Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Your Town [Review: The City And The City]

We are living in a golden age of TV adaptations of science fiction and fantasy books. Hot on the heels of The Expanse, Altered Carbon, Man In The High Castle and American Gods comes a new series based on Good Omens, a new version of War of the Worlds set in the era of WW1, and more. Right now I'm enjoying the BBC's miniseries based on The City and The City, possibly my favourite China Mieville novel.

I regret never posting a review of this novel, I may need to re-read it after watching the series and may write some more about it. I did write this blog back in 2010 about C.J. Cherryh's novel Wave Without A Shore which features a similar conceit - societies that choose to live as if they cannot see each other.

The City and The City is a traditional detective story, set in two interlinked cities, Besźel and Ul Qoma. The Besźel tourist orientation video above sets out the scenario nicely - and you should watch it, it could save your life. The plot reminded me of The Bridge - the body of a murder victim is found across a border, under circumstances that bring together the police forces of both cities and leads to conspiracies within conspiracies. The series stars David Morrissey as Besź detective Borlu, and relies heavily on deep colour grading and depth of field to differentiate between the two cities - one is always out of focus.

This is also a great example of a fantasy concept that refers to many situations in real life. One of the things I love most about London for example is that it contains many more cities than just Besźel and Ul Qoma - hundreds of nationalities, communities and active subcultures some visible, some just out of focus; also without taking this post too far into political waters Besźel and Ul Qoma bear similarities to post-Good Friday Northern Ireland and to other conflicted or disputed lands around the globe.