Perdido Street Station Book Review Delanyesque Science-Fantasy novel
- Just read this book which IMHO is of great interest to Delany fans---not a
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (Macmillan, UK, Mar 00)
16.99UK hardcover ISBN 0-333-78172-4
China Mieville, author of one previously published dark fantasy novel, King
Rat, a very distinguished debut with a contemporary London setting as the
backdrop of a clever reworking of the Pied Piper legend, now ventures into
far more phantasmagorical realms with his sophomore effort, a science
fantasy epic so astonishingly good I can't praise it too highly!
Perdido Street Station is set in an urban-gothic fantasy metropolis of
Crobuzon, sprawling and seething with weird technology and thaumaturgy and
teaming with diverse inhabitants of all sorts of human and sentient
non-human persuasions. Magical and 'steampunk' technology co-exists, there
being Babbage computing engines, coal-powered robot 'constructs' and an
underclass of biomagically 'Remade' victims of harsh judgements who may be
part-machine, part-animal, or wholly horrific.
The plump, eccentric amateur scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is
approached by a visiting Garuda---a winged being now stripped of his wings
as punishment for a crime he commited amongst his own kind (about which he
is taciturnally reticent), who hopes to buy back the power of flight. The
resulting research project produces an unforseen concatenation of monstrous
consequences in which a deadly horror is unleashed---so powerful is it that
even the demons of Hell are too frightened to fight it (declining when New
Crobuzon's corrupt government begs help from the ambassador of the
It is up to Grimnebulin and his rag-tag group of cronies to do what they
to deal with the flying terror, these protagonists including: Isaac's khepri
lover (a sculptress from a hybrid human-bodied/scarab beetle-headed
insectoid race); Yagharak the garuda; a gutsy lady reporter for a viciously
supressed subversive newspaper; the clandestine group-mind of New Crobuzon's
constructs; a secret traitor; a gangster-for-hire; and the Weaver (a truly
unique giant intelligent spider with uncanny dimension-spanning powers).
Mieville's writing skill is such that he makes all this fit together in a
feat of imaginative creativity, devising a truly original setting of
Heironymous Boschean decadent complexity and atmosphere written with stylish
expertise equal to any of the masterful works of Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe or
Mervyn Peake or Samuel Delany.
Here are thoroughly dimensional
characters, quirky and flawed and utterly believable whether human or
non-human or mixed. Here is a background of dazzling intricacy, rich in
gothic atmosphere, bizarre cultural diversity and 'local color'. Here is a
wildly exciting and thrilling plot that relentlessly grips the reader and
never lets go until the unexpected ending. (But be warned---there is a lot
of totally appropriate contextual darkness here, some non-gratuitous
gross-outs, and plenty of true-to- life cursing).
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ!!!
Perdido Street Station so splendid, so vivid, so clever (Mieville's use of
terms such as garuda and khepri from our own global mythic heritage to evoke
imagery), one hates for it to end (at 700 plus pages it leaves one craving
for more!), awestruck by its refreshing and ingenious approach to fantastic
fiction. This extraordinary tour de force of the imagination deserves the
highest awards and encomiums! What wonders will Mieville gift us with next?
His talent should be nurtured in order to continue to enrich us all!