The City & The City by China Mieville – Audiobook Review

The City & the City by China Mieville, narrated by John Lee
Published in audio by Random House Audio
Published in print by Del Ray, an imprint of Random House


When a young woman is found murdered in Beszel, a city-state somewhere in Eastern Europe, detective Inspector Tyador Borlu finds himself pulled into a mystery with sticky inter-and trans-national implications, forcing him into the ‘neighboring’ city-state of Ul Qoma, in order to solve the crime before he becomes the next victim.

Thoughts on the story:

I absolutely adore the world that Mieville created in “The City & The City.” An outside observer would say that Ul Qoma and Beszel were one and the same city, but the residents and governments of the two city-states would soundly disagree. Since the two were meant to be different countries, although they were geographically intertwined, residents of one city could not interact with – or even admit to seeing – residents, buildings, vehicles, etc. of the other city without first crossing the border and visiting the other city. This made for a fascinating aspect of the story with all of the un-seeing that everyone was forced to do, and allowed the addition of various radical groups vying either for unification or more complete separation of the two entities. The disparities between the two cities was also very interesting, with Ul Qoma booming and Beszel flailing, but attempting to lure in new investment. It was, of course, the murder investigation that drove the story, but, although it was well done, I just wanted the chance to live in and explore this world.

Thoughts on the audio production:

John Lee has earned himself a place on my ‘narrators to follow’ mental list with his narration of “The City & The City”. As confusing a plot as Mieville put together, the audio could have easily been a disaster, but Lee narrated confidently and clearly, treating the oddities of Beszel and Ul Qoma as common place. Additionally, I am forever indebted to him for an idea how how to pronounce the names of people and places in “The City & The City.” If I had attempted the print version, I think that I would have spent an inordinate amount of time attempting pronunciations in my head.


I love, love, loved the story, and loved the audio. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Audible: Audio (download)
Books on Tape: Audio (cds)
Powells: Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*
Amazon: Print*

This review was done with a book borrowed from the library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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19 comments to The City & The City by China Mieville – Audiobook Review

  • This sounds marvelous. I’ve made a note of John Lee since a reader can make or break the audio book.

  • I loved this book too! I’m surprised it worked so well on audio because it is such a complex story, but it is great to hear that the narrator did such a good job. I was just so impressed at the originality and the way he made those weird worlds seem believable. It is great to know you enjoyed this as much as I did.

    • It definitely could have gone either way due to the complexity, and I you really had to pay attention, particularly at the beginning, but I think the narration lent an air of legitimacy to the world, which really helped bring it to life.

  • You are really into the audio production of these books!! I love that you have favorite narrators. Now, I just need to try to get into them too!! 😀

    • Let me know if you want recommendations! This one requires a lot of concentration, so might not be good if you’re just getting into them. Re-reads of books you’ve already loved can be a good way to learn to listen.

  • I know I’ve listened to John Lee as a narrator before, and now I have to go try to figure it out…

    Ahhh. The White Tiger. Yes he was REALLY good. Well, you know I can’t pass up a good book that is a good audio. That is the beauty of a huge whopper of an iPod. I just keep loading them on.

  • I’ve heard really good things about this one and I really have to get around to reading it. Glad to hear the audiobook was well done too!

  • I’m not a fan of audio books (never really can find the time to listen) but I think I’ll get this for my commute — I loved TC&TC and I think a good narrator could only improve it!

    • I can’t just sit and listen to audiobooks, but they are a godsend for me on my commute, when cleaning, and when doing really mundane tasks at work. Actually, though, the Mieville books I’ve been listening to lately have been so good I find myself laying down, playing Sudoku on my phone, and just listening.

  • I wasn’t too crazy about Mieville’s earlier works (Perdido Street Station, The Scar) so I’ve mostly ignored his newest releases. Sounds like I should give this one a try though!

    • This one is less sci-fi-y than his other stuff (I think, I haven’t read his earlier works), the only surreal aspect is really the thing about the two cities un-seeing each other. Maybe you’d like him better with his genre switch-up?

  • Great review. I’ll have to check this one out, I haven’t read anything by him but I have Kraken on my shelf.

  • I want to read this book. Actually, I want to listen to it. Your review has made me very curious, but what set me over to the “I want” side is the narrator. I just finished listening to a book that John Lee narrated, A Feast For Crows, and I was very much impressed by him. I hear you about name pronunciations. Lee has helped me greatly there. I realized that after reading three prior books in the series that I was mis-pronouncing several character names. Oops. Anyway, he is fantastic narrator.

    I agree with your comment that doing a re-read of a book that is loved is a good way to get into audiobooks…to learn to listen. I am finding that audiobooks is a great way to spend my time while commuting my 30-50 mins. one way to work, and while doing housework.

  • Amy

    I read this and loved it. I should check and see if my library has the audio.

  • John Lee is on my list of go-to narrators too.

    After your review and listening in on twitter, I think I need to give this one a try.

  • This one has really piqued my interest although I think it’s one I need to make sure I’m not trying to read when I’m getting tired. Seems like it might get a tad confusing for the drowsy reader.

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