Day 3: the best book you’re read in the 12 months
This is very hard, and over the last little while I may have mentioned quite a few books I think fall in to this category. In my head, the battle is currently between China Mieville’s The City and the City, and William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. I think that Mieville wins in this case.
As well as being a SF fan, I have long harboured detective-story-love. This doesn’t often get exercised; I am not up on the good, modern stuff; there’s so much SF stuff I want to read that it gets precedence; I just feed it with a bit of CSI or NCIS and I’m basically happy. After reading and enjoying Perdido Street Station, I had no idea that this Mieville story would deliver on my other genre. But it does, and indeed to the point where the SF is so slight (although I definitely think it’s there) that a primarily detective-book lover could probably read this and, after an initial confusion, love it as much as me. It’s one of those books where if you come with SF expectations, you get an SF vibe; if you don’t, you don’t.
Anyway, it’s brilliant. The characters are well-rounded and not flawless; the plot is sneaky and deceptive and entertaining. The star, of course, is the doubled city. This is a place where there are two cities existing in the same place: not like a fairy city co-existing with a human one, but two actual human cities, both on the map, share the same geographical space. But you have to go through customs to ‘get’ from one to the other, and noticing one while in the other… well, that’s the biggest no-no there is. I know, sounds ridiculous, but seriously: Mieville writes it so slickly, so convincingly, that I can almost imagine it working (almost).
This is the book I’ve been raving about for a while, and will continue to do so.