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Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Pan Books, 2000. 867 pages.

Synopsis:

New Crobuzon is a giant metropolis that is inhabited by a variety of sentient species such as humans, khepri (insect women), cactacae (cactus people), garuda (bird people) and many more. It's a grim place, ruled by a corrupt government that enforces its power with the help of a brutal militia. Its technology is characterized by a mix of steampunk machinery and thaumaturgy (magic).

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is a rogue scientist renowned for his unorthodox research methods. When he isn't staying at his workplace, he's living with Lin, a khepri artist. Not entirely comfortable with being in an inter-racial relationship, he keeps her (mostly) a secret. Yagharek, a garuda from the desert whose wings have been cut off as a punishment, comes to New Crobuzon to engage Isaac's services, hoping that Isaac can help him to regain the power of flight. Isaac starts his research and eventually, all hell breaks loose.

My thoughts:

I had difficulties to summarize the plot and I still don't think I did it justice. The universe of Perdido Street Station is as complex as it's unusual and bizarre. I was immediately gripped by Miéville's powerful descriptions. The first one-third of the novel is entirely dedicated to world building and character development, and that's the part I loved best.

My favorite character was Lin. The story of her upbringing by a religiously zealot mother and her struggles with the norms of khepri society make her a fascinating, multi-layered personality. It's a pity to see her disappear midway through the novel. Miéville has lost the chance to create a truly exciting female protagonist here. I would have liked to like Derkhan, political activist, lesbian and close friend of Lin and Isaac, but as soon as the action/adventure plot starts, she's reduced to a mere sidekick.

The weak point of the novel is indeed the action/adventure part. As soon as the problem is developed, everything becomes predictable and there's even some sort of deus ex machina involved. I was glad for the unexpected twist in the ending. It was a bit annoying at first, but it definitely kept me thinking.

Perdido Street Station may have its weaknesses, but overall it's a captivating read. I'm looking forward to the next novel in this universe.

Date: 2010-05-02 04:51 pm (UTC)
shanaqui: Aeris and Tifa from Final Fantasy VII, laughing. ((AerisTifa) Laughter)
From: [personal profile] shanaqui
I found Miéville's work much easier to digest once I'd read one. I loved The Scar, which was the second of his books I read. I knew what to expect, I think, and how to handle it, better that I did reading PSS blind.

Date: 2010-05-02 05:31 pm (UTC)
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatman
I read this a few months back. The Kindle edition was offered free for a promotional period.

It was a good read. I liked the characters a lot. But the book seemed mostly to be an exercise in world-building. It was more a tour of the city, with its various personages, cultures, neighborhoods, etc. than anything. Worth it, though, because there are a good number of each, and they're all well fleshed out.

I don't know what the next book will be like. Exposition and introductions almost always slow things down. Now that we're through that part, will there be more of a plot? Faster pacing? More concise writing? Or will it continue in the same vein, bringing in new characters, going into further depth, perhaps introducing yet more neighborhoods? Or other cities and countries?

Date: 2010-05-02 05:59 pm (UTC)
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatman
I did enjoy that aspect of it. Always cool to see something like that, so new and varied with such depth and thought. But, while I'm not sure what I'd cut out, it did eventually start to feel like it was dragging for me.

I've got a long pile of books (Kindle and paperback) waiting in my to-read queue, but I may check out The Scar.

Unrelated, but I feel like I have to ask: Do you ever dance with the Devil?

Beautiful icon, BTW. :)

Date: 2010-05-02 06:32 pm (UTC)
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
From: [personal profile] hatman
Oh, me too. I used to be able to quote the script by heart. I see its flaws now, but I still love it. Gotham has never been brought to life so well. And it spawned one of the Best Cartoons Ever. And kindled my love for Batman.

Date: 2010-05-02 05:33 pm (UTC)
eagle: Me at the Adobe in Yachats, Oregon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eagle
I thought The Scar was a much tighter and stronger book, although it did for me have the problem of not enough likeable protagonists. I read it first, before Perdido Street Station.

The descriptions were indeed amazing. Miéville did a wonderful job bringing the city alive.

Date: 2010-05-02 06:07 pm (UTC)
eagle: Me at the Adobe in Yachats, Oregon (Default)
From: [personal profile] eagle
I think The Scar was robbed of a Hugo that it deserved.

I just finished The City & The City, and I think it's the best thing Miéville's written yet, although I've not yet read Iron Council or Un Lun Dun. That one's more SF than fantasy, though.

Pardon the threadjacking

Date: 2010-05-02 07:47 pm (UTC)
slippy: ((Los Campesinos!) sounds about right)
From: [personal profile] slippy
A quick warning - Un Lun Dun is written clumsily and I couldn't bring myself to get past the first, say, 50 pages. I enjoyed a handful of Miéville's other books and intend to read more, but Un Lun Dun is very much For Children, or at least that's what he was trying real hard to do with it.

VKZveCKDWO

Date: 2011-07-20 07:44 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That saves me. Thanks for being so sensblie!

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