Wednesday, 30 October 2013

China Mieville

I have just come across a new writer - to me that is.  China Mieville (excuse me, but I can't get the "e-acute" I require to spell his name properly) is already a multiple award winner in the genre of SciFi.  This does not even do him justice though, because his books defy being put in one genre.  In fact I read somewhere that he once set out to write a novel in each of many different genres.  What put me on to him was a recommendation to read "The City and the City".
This is a detective noir novel with a difference set in a divided city.  It could be reminiscent of Nicosia, or Berlin, or Belfast, but it is a deeper picture than those cities.  In China Mieville's book the city is not split in half geographically - it's two communities live cheek by jowl and totally intermingled.  How such existence has been made to succeed is that one community deliberately "unsees" the other.  Your next door neighbour may be from the other city, but you don't "see" him, and to go to his house you have to go through an immigration point in the centre of the two cities, at which point you are allowed to "see" the other city to your own.  This apparently satisfactory means of living together is strained when a murder takes place in one city, and the body is dumped in the other.
Mieville's books stretch the imagination, but uncannily still give a believable picture of the possible result of human stupidity (or is it ingenuity?).  I have just finished my second book of his - "Embassytown".  This novel examines the impact of human culture on a totally alien culture by means of a scifi setting.  It is a challenging read that portrays a completely different culture where the beings have two mouths and so speak in a way impossible for a human being.  Though twin ambassadors are created to overcome the problem of communication, things go terribly wrong as the Host (so called) become addicted - or corrupted - by contact with human speech.  The novel deals with language and its complexities - the Host speak Language, and cannot lie.  But once they become intrigued by the possibility of telling untruths, they are on the way to a crisis in their culture.
I am looking forward to reading more of his books, and his extraordinary imagination.  Try him yourself.

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