This is a very strange, original novel: a modern police procedural/thriller story set in a different world from our own.
The story takes place in Beszel and Ul Qoma, two cities that super-impose one another. It’s not an easy concept to grasp, but the genius of the novel lies in this one idea. The two cities apparently occupy the same physical space, perhaps in different dimensions or simply co-existing with one another with very complicated and “cross-hatching” boundaries. I can’t remember if it’s ever made explicit quite what the arrangement is. Crucially, the citizens of each city have trained themselves not to see occupants of their neighbour city, even if they are mere metres away or – perhaps even in oncoming traffic. In this bizarre world, the ultimate crime is to see across the border and react to what you see – to commit an act of breach. The fragile balance between the two states is policed by the all-seeing secret police force of the same name.
In the city of Beszel, Inspector Tyador Borlu has a murder to solve. The case will take him across the border to Ul Qoma as he unravels the mystery of a person murdered in one state and discovered in the other, with great care taken not to “breach” in the process.
This was my first introduction to China Miéville, my New Favourite Writer. Miéville looks a bit like Grant Morrison in his photo in the book jacket and is fond of describing his work as “weird fiction”, a term coined to describe the worlds of shadowy menace conjured up by the likes of H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen.
I would describe the books I’ve read so far (stay tuned for a review of
His latest novel