The City & the City

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 April, 2010, 12:00am

The City & the City
by China Mieville
Pan Macmillan HK$108

China Mieville is a shining star of the British science fiction scene. He creates worlds that seem utterly familiar and yet, in their fleshiness, noise and steam-driven urgency, are defiantly alien. The City & the City represents a detour from his quite astounding novels (Perdido Street Station, The Scar) set in a fictional world called Bas-Lag. This universe is recognisably eastern Europe in the second half of the 20th century, albeit one viewed through a prism of J.G. Ballard, John Le Carre and Franz Kafka. A brutal murder takes place in the grim Balkan city of Beszel, and Inspector Borl? is assigned to the case. As the clues begin to make less and less sense, Borlu suspects the killer may originate in Ul Qoma. This is not a separate city but one cross-hatched and co-joined with Beszel in another reality. The citizens of both are aware of the other, albeit peripherally, but are forbidden to interact. When Borlu begins to explore the more affluent Ul Qoma, he suspects a plot of the most twisted kind. Mieville has created the strangest, most compelling thriller for years. You will marvel, you will turn the pages and when you get to the end, you will want to start it all over again.