The City & The City
by China Miéville
This extraordinarily proficient fantasy involves a film-noire police procedural in the Eastern European city of Beszel. The odd thing about Beszel is that it is divided, not by a Wall as was Berlin but by cosmology: Beszel intersects and, in places, cross-hatches the faery city of Ul Qoma. From childhood, the citizens of Beszel learn not to wander accidentally into the parts of town that belong to Ul Qoma and not to see the buildings, parks, cars, and people that belong to that other city. It’s the eternal Balkan crisis turned on its head and spun like a top, but now the body of an apparent prostitute turns out to be a graduate student from Ul Qoma, and the Poliiczai has an international incident on its hands. Miéville does a fascinating job of building an entirely authentic and delightful mystery in this spectacularly fantastic world, rendering it plausible and even gritty, and quietly using that mystery to explore the limits of mystery and the borders of fantasy. Nominated for a Nebula and shared the Hugo with The Windup Girl, this book deserves everything it’s won and more.