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The City & The City
By China Mieville

Discussed December 2015

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  1. Did you read the book? Did you like it?
  2. What did you think of the deceptive beginning of the book? When did you catch on to the dopplurbanology?
  3. Amazon shelves The City & The City under Fantasy, the author calls it “a crime novel above all,” and Dr. Alistair Brown calls The City & The City “unscience fiction”. What do you call it (or don’t call it)? Why do you think Dr. Brown might label the book this way?
  4. As one of the few books we’ve read that takes place exclusively in an urban setting, did anything about the book’s setting resonate with you and your personal experiences of urban life?
  5. What did you think of the way the book dealt with sight and seeing/unseeing?
  6. Do you think Ul Qoma/Beszel could exist in the real world? Would they operate the same way that they do in the book? Would you visit?
  7. Where do you think Ul Qoma/Beszel is located, and why? Does it matter? Why is the book vague about so many details, such as the cities’ origins and Precursor technologies, and did you try to fill in the gaps?
  8. What did you think of the actual mystery at the heart of the book?
  9. Why do you think Bowden surrenders himself at the end instead of simply walking right out of the city[ies]?
  10. Do you agree with Inspector Borlú’s judgment that the cities should remain apart?
  11. Does Orciny exist?
  12. What happens next? Is Breach really the end of the line for Inspector Borlú?
  13. Is this your first China Miéville book? If not, how do you think it compares to his other work?
  14. Many of the concepts explored by this book, including psychogeography and unitary urbanism, were created and studied by Marxist and socialist artists and intellectuals during the mid-20th century. What does The City & The City have to say politically? How are its politics relevant to today’s discussions of citizenship, identity, and nationhood?
  15. Miéville has said that he intended the book as the final installment of an “Inspector Borlú” mystery series. Would you read previous/future installments?

Cast of Characters

  • Inspector Tyador Borlú: Our Narrator/Protagonist, member of the Beszel Extreme Crime Squad.
  • Constable Lizbyet Corwi: Borlú’s reliable partner-in-fighting-crime and close friend; far more technologically adept than Borlú.
  • Senior Detective Qussim Dhatt: Borlú’s Ul Qoman counterpart on the city’s Murder Team. Significantly more athletic and extroverted than Borlú.
  • Mahalia Geary: The Fulana Detail discovered dead in Beszel. PhD student at the Prince of Wales University Ul Qoman Archaeology program and participant at the University’s Bol Ye’an dig site. Dangerously obsessed with the possibility that Orciny exists.
  • David Bowden: The Canadian writer of the book Between the City and the City, which proclaimed the existence of Orciny. Blackballed by the academic community for decades, he holds an unfulfilling post in Ul Qoma as a Corresponding Lecturer for Prince of Wales University.
  • Yolanda Rodriguez: Mahalia’s good friend, fellow American and PhD student. Vanishes when she realizes how deep Mahalia was in it.
  • Ashil: An avatar of the power known only as Breach.
  • Minister Mikhel Buric: A Beszel politican on the joint-city Oversight Committee that handles cross-city matters and can refer matters to Breach if necessary. In the opposition party (the Social Democrats)
  • Major Yorj Syedr: Leader of the National Bloc, a rightist party in governnment. Known as an incompetent bully.
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