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..Show More » 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.
Mieville is a literate, imaginative writer and creator of alternate worlds. Picture a baroque, stylized blend of fantasy, steampunk, and dystopian sci..Show More »-fi, the sort of work that might result if Charles Dickens, Neal Stephenson, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and Guillermo del Toro decided to collaborate. Mievelle's New Crobuzon is sprawling, grimy city reminiscent of London circa 1890, populated with all kinds of strange races (in addition to humans), each with its own unique physiology, culture, and way of reacting to the techno-magical "modern" world.
Mieville's universe is colorful, messy, and grotesque (if you're weirded out by the human-non-human romance described early on, stop reading), but has a seriousness that makes it engrossing. Characters struggle with relationships, careers, politics, racism, and moral dilemmas, even as they face conspiracies, extra-dimensional monsters, crime bosses, and a police state government. Thrown in are musings on scientific/magic philosophy and machine sentience (though the latter has been handled more interestingly by other authors). There's a lot going on in this book, to say the least. Fans of Neal Stephenson will appreciate all the meta-reflection.
Unfortunately, there's a little too much going on. Towards the end, the intricate plot snowballs under its own momentum, and both characters and themes get buried in the tumult. The last third races through battles and some grandiose, technobabble-heavy confrontations between higher-order beings, before arriving at an oddly deflating epilogue. I can't help but think that Mieville, with a little more editing, might have come up with a last act as involving as the first one, and completed his characters' personal journeys in a more memorable way.
Still, it's an impressive novel, and one that a lot of speculative fiction readers will enjoy for its writing, imagination, and audacious scope.
Damian Lynch couldn't ruin one of my favourite books for me, but he gave it a real go. He stumbles and brachiates through the sentences as if each one..Show More » were a tongue-twister (although, to be fair, it IS Miéville), reading nouns as verbs and verbs as nouns and not really betraying any understanding of what he's reading. Perhaps the most troubling part is that a disturbing number of these errors, even when picked up on and re-read by Mr Lynch, have not been edited out (I counted five untouched gaffes in one unhappy half-hour), possibly due to the soporific monotone in which the story is read. China Miéville is one of my very favourite authors, and I'm quite sad to see Mr Lynch has been further involved in the presentation of his works, not least of all because, of those books, The Scar would seem to be the MOST hospitable to Mr Lynch's tendency to give every character with an accent a Caribbean lilt. Susan Duerden's performance of Embassytown was vastly superior, and I'd hoped I'd get to hear her as Bellis Coldwine. No such luck. Boo.
“For every action, there's an infinity of outcomes. Countless trillions are possible, many milliards are likely, millions might be considered probable..Show More », several occur as possibilities to us as observers - and one comes true.”
- China Miéville, 'The Scar'
At some point there was an infinite number of possibilitites with this novel. This is the follow up to Perdido Street Station, book 2 in the Bas-Lag/New Crobuzon trilogy. There are chapters and lines and threads of this novel that contained amazing prose, brilliant ideas, funky characters, compelling themes, etc. I loved the motifs and themes China used: possibilities, scars, home, books, politics, community, etc. But there were also just too damn many pages. It could have been edited better. I'm not shy about books over 500 pages, but I don't want to read a 600+ page novel that really is just a fat 400 page novel.
Also, someone (a puissant editor, perhaps?) should have told China to stop using the word puissant (or its variants) and gout (gouts of water, gouts of blood, gouts of pleasure, gouts of relief, gouts of binding energy, gouts of smoke, gouts everywhere; enough gouts to form a trip or a tribe). Unless you are Cormac McCarthy (and there is only one CM) you need to be VERY careful when dropping the word gout casually in a novel. A reader who is paying attention is going to allow a word like gout or puissant to pop up just a few times in a novel that is 600 pages. Once you start dropping it in almost every chapter it practically begs the reader to start snickering or slap their forehead.
Finally, Miéville seemed unembarrassed by his use of steampunk cliches. He seemed to drag every single New Weird/Steampunk cliche into the light and wave it like an ensign. Obnoxious. But still I liked the novel. Hell, there were hours at a time when I REALLY enjoyed it. I devoted a few days to reading it. I loved its potential, and my review is just me letting off some steam (ba dum tss) about it not living up to what I hoped. I will, eventually, read his other books. I just don't feel compelled to read Iron Council tomorrow.
So, I was hoping for another: Perdido Street Station - 5 stars And I didn't think it was equal to: Embassytown or The City & the City - 4 stars. For me at least, I felt the same let down after reading Kraken - 4 stars (but maybe 3).
But hell, the guy still has managed to turn out better SF than most. Miéville's bottom stuff (that I've read) is way more compelling than a lot of the genre stuff out there. It was infinitely better than Cherie Priest's Boneshaker. Seriously, I had to bell, book and candle that piece of steampunk garbage. Only time healed those stupid steampunk wounds and I still have the scars.
This book seems to end the trilogy...and it is as fine a piece of literary work as the other two. Mr. Mieville seems to be able to put more imaginati..Show More »on and originality into a paragraph of science fiction than most contemporary writers manage to put into a novel...or an entire series, many of them. Although each novel in this trilogy can easily stand on its own, each one remains linked to the other two, even if the connections are not obvious. Each is well done, with fine characterizations and solid story lines. Each is a bit of a tragedy in its own right. But if they lack "happily ever after" endings, those endings evolve from the realistic interactions of the very human acting characters. Mr. Jackson's narration was first rate.