First, I'll look at China Mieville and know deep in my bones that he can kick my pasty ass.
So... no. I didn't like it. But that's just me! Stop pummeling me!
The City & The City didn't JUST win the Hugo award last year. It won LOTS of awards for genre fiction. And, more importantly, it won the hearts of the book club I'm in. Several excellent gentlemen of my acquaintance including my inestimable BFF Bookmonkey got behind this book in a big, big way.
And I picked it. So... I'm glad they liked it.
From my perspective, it's the bleak, empty tale of a tormented city where everyone is indoctrinated from birth to NOT SEE half of what exists. Complex rules separate into two what is actually one environment. If you breach the rules you wind up in the Breach where you become a Breach and angrily police the Breaches. (Although not made entirely clear, you probably wear breeches.)
Again, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE this is a frustrating, gloomy, meandering, intentionally ambiguous story with unappealing stock characters and a downbeat ending providing zero emotional catharsis.
That said, I ALSO think this story is like the Dagobah cave Yoda shows Luke in Empire; what is in there is 'only what you take with you'.
Upsettingly, I now suspect I have no soul. Certainly no imagination.
I don't like what it says about me that I don't appreciate being forced to THINK or make up my own justifications for a book that doesn't make the effort to explain itself plainly to a dumb guy like me.
But I concocted a moral lesson for myself which (funnily enough) I DO like, paraphrasing what this book MIGHT be saying:
"Social betterment cannot be attained where arbitrary ideological barriers are enforced."
Or: the other guy has a point, too.
Next time on Mike's Best Blog Ever: Something with a flying car, for frak's sake.