The City & The City

Michael Moorcock has already said it all, really. A masterful mystery story. A fantastic idea. A very interesting metaphor for city life, for imagined communities, for the barriers ideology places on our vision.

Perfect, you could say.

I'm just not sold on one fundamental world-building point. The Beszel / Ul Qoma delusion is maintained only because "breeches" are brutally punished. And yet the authority that watches the border is human, fallible and has limited resources. The book stresses that most of the work is done by the citizens themselves. I guess I just can't buy that: such a grand counter-factual delusion cannot be maintained under its own steam, and with such a thin coersive policing body. It won't hold together. This would never happen in real life.

And that robs the book of some of its power. What was truly terrifying about 1984 was that every way out of the system you could think of was blocked off. Orwell had thought about his world very carefully, and he convinced me (I should say I read it when I was still quite young) that THIS COULD HAPPEN. It is still the most scary horror story I have ever read.

Back to The City & The City, I wonder if Mieville will come back to this world. There are a lot of questions still unanswered. What is the nature of the "precursor" artifacts? How did the "Cleavage" happen in the first place? Finding out the answers will be very interesting.

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