Are There LGBT Characters In: The City & The City by China Mieville (rapid review)

Title: The City & The City

Author: China Mieville

Rating: 4/5

Are there LGBT characters? No. But there’s no romance, in general, in this book. Sexuality as a whole plays an extremely minor role in the story.

Brief summary / book review: In a vaguely defined area in Eastern Europe, Inspector Tyador Borlu of the city of Beszel investigates a murder. But his investigation takes him to Beszel’s sister city, Ul Qoma, but the two are more than sisters. They occupy the same space, the same geography. But to be in one city and to notice the other is to put you in Breach, a mysterious force that lies in between the two cities.

The story was a little tricky to pick up at first, even knowing what I knew about it. The way the two cities interact was vaguely defined at first, and remained so throughout the book, but that is, I think, by design. It’s much easier to project yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions on a hazy portrait than a sharply defined one (hence the success of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, for example). It isn’t subtle about being an allusion to how we find ways to ignore things that are staring at us in the face every day (e.g. how often do we walk past the homeless and pretend not to see them?), but that’s not really a shortcoming, either.

It’s more noir than it is fantasy, but as Mieville himself said in an interview with Random House Reading Circle:

All the best noir — or at least I should say the stuff I like most — reads oneirically. Chandler and Kafka seem to me to have a lot more shared terrain than Chandler and a true-crime book.

It is a dream-like book, all blurred edges and half-visions, with the occasional sharp edge designed to jolt and surprise.

About the ‘Are There LGBT Characters’ series of posts: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBT books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBT characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.

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