Monday, June 15, 2015
10 (more) Minutes About "The City And The City"
Or possibly it did. One problem with reading as slowly as I do is that it can be hard to keep track of stories after a while. I used to reThe City And The City I read even more slowly than that. So it's possible that early on in the book there were enough clues that one of the culprits was involved and more careful/quicker readers might not have been disappointed by the feeling like this part of the conspiracy was sort of pulled out of China Mieville's butt.
ad much more quickly, but these days I'm often so tired, as a result of raising the boys or my job or my asthma or all three combined, that it's hard to focus on stuff that's dense or requires a lot of thinking. So I read books more slowly and books like
The thing about mysteries is that you have to give the readers the clues to solve them, even if I, personally, never can solve them. I admit I am an annoying person to watch a cop show or mystery with, or read a mystery book with (as Sweetie and I do in our private book club.) I always suspect everyone. I am naturally suspicious anyway and kind of paranoid, and when you tell me that there is a murder or something and that someone (even a fictional someone committing a fictional something) did it, I trust nobody.
Which means two things, here. First, I naturally assume everyone who appears in a story is the killer. And then I suspect the person least likely to be the killer, like the protagonist, or his elderly mom, or whoever. Then I suspect the person most likely to be the killer on the grounds that I'm reading too much into this and obviously the person who is obviously the killer is, well, obviously the killer.
So there's that. But there's also then the fact that if we make it to the end of the mystery, as I did with The City And The City, and the bad guy is revealed, and I'm saying Huh? Who's that? then the person was too hidden, because I'm not that clueless, to have forgotten a major part of the story.
So the killer and his or her henchman have to be revealed at some point in the story and made just a big enough deal of that you could have, if you wanted to, figured it out. You can't just have the main character brush by a guy in a hat or something on page one and on page 457 say It was the hat guy all along.
NOTE: There are no hat guys in The City And The City. I'm way past the spoilers.
So that was how I felt when a part of the mystery was revealed: a bit cheaped out, like the time I watched The Bone Collector and you had to pay attention to the opening credits to know who the killer was. WHO WATCHES THE OPENING CREDITS? NOBODY. Not me.
The rest of the book, though, was incredible. The concept ended up being far less sci-fi and far more fantastic or speculative fiction. In fact, I wouldn't call it scifi at all, and I think the people over at IO9 or whoever made the list I saw it on (I got it from a list of scifi books that people who don't like scifi should read) were wrong. Calling the book scifi makes you think there'll be aliens or spaceships or time travel or something. There was none of that, and the idea that the book was scifi made me sort of expect that Breach (which is a sort of superpolice in the book) might be aliens, and I entertained many similar theories about what was going on -- when, had you told me the book was merely speculative fiction instead of scifi I would've been just fine with it. The book was not scifi, at all; it was instead a superclever story about two cities that co-exist in and around each other, with people living in each forbidden to know anything about the other, so they 'unsee' the other city all the time, and the way that concept plays out in the book made what would've been a pretty good mystery story into a phenomenal one.
That's 10 minutes.