Title: Perdido Street Station
Author: China Miéville
Genre: Gothic Steampunk Fantasy Scifi Horror
Length: 710 pages and lots of words
Read: July 16-24, 2012
Summary: Astonishingly Imaginitive
I am in utter awe with regard to the creativity oozing from this novel.
While perhaps not for everyone, and not perfect, this is a first rate work of fantasy. And I mean that in the broadest sense because the book is set in a unique milieu that is part Dickens, part steampunk, part fantasy, part Blade Runner, part Lovecraft and a whole lot more. As one agent said of my first novel’s early drafts: Perdido Street Station suffers from an extreme case of too-much-ness. It has too many words, too many characters, too many points of view, too much description, too many subplots, too many races, too many kinds of magic, too many villains, too many heroes, too many really really big words, or old words (I had to use the dictionary every couple of pages). Still, it works, even rises to greatness.
Amazing things about this book:
1. The prose: which is highly descriptive, deft, and subtle, building elaborate piles of intricacy out of slashes of words.
2. The main characters: Isaac, Yag, and Lin all have some real depth.
3. The world: is just so creepy, slimy, and cool — although not for the faint of heart. This book is dark. It makes The Darkening Dream seem like vanilla icing.
4. The monsters and the weird: nice and creepy. This is a book where human on bug sex is the sweet part!
5. The clarity: for all its length and bewildering array of everything, the book is easy to follow and read (provided you have a dictionary handy).
6. Imagination: No shortage of amazingly cool ideas, images, races, monsters, technologies, places, etc. in this puppy.
Things that aren’t as strong:
1. Pacing: the masses of description, which while evocative, effective, and downright creepy, are constant and unrelenting. The city itself is a character and this slows things down a bit. It doesn’t drag, but it isn’t lightning fast either.
2. The tangents: there are more than a few here, and not all of them worth it.
3. The minor points of view: A number of characters pop in, have their couple POV pages in the sun, and then vanish (usually into the deadpool). This isn’t always maximally effective.
4. The baroque plot: The story is easy enough to follow, but it does take A WHILE to get going and is not always full of classic drama created from thwarted desire. In fact, the first third or so is distinctly short on that, but is fast paced mostly because the world is so fascinating.
5. Actions of the government and other non-protagonist forces: There are some big chunks in here where the government is trying to do stuff, and only indirectly involves the regular characters. This stuff is less effective because of the emotional disconnect.
6. Deus ex machina: oh-too-coincidental happenings and escapes occur a number of times.
Overall, in the same way that Vegas transcends cheese by way of pure magnitude, Perdido climbs to greatness on the strength of its positives, rising above any petty flaws. If you appreciate flights of imagination, good writing, and the weird, it’s required reading. No question. Not for the square, the staid, the boring, or the grounded who do not at least dream of flying.
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