Sunday, May 31, 2015

10 Minutes About: "The City And The City"

I have been trying to find a good blog or podcast about books, and it doesn't seem like there is a good one out there.  Not one I really want to listen to or read, anyway.  There are blogs that mention books and some of them are good (yes, yours, Andrew) but they're not exclusively about books the way some sites are about celebrity gossip or movies or such. There's a whole bunch of sites that talk about pop culture and which don't hardly ever mention books.  About the closest I can come is Buzzfeed's Books Feed (which means wading through pages of quizzes about which One Direction Harry Potter's Cat I am) or IO9, which only occasionally has books mentioned (about once a month, by my count.)

I bring this up because it's harder and harder to find books that I really want to read, and to read about books in general when I don't feel like reading a book.  And I find so few books that are really worth reading that I need as many sources as possible to find them.  

I found out about the book I'm reading right now, The City And The City, by China Mieville, through (I think) an IO9 article about scifi books for people who don't like scifi, or close enough to that.  They had Slaughterhouse-Five on there, which made my list of the top scifi books ever, and people forget that book is scifi.  So I read the list, and saw The City And The City on there, and the recommendation was something like "by the time you figure out what's going on, you won't even mind it's science fiction," which is a coin toss of a recommendation for me.

Books that make you work to figure out what is going on can either be phenomenally great (like my book Eclipse, if I say so myself), or can be incredibly stupid and offputting, like Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, one of the most overrated writers I've ever been suckered into paying money for a book from.  (I think that sentence makes sense? I wasn't sure how to end it.)  I was going to buy this one book recently because the review sounded good: a team of people goes into a forbidden zone and has to try to figure out what happened to the previous 12 or so teams, but then I read the Amazon reviews of the book, and many, MANY of them mentioned how it was really difficult to figure out what was going on, and not all of them seemed like they were saying that in a good way.  So I ended up never buying the book (and now I can't remember what it was and I don't want to use the 1:50 left in my 10 minutes looking it up.)

The City And The City isn't like that, at all.  It's confusing, but in a great way.  I got sucked into the story right away.  It's a murder mystery but it takes place in this weird city, Besz, and as the investigation starts there's a lot of talk about unseeing and crosshatching and various other terms getting thrown in, all of which slowly move the reader away from this is a murder mystery in a foreign city to hmmm what's going on here?  (My first guess was that they were all characters in a painting but I think I'm wrong about that, now that I'm about 25% through, and I don't currently have any guesses except that I think "Breach" might be an actual alien.)

That's 10 minutes.

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