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.

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This review was done with a book borrowed from the library.
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