To navigate the city, you have to unsee as much as you see.
If you actually encountered the city for what it was, you’d be unable to use it for anything, much less live in it. Great myths and human tragedies on every corner, unfurled histories along each broken-down street and sidewalk — almost all of which you have learned to ignore, nearly subconsciously, in order to walk to the grocery store or the bar.
China Miéville’s book is a carefully observed novelistic treatment of the minute-by-minute, step-by-step experience of living in a city: of the discipline, decision-making, and rejection of empathy required for an individual to treat a city as an environment. Its detective mystery plot, antifantasy trappings, and weird kinship to 1984 rocket the book from start to finish. But the what’ll stick with you is the vocabulary it generates for making sense of the city visible and invisible.