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.
"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.
"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.
"Great book, struggled with narrator"
I loved the book itself - read it in my mother tongue previously and was keen to see how it "sounds" in English.
The story is very captivating. I was struggling to finish it though due to the narrator - his voice is too sharp, not sure how to describe it. I'm very sensitive to people shouting and sometimes I had to take this book down to half the volume I normally listen to stuff on, due to the sharpness of his voice.
Second book in the series is much better in this respect!
"Iain M Banks meets Charles Dickens"
Stir together Iain M Banks's ruthless creativity and love of random violence, with Dickens' overheated melodrama and grotesque characters, and you have something like China Mieville's Perdido Street Station.
Like Banks, Mieville loves the sound of his own voice. Although other reviewers liked the interminable descriptions of yet another ghastly, depressing aspect of life in New Crobuzon, I thought the story really suffered. This is a seriously long book, 31 hours' worth, and it doesn't really get started until book 3, 15 hours in. It takes stamina and faith to get that far in the hope that something interesting might happen.
It's not as if you can rely on the characters to carry you along. The main protagonist, Grimnebulin, is a shouty bore while the others are so wrapped up in their own misery or so sketchily drawn that you cry out for one person you could actually like or find interesting.
That said, when they get going the action scenes are gripping, and Mieville's imaginative power is truly impressive, although I did suspect, at times, that I was being preached at rather than told a story.
It's a good story, but it badly needs an editor. And if you are looking for something to lighten your mood in the midst of the winter gloom, look elsewhere.
"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.
"A good rendition"
I read Perdido Street some years ago. It still stands up although hearing the narrator voice characters differing to how I had imagined them was initially jarring I was soon gripped again.
"Tour de force"
Stupendous, absorbing, memorable
The city reminded me somewhat of Gormenghast. Some of the overblown, blowzy characters also.
The hero, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, was the most appealing character, although Teafortwo was very nicely rendered
Made me laugh occasionally, made me angry. Made me think.
Epic performance of an epic book
"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.
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