Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none—not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory.
Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger.
While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger—and more consuming—by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon—and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes.
©2000 China Mieville (P)2011 Audible Ltd
"China Miéville's cool style has conjured up a triumphantly macabre technoslip metropolis with a unique atmosphere of horror and fascination." (Peter Hamilton)
"It is the best steampunk novel since Gibson and Sterling's." (John Clute)
As a fan of Sci Fi and Fantasy fiction I have been interested in reading a China Mieville book for some time, I read the young Adult oriented Unlondon and found it too young for me so thought I'd give this one a go which has been well reviewed. I just found it to have no real dramatic thrust and the characters were quite unclear and unengaging to me, the author spends most of the time describing the detail and minutae of the world which I'm sure appeals to some readers but I wanted more attention on the story and characters and ultimately found it disappointing.
"Flawed. Overlong. Masterful."
This book badly needed a more authoritative editor. The description passages are far too long. The author uses words like "bathetic", "vertiginous" and "solipsistic" where they're not needed. Space spent on excessive detail could have been spent extending the ending, which is perfunctory and unsatisfying and does almost none of the main characters justice.
Why, then, have I given this verbose, poorly-ended book five stars? Because it's a thing of beauty. A truly unique fantasy work, breathtakingly creative and lovingly realised. It contains one of the most distinctive settings you're likely to find, one of the most genuinely affecting relationships I've experienced in speculative fiction, and some of the coolest characters and monsters anywhere. The world of Bas-Lag is brilliantly complete and endlessly surprising; dark and unpleasant yet fascinating. It's somewhere in between science fiction and fantasy (I would describe it as retrofuturist fantasy), and it's changed how I think about both. The plot, up until the last couple of hours, is coherent and engaging, and twists and turns with an unpredictability rarely seen. It's definitely political, but not excessively so. It's marvellous.
Sometimes a bad ending retroactively ruins the whole book, or film, or game, or at least permanently tarnishes your appreciation of it. Not here. When I finished this audiobook yesterday, I was annoyed at the ending, but I'm definitely glad I went along for the ride. Jonathan Oliver's narration fits the tone of the writing brilliantly. In places, it has an excess of drama to match the excess of verbosity, but when the writing is more measured the narration really shines, and his voices are great. I especially like the way he voices the non-human characters, particularly Lin.
I've never written a review for audible this long before, but I wanted to make my complex feelings known. If you like speculative fiction, Perdido Street Station offers something unique. Try it out!
The City of New Corbuzon is a remarkable creation and the author manages to pack a lot of it into the novel. His journey takes the reader from the cultures highs (of which there are not too many) to its lows with a wealth of well imagined characters and locations.
The story itself starts a little slowly but I felt the author used this time well to develop his world. Once going it is a good story with plenty of alien monsters to keep a run of the mill sci fi geek like me wanting to know how it ends. But for those that want more form a novel there is plenty of stuff going on behind the story to keep you thinking.
Initially, I just couldn’t get used to the narrator, I found him overly dramatic and slightly annoying but after a short while it just worked and he was an excellent choice for the book. His characterisation was excellent and he managed to develop individuality while maintaining their alien persona.
At times I did feel the book strayed a little so the author could introduce yet another alien or location which weren’t really necessary. The book could easily have been several hours shorter without losing too much of the plot.
"Over-egged and under-edited; strangely addictive"
Well this thing will definitely give you a run for your money. The writing is often horribly clumsy, but sometimes hits a lovely precise perfection.
As with Embassy Town, the best bit is the set-up. Here we learn about the huge roiling vibrant messy city of New Crobuzon, and the engaging protagonists of the story. I could have done with even more of this stuff.
Then the action starts, and while the author's amazing creativity goes into overdrive, the character development is sacrificed to the needs of the plot, and the protagonists do all sorts of things that don't really make internal sense. The prose gets larded and encrusted with excess verbiage, and the whole thing generally turns to custard (still quite tasty). I just wish he'd had an old-school editor (Diana Athill would have been ideal) to stop him using the word "pugnacious" more than three times a page, making detours totally irrelevant to the plot, and things of that nature.
The text makes huge demands on the narrator, and Jonathan Oliver does an inspired job.
In short, it's a baggy old mess, but still vastly entertaining.
"You'll want this one."
You may have read the odd HP Lovecraft story in which our protagonist gets somewhat overwrought by the unspeakable horror lurking on the threshold before, presumably, succumbing rather messily.
These unspeakable, indescribable horrors are all very well, but what we really want is for some brave soul to step up, grab tendril and have a damnably good gander with the magnifying lens. Adventure does indeed have a name, it's China Miéville.
This is the book that keeps giving: just when you think there can be no further inventiveness another big idea smacks you between the eyes (or ears if you're on the audio book).
A crippled bird man is desperate to fly again. He arrives in the sprawling metropolis of New Crobuzon searching for Isaac der Grimnebulin, a scientist he is convinced will find some means of restoring him to the sky. Isaac, profane genius and life and soul of the party, puts the word out he needs flying things to study. He receives something particularly nasty. It all kicks off, and Isaac resolves to kick back.
It's like a rich, dark flipside to Discworld. It's stuffed to the gills with interesting, meaningful characters, extraordinary monsters, and events that put the big screen to shame. It's mind-bogglingly magnificent.
Jonathan Oliver's reading is grand too and he is a fine fit for the book.
"Slough of pugnaciously ineluctable ululation"
...which is insufficiently etiolated. Know what I mean? No, of course you don't, I just wanted to use some of CM's favourite words. He is a bit of a show off with his vocabulary, but this is rendered less impressive by its frequent repetition. Undoubtedly this author has a ferocious imagination, and he is very skilled indeed in painting brilliantly evocative linguistic portraits of the dark cityscape, the characters and events in his epic tale. On the downside, however, this mammoth tome runs to 31 hours of rather ponderous listening, and you end up fervently wishing that he had some rudimentary editing ability. Never use one sentence where 20 will do seems to be his maxim, and you get the sense that the author is having a much better time than the listener/reader. Self-indulgence stuff, a rich and very indigestible meal of a book – if someone is going from point A to point B, you will get every single detail of their journey, everything they saw, everything they thought, everything they ate. If CM was a movie director, a two-hour film would be eight hours long. Things seem to get going about 15 hours in, but then it meanders off again into whimsical musings. There are some splendid sequences, but far too much plodding detail in between. This is the second (and last) of China Mieville's books that I have tried, and failed, to enjoy.
"Brutal sci-fi with blood, gore, grime and intrigue"
The world created by China is a brutal, hopeless place powered by sweat, steam and magic. It's species are a motley crew of freaks and impossibilities who's interactions feel real and reflect our worlds cultural issues. Not for the faint hearted, and flawed in some ways, (the use of blunderbus guns struck me as odd in a world with such complex mechanics that thinking engines are possible someone might have invented a more effective handgun!) But pedentary asside a great yarn.
This is the first China Mieville book I've read. I'm a massive fan of 'weird sci-fi' and this one completely fit the bill. The scale of this novel is breathtaking and I would recommend it to any fan of sci-fi and fantasy.
"Brilliantly performed, fantastic story"
The narrator was excellent and 'humanised' many of the weirder elements
A mix of horror, Dickensian poverty and epic weird fantasy.
Pronounces the most bizarre words with ease, different voices for lots of characters, enthusiasm and immersion
The ending was quite moving (if not expected)
"Too weird for my blood"
This was part of the Dragons & Jetpacks book club Ultimate booklist challenge. This was recommend by a member of the club as one of their favourite books.
I have never read anything by China Mieville before so I approached this with an open mind.
This is weird fantasy, and it is WEIRD. A little too weird for me, as I enjoy high/epic fantasy and recently the Grimdark fantasy.
The opening introduced us to the main character of the book, and I had little connection with him. As the first chapters progressed I hoped that this was just a small intro and the main characters would be introduced. Sadly this was not the case.
I did not get on well with all the weird creatures. The sexual deviancies just turned my stomach a little (human having sex with a human female with a scarab head = gah!).
The story was a little too long and I believe it could have been cut down by roughly a third to make it more enjoyable and less like a chore.
I had the audio version of this book, and the narration was fine EXCEPT for the exceptionally long pauses after each sentence. That really got on my nerves and maybe this caused a negative reaction to the start of the book.
While I am please I read this book, I do not think I will continue with the series. It was just a little too weird for me. I will stick to the Epics.
"An epic book, well performed"
Where to start?!
This is one BIG book. Sprawling might be the best word to describe it. At over 31 hours, it took me a couple of months of on-and-off listening to get through it!
I'm in two minds about whether the book would have been improved by a harsh edit. There is much description that is superfluous to the plot and Mieville seems to delight in using language that is arcane and impenetrable, but that may well be half the charm of the book. The story did seem to take a long time to get started, but in conjuring the world of Bas-Lag the author has created a richly detailed and compelling backdrop.
The plot of the novel cleverly weaves together elements which seemed unrelated at the outset. The ending was satisfying, in that it felt suitably authentic. A fairy tale 'happily ever after' would not have worked. Peril is faced and ultimately overcome, but not without cost.
Having invested the time in this novel, am I likely to revisit the other books set in the same universe? Probably - but not before I've cleansed my mental palette with several pacier and less demanding reads!
The reading, by Jonathan Oliver, was excellent. Character voices were all distinct and immediately recognisable and seemed to fit well - even for the somewhat alien races who inhabit the story.
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