Perdido Street Station

December 29th, 2005
This entry is part of 1 in the series Bas-Lag
  • Perdido Street Station

This book has been a massive blockage on my booklogging activity, so here we go. I’ve got a firm time-limit, and I’m gonna get it posted, and then maybe I can continue with the (now massive) backlog of reviews over the next few days. The first book of China Miéville’s that I read was the second he has set in this world, The Scar, and I found it deeply engrossing in it’s weighty tone, unique setting, and florid prose, but had problems with its dismal (and often poorly developed) characters and utter lack of functional advance in the plot. The characters spend hundreds of pages scurrying about busily only to have quite literally accomplished nothing at the end of the book. Apparently, since Perdido Street Station actually came first, The Scar was just more of the same from Miéville. This book was oppressively dark in tone and content, beyond the nature of its plot. Miéville seems to revel in visions of corruption, sickness, and unrelenting decay. He does well with the action sequences, and he has some astonishingly deep world-building material, here…but he puts his (at best) barely likeable characters through absolute hell only to net massive loss for themselves and a questionable benefit for the citizens of the repulsive city-state in which the story is set. What it reminds me of, most, is a setup book from which a role-playing game is intended to develop. There’s even a completely inexplicable “race,” described in extensive detail, that is only used in one particularly stupid scene and could (probably should) have been excised by an editor as being completely extraneous (if you can’t guess which I mean, it’s the (rot-13) Unaqyvatref). Really, I think under-editing is the chief offense here…it could have whipped his bruise-purple prose into shape and fixed a lot of the problems with the story. I know this book is considered by many to be a “contemporary classic” or whatever, but I just can’t give a general recommendation for it. I can tell it’s going to be/has already been highly influential, though, so if you want to see some of where the new stuff will be coming from, you might check it out.

2 Responses to “Perdido Street Station”

  1. Lynn S says:

    I have read both books. (in order) They are very dark, dreary and often repulsive with not a single truly likeable character in either book but still, I found them fascinating and I look forward to reading more by Mieville. I love his prose, his use of odd and obscure words. It’s almost too beautiful for the kind of stories he writes.

  2. Skwid says:

    There’s no doubt that the man has a thorough grasp of the English language. I’m a passable imitation of a walking thesaurus, but Mi?ville surely sleeps with his and takes in words through osmosis…

    Thanks for posting, Lynn.

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