The City and The City was my first Miéville book to make it to my TBR pile, but I’ve got Bad News. It’ll be awhile until my TBR stack will see another Miéville…
I’ve found it wanting, mostly. It seemed like an ambitious exercise that was poorly executed. For the most part, it’s a withered novel, and the story suffers as a result. There’s not a lot of world-building, and in an existential and fictionalized world, it takes away from the reliance of these places. It just seems like a run-of-the-mill crime novel in an extraordinary location. The main character, Borlu, suffers from chronic lethargy and a lack of personality. The other characters, namely Corwi, were bland nothings. Simple as that. He tried to stay away from the usual cynic that we see in the best Crime Fiction, but left me seeing no personality. Borlu was more a vehicle than anything. There are lots of gaps between me and what he was trying to communicate. His made-up words, without either defining them or including them in a context that might have implied their meaning is what creates the abovementioned gaps. I kept wondering whether he had established a SFictional vocabulary in other books. In every great book there’s always a dividing line between a writer’s understanding of their own ideas, and the readers’ grasp of that same ideas. Good writers manage to offer cognizance over that line, without actually stepping over it. Not having read anything from him before “The City and the City”, I’m not sure what to think. At the end of the day, I didn’t care about the world he had conjured, because it seemed only half thought-out.
Another pet peeve for me was the fact that he kept spelling out the main themes of the book in the dialogue of his characters (a really, bad, bad literary device in my book).
Concept wise is the only point where Miéville scores and he scores in a big way (3 stars for that). Unfortunately cool ideas are not enough to make a book.
SF has a lot more to offer than being just okay. I can’t see how it won the Clarke Award, I sure don’t.