THE CITY AND THE CITY by China Mieville, part 1

This is my first foray into science fiction in quite a long while. I inhaled it voraciously when growing up through child- and young adult-hood. Asimov, Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, Ringworld, later Philip K. Dick, William Gibson. There is so much on the bookshelves now I had to look up what was good currently and this came up as one of the best for 2010. I found it FREE at the Highlands Ranch Library, of course.

I’ve always enjoyed sci-fi for the alternate lifestyles, cultures, and societies postulated, as well as the yet-to-be invented technologies. “Space”… the Final Frontier. And some not in Space, our outer space, at least, like THE CITY AND THE CITY. (And the city?) (“And or seen it.” “I didn’t get that.”) (Mystery clue, watch for it.)

This book is a murder mystery, a nice segue with a twist from many of the same I’ve been reading lately. The twist is of the parallel universe variety. In this case it’s parallel cities (Beszel and Ul Qoma), occupying the same space at the same time (I thought that wasn’t possible? Oh, it’s sci-fi.) except for that nebulous fabric of the space-time continuum thingy.

I’ve only read half the book so far but I wanted to convey my impressions to date, untainted by what may come in the second half. It took about a fifth of the book for some semblance of explanation and understanding to converge on these blended cities. I can appreciate the author being clever and cryptic in unveiling the situation and circumstance, but it certainly is a (murder) mystery wrapped in an enigma within a riddle, etc.

One city exists on Earth in an Eastern Europe-like place, in a world not unlike ours, with Google, the United Nations, and other earthly countries. I’m still not clear if the other city has an it’s own parallel Earth (it doesn’t seem like it) or just exists as a sort of tear within the fabric of existence of it’s “sister” city. One city is rather Old Europe, rundown, style, while the other seems quite modern, so where does the other get it’s resources? Hmmm.

There’s an authorized place through which to move between the cities, otherwise the inhabitants of each are required to ignore (“unsee”) the random instances of visibility and cognizance of the other city. Unauthorized recognition or movement between cities is monitored and severely dealt with by a higher power (unseen itself) called BREACH (get it, for those that “breach” between the two cities), though this higher power does not appear yet to hold a religious significance for the story or the author. It’s all sufficiently gray and veiled that I’m not totally sure what’s going on, but it does have my attention and curiosity.

If that doesn’t tell you much, well, it hasn’t told me that much either. Thus I’ll continue reading (the murder mystery is intriguing, and I want to know about “And or seen it”). To be continued.

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