BBC Two is set to adapt China Miéville’s The City & The City into a four-part series written by Tony Grisoni whose screen credits include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Young Pope (for all you Pope Zone fans). The series will star David Morrisey, best known in the United States as the Governor on The Walking Dead, as Inspector Tyador Borlú investigating a murder in the two cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma that occupy the same space. A synopsis:
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
Of all of Miéville’s adult novel, The City & The City may be his most approachable. While still have his trademark high concept fantasy elements the author leans less heavily on it then his Bas-Lag series (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council) or his other novels King Rat, Kraken, and Embassytown in order to include elements of thriller and mystery. Miéville also tends to love his big vocabulary, often using words out of fashion or unknown that requires a close reading in order to discern its context. The City & The City is a good entry point for this style of writing for his adult novels but readers may want to turn to his Y.A. novels Un Lun Dun and Railsea if his other novels are too much of a slog.
China Miéville has often been considered a champion of the New Weird, a literary genre intending to move away from traditional fantasy ushered into popularity by J.R.R Tolkien, going as far as to call in his fellow writers in 2004 to “try and come up with some different themes,” “unconventional monsters,” and to “use fantasy to challenge social and aesthetic lies.” Then in 2009, though he says “it doesn’t follow the substance of all the criticism is baseless” he lists five reasons why one should praise Tolkien. His latest novel, The Last Days of New Paris was released in 2016 along with a children’s book titled The Worst Breakfast. His non-fiction book, October: The Story of the Russian Revolution comes out on May 9th, 2017.
Joshua S. MacDougall can be found on twitter @FourofFiveWits