Wednesday, 29 December 2010
New take on twin cities
It's a fascinating book, where the reader is thrust into a strange environment of superimposed cities (somewhere at the edge of Europe) with zero explanation. Gradually, through the careful placement of information tidbits and then more detailed exposition, you build up a picture of how the cities coexist, the differences in their cultures, and the various rules of the two societies. These then become fundamental to the main plot, which at heart is essentially a police procedural crime (murder) novel, albeit in a very different world from our own.
I have perhaps revealed too much here, for Miéville clearly wants readers to know nothing of the setup prior to reading, but I think you can get this much from various Amazon reviews... And, anyway, the premise is so original and intriguing that this in itself is the perfect hook.
It's not a fast-paced novel, with events instead playing out at a pace that reflects the strict bureaucracy of Miéville's world and the police-world in general. The main character is an experienced senior detective from one of the cities, and we follow his efforts to solve a murder tangled with international conspiracies, while having some of his core beliefs shaken. He's a likable, highly competant character, and forms interesting relationships with the various other colleagues, suspects and witnesses he deals with throughout the novel.
The writing is sparse, and the unique urban setting and the characters sketched with broad strokes, so that the novel almost feels allegorical in tone. I admit that I generally prefer novels with more flesh on the bones (and more attention paid to character), but I was nevertheless engrossed by this book and its ideas. I would recommend it to anyone who likes something a little weird and doesn't mind working a little harder than normal! I'm definitely up for another Miéville novel; just need to decide which one!