Angel’s Adjectives: Ponderous and prim
China Mievelle has a reputation as a fabulous writer, and yet, reading this book, I got the impression that people loved it because there’s an intellectual (physics) concept at its core, and thus, reading it makes them intellectual by extension. Not.
Mieville has a good command of the language, and this is the only book of his I’ve ever read, but it takes forever to get going. He spends the first half of the book trying to explain his idea of two cities that occupy the same space in an existential anomaly caused by the fact that the residents of one city ignore the existence of the other (most of the time). Admittedly, it’s a cool concept, but I got it. I didn’t need it pounded and re-pounded into my head. At a certain point, I started wondering if he had no faith that his audience would understand such high-falootin’ concepts.
Mieville has a talent for world-building, but creating an interesting and strange location isn’t the same thing as telling a good story. The city and the city are the main characters of this novel. Everyone else (the people) take a back seat to them. It’s almost masturbatory how he keeps going back to descriptions of the cities and how they work. I wanted to say, “Tickle me, not yourself.”
The action doesn’t start getting interesting until, literally, halfway through the book. He almost lost me several times, but I’m stubborn, so I saw it out. I believe he’s British and British television has taught me that Brit sensibilities are different from American tastes. They seem to be more forgiving of stories that drag and repeat the same message over and over again.
On the positive side, the ending was perfect for the character, although I never felt his loss. It could have been much more poignant if the main character had been more three-dimensional to me. He never quite got there, and I didn’t believe he truly gave a damn about his relationships because the author gave them cursory glances from time to time, but never took me into them.
I cannot say that I enjoyed this book, and that makes me sad. Maybe I’ll try another of his and see if one of those holds the key to why he’s so revered as a writer. This novel can’t possibly be the reason.
I read the audio version of this book, read to me by John Lee.