Thursday, 6 May 2010

'The City & The City' - Del Rey Reader's Circle Questions...


Not so long ago, my wife started up a reading group in our street where a whole bunch of people would get together and chat about a book that had been selected the month before. The group is still going strong although we don’t go anymore (people weren’t too interested in reading books about zombies, can’t imagine why…)

Reading groups are great for any number of reasons and publishers have been getting in on the act for a while now, supplying questions (in the books) that will open up discussion. I’ve already read and reviewed China Mieville’s 'The City & The City' but the Del Rey ‘Reader’s Circle’ edition came through the post the other day and I thought it could be cool to post a few of the questions that were in the back of the book (avoiding spoilers where possible) to see what people thought. Apologies to those of you who haven’t read the book yet! The questions are only really going to make sense if you have…
Here goes…

…China Mieville says that he considers ‘The City & The City’ “a crime novel above all.” Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not?

Try to think of the novel primarily in science fictional or fantasy terms instead of as a crime novel. Is there any evidence that the novel falls into either of these categories? How would looking at the novel from these perspectives change your perception of the story?

Mieville calls the crime novel “a kind of dream fiction masquerading as a logic puzzle.” What do you think he meant by that, and how does ‘The City & The City’ measure up to that definition?

Why do you think that Mieville… calls this novel an ‘anti-fantasy’? What does this term suggest to you? Do you agree that it describes ‘The City & The City’?

If I get a spare moment I’ll pop back and leave my thoughts next to the post, not promising anything there though… In the meantime, what do you think? Comments please!

2 comments:

Errant Knave said...

I've been thinking that there need to be more fantasy crime novels. They're my favourite genres. That doesn't mean the fusion will work, but I wouldn't mind having some options in bookstores.

Your 9 1/4 review akes me think I should look this one up.

The Evil Hat said...

This timing's kinda suspicious, seeing as I just reviewed the City and the City over on my blog. For the questions (and these answers have quite a few SPOILERS):

(China Mieville says that he considers ‘The City & The City’ “a crime novel above all.” Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not?)

Not at all, really. I think that the crime is important in that it's a breach of the social boundaries/rules that govern the novel, but I don't think that it is the defining event by any stretch of the imagination.

(Try to think of the novel primarily in science fictional or fantasy terms instead of as a crime novel. Is there any evidence that the novel falls into either of these categories? How would looking at the novel from these perspectives change your perception of the story?)

Well...that's exactly how I looked at it, so not much. I simply don't see how The City and The City could be expected to function without at least the guise of its speculative elements. As a crime novel, it's about someone who breaks a tradition that's too ridiculous to ever really believe in. As a fantasy, it's about someone who breaks a rule of nature that we gradually realize is merely arbitrary and man made. You end up at the same place, but only one allows (me) suspension of belief to any degree.

(Mieville calls the crime novel “a kind of dream fiction masquerading as a logic puzzle.” What do you think he meant by that, and how does ‘The City & The City’ measure up to that definition?)

It's an interesting definition, as, no matter how seemingly messy the mystery, there is always an underlying order to the bizarre events around it. I'd say that it could apply to The City and The City quite well, but only if one mangles Mieville's meaning a bit. This is, after all, a novel about what is almost a collective delusion (the unchangeable nature of our own perceptions), which has strict rationalizations underneath it.

(Why do you think that Mieville… calls this novel an ‘anti-fantasy’? What does this term suggest to you? Do you agree that it describes ‘The City & The City’?)

As is no doubt obvious by now, I agree completely. The City and The City undermines just about every expectation most go into genre novels armed with, but it does so in a way that relies on them precisely as much as it subverts them.

Thanks for posting these, they're some interesting food for thought for those of us who have a different edition.