The City & The City
, China Mi?ville?s seventh novel, is a well-nigh perfect work of literature. We all know Jarrell?s adage that a novel ?is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it?; true to form, there are problems with Mi?ville?s book, as well, but the overwhelming success of the books as whole, the staggering originality of its ideas and the success in pulling the whole thing off, this lifts the novel far beyond many of its contemporaries. Like much of Mi?ville?s work, it displays a firm commitment to genre, but it?s hazy about the kind of genre that is foregrounded here. At the same time it?s a police procedural, a hard-boiled thriller and a fantasy novel, with links and allusions to science fiction (without every really becoming a SF novel), and it uses the advantages of each of these elements to their fullest, to create an insightful work of art that is too complicated, ultimately, to be reducible to a message or a simple resolution; the latter being its main flaw, by the way, but we?ll return to this. Suffice to say that I urge you to read The City & The City
, even if (maybe especially if) you have not been able to take to Mi?ville?s work before despite the prodding by friends or literary critics. China Mi?ville, the only three-time winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award so far, shapes up to be the most dominant writer in the field of speculative fiction, and despite the fact that The City & The City
is smaller in scale than most of his other novels, it is a great example why he is so important, so well-praised and so extraordinarily successful. He proves himself to be as adept a creator of original concepts, as he is an insightful reader of other texts. His texts, and The City & The City
maybe more than the others, appear to be the result of what Emerson called ?creative reading?, on the one hand, and a careful, aware and thoroughly critical reading on the other. The City & The City
is not Mi?ville?s best book, but it is a masterpiece, and not a minor one, and China Mi?ville is a masterful writer.