Perdido Street Station

Book Review: Perdido Street Station, China Mieville

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville My rating: 3 of 5 stars

China Mieville creates a wicked, depraved, suffocating post-Apocalyptic society in Perdido Street Station. His words pour forth in a cascade of vivid violence that drips, sloshes, reeks, curdles, and oozes into your unconscious, leaving a slimy path of rotten entrails in its wake. This is a rich pile of steampunk compost, nourishing nightmares and leaving you grasping at 3 a.m. for the light and your paperback, eager to continue his tale.

Mieville's imagination is nothing short of astonishing. He devises a unique Gotham in New Crobuzon, covering every inch with neighborhoods, districts, slums, and stations and describing them in exhaustive detail. His cast of characters runs the gamut from human to computer construct; from gentle, bohemian aphids to soul-slurping moths; from demons whose dulcet tones echo harrowing screams to giant man/birds whose community exacts vicious justice. And I will not soon forget the stream-of-consciousness spewing spider, the doomed renegade journalists, the brave but hapless scientists, and a crazed crime boss who remakes himself into a monster.

The plot? Oh, I won't spoil. I'm not certain that I could- it's so huge and unfocused and unfinished. There is an adventure that sees a sort-of end, but Mieville leaves enough threads dangling to envision a return to New Crobuzon.

My gripe is for the lack of editing. And it's a very big gripe, indeed. Heaps and chunks could have been left on the cutting room floor, to rot away instead of festering along. Mieville shoots down his own intense pacing, particularly at the end, by dragging his reader through a mire of diarrhetic detail. The degree of exposition reads very self-congratulatory and arrogant. Had the author used less space for description, he may have had the time and energy to sew up the holes rent in his plot.

Yet, Mieville's world is intoxicating; not as much as the dreamshit drug his slake-moths crave, but enough to take this tender reader through 634 pages of a genre that is just not really her style.(less)

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Book Review: The City and the City, China Miéville

The City and the CityThe City and the City by China Miéville My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two cities existing in the now and in the beyond; two cities existing side-by-side and within each other, on a parallel plane of time and space but divided by a membrane of rumor, history, and politics, and monitored by invisible forces that hold the citizens of both worlds in a grip of Big Brother fear.

This is a novel that challenges the reader to let go of "Why?" and accept what is: that history can become so distorted it no longer matters; that the present is too much to process, so we condition ourselves to see only what we want; that we follow willingly in the footsteps of the masses before us, because acceptance is easier and resistance seems futile.

Imagine driving down a busy road, encountering cars and pedestrians that you must pretend are not there, but that you must avoid striking; imagine seeing a lover only inches from you whom you cannot look in the eye, whom you cannot touch because they are not meant to exist in the world where you are walking.

Unseeing, untouching, unsmelling, unnoticing is life in the cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma- the former a Balkanesque, drab, downtrodden post-Communist burg of concrete blocks; the latter, a revived and lively secular Muslimesque city of glimmering towers and ancient ruins. They are one and the same but separate, their borders interwoven with crosshatches that are in constant danger of being breached by the innocent, the curious, the ignorant, and the sinister.

In this metaphysical swirl lives the story's anchor and its sanity: Inspector Borlú, of the Beszian Extreme Crime Squad. Borlú, a calm and resigned protagonist without annoying ticks or hazardous vices, is called upon to investigate the murder of a young woman, a crime which may or may not have occurred in his home city. Mieville presents a fairly pedestrian crime drama, involving the familiar plot devices of rival police squads, a plucky partner, red herrings, thugs and corporate hijinks.

It is the possibility of a greater evil, the certainty of disaster, and the bends your brain must take to allow for this parallel world, which so closely resembles our own, that keeps the suspense at the boil point.

This is not my usual fare- modern crime drama with a science fantasy theme- but Good Golly, if it's this well done, I could become an aficionado.

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