Parallel lives

Have just made a start on this year's Sci-fi / fantasy challenge by reading China Mieville's very brilliant The city & the city. Part sci-fi, part crime fiction, The city is set in the divided city of Beszel / Ul Qoma. More divided than Berlin ever was, these two cities share the same physical space, but are separated from each other. Each "world" is either completely invisible to citizens of the sister city, or is partially visible,  in which case the inhabitants are trained as children to ignore their dopple-city and its impact on their lives. The whole is a sort of amazing riff on string theory.

Set partially in a Barbara Nadal Istanbulish-type world with a hint of Kafka's Prague, Inspector Tyador Borlu gets caught up in an investigation into a murder case that crosses the boundaries of both cities and perhaps strays over the borders into yet another hidden city, Orcinny. As the investigation becomes ever more complicated and the murderer looks as though he's going to get away with multiple homicides, Borlu is forced to risk all to bring the villain to justice.

The whole concept of Mieville's strange world takes a bit of getting your head around, but once you do this it's a great read. Fans of Bladerunner will love it (in fact the whole book is crying out to be made into a film), as will crime fiction fans who fancy something a little unusual. This is the sort of book that, odd as it is, sweeps aside the boundaries of genre, and should be read just for the sheer enjoyment of it.


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