I was excited by this at first. It reminded me of China Mieville's "The City and the City" and I thought the alternate history stuff had definite potential. At first the writing seemed exciting as well. Lot's of unexpected comparisons to liven things up. I also was interested in the chess angle. As the book got past about the halfway point though I started to feel dissatisfied. I felt that the idea of plot with the unblemished cow and the location outside of the district wasn't that exciting and felt kind of cartoony. I also was getting kind of tired of the characters. They also kind of felt unreal. Particularly with Landsman I just kind of started feeling that both his degeneracy and his turnaround were ridiculous. Lastly, I felt disappointed with the chess angle. It was always kind of hanging around the story, but there wasn't really that much to it, and the ending with the puzzle seemed anti-climactic both in terms of the explanation of the solution and how it tied into the plot. I do wonder if my experience didn't suffer some from reading this right after a Faulkner novel that I thought a lot of. This is definitely much lighter material and perhaps I judged it unfairly. Still, as I mentioned, at first I thought it would be better than it was.