Perdido Street Station is the second novel published by China Miéville, after the quite brilliant King Rat and again we are within the urban / weird fantasy world. However where King Rat was set within our own fair city of London, Perdido Street Station takes place within an alternate universe of Bas-Lag, more specifically the squalid sprawling city of New Crobuzon.
It's a city standing in the shadows of the towering bleached ribs of an ancient beast, a city where humans, re-mades and arcane races live in the perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal, all-seeing militia. A city where the air and water are thick with factory pollutants and strange effluents of alchemy, where the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores.
The novel follows the (mis)fortunes of the scientist and inventor Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin who finds himself faced with a monumental challenge when the half-bird half-human creature known as the Garuda seeks him out.
I've been itching to read this book since the new year but it's such a weighty tomb that I needed a decent amount of time to devote to it, luckily a suprise holiday provided just such an opportunity and I really wasn't disappointed. Perdido Street Station is the quintisential Urban Fantasy, with a wildly rich and sprawling, living, breathing metropolis of New Crobuzon set against the equally well painted world of Bas-Lag. The city is a unique blend that mixes elements of science fiction with fantasy including liberal doses of steampunk - at times it feels a little like a post-Gormenghast but with strange half-human races and magically "remade" humans that are often part animal, part machine or even part nightmare.
Like one of my other favourite authors (Philip K Dick) Miéville uses very ordinary characters to fill his novels, people who are very far from the muscle bound or pin-up hero's that frequent many stories and yet these otherwise everyday characters do taken on the extra-ordinary and overcome - not through force of arms or beguiling manner but common sense and intelligence, becoming more than they were - the mice that roar. I'd like to say more but I really don't want to give anything away, you would best experience it as virgin as possible.
I don't know of any author alive today who can quite match China Miéville's control of the English language, his wordplay is simply unparalleled - here he also flexes his world building and story telling muscles with the resulting incredibly rich, detailed world and fast paced, twisted plot that really does keep you on the very edge of your seat. When you add the many vibrant and colourful characters the novel becomes one of the best of recent memory.
Written on 12th September 2011 by Ant.
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