. Mieville can be seriously weird, and not everyone appreciates that!

Alyce said...

I'm not normally a fan of mystery thrillers, but I've heard enough good things about this book to make me curious.

The Bumbles said...

Hmmm - I've just spent the last 20 minutes perusing reviews on Goodreads since your review and the comments here piqued my interest. But I have decided that for someone who is not really all that into fantastical worlds, this one may frustrate me more than leave me in awe. Would you agree or am I being stubborn?

Anna said...

I don't read much in this genre because the plots are predictable and repetitive. You've definitely made me interested in this book, though normally I'd be hesitant because it does sound a bit confusing.

Beth F said...

I've had this on my radar for a while now. Hummmm I guess I'd better track it down.

Nymeth said...

I've been seeing a lot of enthusiastic reviews of this, which makes me happy! I've loved all the Mièville I've read to date, and I don't think this will be an exception.

Trisha said...

I have this one on my shelves...I think...and Kraken on my Swap.com wish list. I've heard such wonderful things!

Jenners said...

Whenever I read a review of this book, I think to myself "Would I possibly be able to understand this?" Like you said, sometimes you need to exercise the old brain and hope it all becomes clear.

Carrie K. said...

I tried this in print and wasn't in a place where I could get through a book that was a little off-kilter. I'm going to give it another try, though - wish the library had it on audio!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I too am amazed to hear that Mieville worked on audio. And you should know, if you don't, that this is the MOST normal (in my opinion) of the Mieville books! At least the characters still have human form! :--) He has one crazy and fertile imagination!

Stephanie said...

I definitely want to read something by this author. Not sure if this will be the book I start off with.

Melody said...

I've not read a Mieville book so my curiosity is definitely piqued!

ds said...

Interesting. Mieville does come highly recommended, and I did read UnLunDun not so long ago. There are some similarities between it and this book, no?

Jen - devourer of books said...

"He can utter his words through my headphones anytime."

Absolutely.

Based on everyone who is so surprised that this worked well in audio, I think that it may have worked BETTER in audio than in print, because you don't let yourself get caught up in every minute detail, but just trust that Mieville and Lee will get you where they want you to go, and they do, absolutely beautifully. Of course, a lesser narrator couldn't have pulled it off, and it might be hard for people who are new to audio and haven't mastered listening, but I thought it was an absolutely perfect audio.

Melissa M said...

I love mysteries, but don't even know when I last read one. They're all so predictable that I just don't get into them anymore. I will be looking for a copy of this one!

Kathleen said...

This one definitely sounds like it would be a good reading roller coaster ride!

Matt said...

China Mieville - this name has kept popping up all over the place.