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Book Report: The City & The City

My experience with China Miéville’s stuff was not, I think, usual. I had heard wonderful, wonderful things about Perdido Street Station, and then I read it.

Interestingly, the first time I referred to the book in the blog (May ’04), clearly I hadn’t finished reading it, and was balanced between the annoyances and the virtues. I didn’t blog the thing when I finished it, for some reason, so the next time I refer to it, it’s in the context of another book by another author. At that time (April ’05), I say it’s a book I liked but found frustratingly flawed. This is about the same time that I was evidently surprised by how much I liked the short story “Reports of Certain Events in London”, so it seems that the flaws or annoyances were already uppermost in my mind. Then, by November of 2007, I describe my reaction as more thoroughly negative, saying I did not like it. Didn’t. That was in my report on Un Lun Dun, which I did thoroughly enjoy, and I mean, thoroughly. In italics.

So, as of late 2007, I had formed the idea that I liked one of Mr. Miéville’s books and disliked another. That was based on a memory that was not altogether accurate, but incorrect despite that: if whatever Sources of Reader Pleasure I found in the book at the time had faded in my memory, whilst the Sources of Reader Annoyance had not, I think it’s fair to describe me as not liking the book.

Anyway, that’s where things stood when I started hearing about The City & The City, Mr. Miéville’s most recent novel, and I was not particularly keen on it for that reason. In fact, I had pretty much decided that I would happily read his next YA book, but I probably would not pick up his next grupp book. In addition, the news that he was messing around with the hard-boiled detective didn’t appeal to me (particularly since references wandered between hard-boiled detective, noir and police procedural, meaning that at least some of the people who were writing about liking that aspect had no idea what they were talking about), as if the writer got something I liked wrong, that would be a powerful Source of Reader Annoyance. I actually picked the book up of the New Books shelf at the local public and put it down again, more than once, before eventually taking it home.

So, what I say. My expectations were low. Take that into account, Gentle Readers, because I did read it, and I did move it to the top of my reading list, and I did find it gripping and provocative, and I did enjoy it, and all.

Or that’s how I remember it today.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,