6. The City & the City by China Mieville
I don’t read as much science fiction as I once did, but this crazy cool novel caught my eye for it’s genre-bending antics and writing that the LA Times likened to a “Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler love child…raised by Franz Kafka”. In a style very similar to PKD or Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music, Mieville expertly blurs genre lines in this science fiction crime novel of a bizarrely divided city. The city is one physical space, but partitioned by an otherworldly division so that two cities share the same physical space at the same time. The cities merge & blend, but the residents always stay separate, avoiding eye contact, “unseeing” each other, out of a collective fear of the spooky Breach, the overseers of this crazy sociological experiment. But what happens when a woman is murdered in one city, but her body is discovered in the other? There is not much negotiating with Breach, so the politics for Inspector Tyador Borlu are complicated, to say the least.
Borlu manages to follow the trail back to wealthy Ul Qoma, the mirror city to his poverty-stricken Beszel, and discovers that the murder victim believed that a third city may exist, between the cracks and fissures of the other two. Such a belief will get one noticed by Breach, however – not a prospect anyone wishes to entertain – not to mention that it could get you murdered. A very clever, intelligent, intricate novel that pushes past any set boundaries we have for crime fiction, bringing the reader into that alternate, shared reality that hovers on our peripheral visions.