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Publisher's Summary

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.

A magnificent fantasy rife with scientific splendor, magical intrigue, and wonderfully realized characters, told in a storytelling style in which Charles Dickens meets Neal Stephenson, Perdido Street Station offers an eerie, voluptuously crafted world that will plumb the depths of every reader's imagination.

©2003 China Mieville (P)2009 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The author of King Rat delivers a powerful tale about the power of love and the will to survive in a dystopian universe that combines Victorian elements with a fantasy version of cyberpunk. Mieville's visceral prose evokes an immediacy that commands attention and demands a wide readership. Highly recommended." ( Library Journal)
"Mr. Miéville's novels - seven so far - have been showered with prizes; three have won the Arthur C. Clarke award, given annually to the best science fiction novel published in Britain…. [H]e stands out from the crowd for the quality, mischievousness and erudition of his writing…. Among the many topics that bubble beneath the wild imagination at play are millennial anxiety, religious cults, the relationship between the citizen and the state and the role of fate and free will." ( The New York Times)

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Ryan
  • Somerville, MA, United States
  • 05-08-10

Almost brilliant

Mieville is a literate, imaginative writer and creator of alternate worlds. Picture a baroque, stylized blend of fantasy, steampunk, and dystopian sci-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.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Steph
  • United States
  • 01-31-13

Stick with it

Rarely have I been so disgusted with a book in the first three chapters. *I wanted to stop listening and if I had it would have been a terrible mistake.* I don't want to give spoilers so I will not say why I wanted to stop. I will say that I kept with it mainly since I had spent a credit and didn't have anymore and could not cope with not having an audiobook to listen to. The book is wonderful and rich with imagery and is a very imaginitive take on society, government, criminal underworld, corruption, and how a blend of science and technology can change everything. John Lee's performance was wonderful and has led me to see what else he has read on audible. This is the first China Mieville book I have read and intend to read more. I would say, however, you truelly have to accept that this is fantasy, this world is not your world, and you can not judge it based off of our societal norms. It is absolutely worth reading.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Cherry
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 06-23-10

Wish I could rate it higher - skipped audio

I really wanted to be able to give this audio book a higher rating because it's a masterpiece. From China Mieville's fantastic, descriptive and dark writing (that I fell for with UnLondon), to John Lee's superb narration this book is just perfect. I seriously couldn't ask for any more. One of dark Science Fiction's best writers and one of the world's best narrators of audio books.

Unfortunately on Part 3 of the audio at 3:30:30 (not kidding) there is a jump in the audio and story. I don't know how much is missing but for such an expensive book I'm disappointed.

I've submitted a report to audible in the hopes this can be fixed and if so I will update my review accordingly.

70 of 75 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • James
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 08-19-09

Brilliant, wonderful book -- horrible recording

This review concerns the quality of the recording itself. Perdido street station is profound and titillating, no doubt.

The recording, however, is terrible. The narrator is proficient and good with characters, but the *editing* of the audio book is inexcusable. I've so far noticed three skips ahead an unknown amount of time, but leaving out important parts of the book. Listeners to this recording who have never read the book will almost certainly finish it quite confused.

Fix this audio book, Audible. I'd like a good copy for the exhorbitant price.

79 of 87 people found this review helpful

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Grand central station at rush hour

China Mieville's Perdido Street Station is a complex, engaging tale set in a universe that defies explanation beyond "inside China's head." The menagerie of character is nearly overwhelming. A physicist, Issac, who takes on odd jobs while unraveling the mystery of chaos energy, inadvertently comes into possession of a creature capable of captivating and consuming a human mind. Meanwhile, his girlfriend who is a humanoid insect has an art commission project with a crime boss who is an amalgamation of multiple living creatures. At the same time, a corrupt politician who runs the city hires an arachnid creature with poetic and artistic flare to hunt the dangerous creatures. In the end a good time is had by all.

Mieville offers a unique blend of fantasy with a patina of science fiction. The bizarre admixture of the unique creatures all living in a sort of Victorian England seems as natural as if standard evolutionary drivers could result in this strange brew of biology and culture. In addition, the range of action from the base cruelty of the crime boss, the comical defense of laboratory chemicals for a police swat team, and interspecies love and affection results in a universe to get lost in.

The narration is first rate with a range of characters that is incredible given both the sheer number and the diversity of intelligent lifeforms. For aficionados of alternative reality fantasy, this is a feast.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Book. Editing Errors

I agree with the other reviewers that story and the narrator and superb. I thought the ending was more than appropriate for this book. What we get is a realistic ending to a fantastical book, rather than some feel-good fairytale conclusion.
Unfortunately, Audible's editors were not so kind to this book. Chapter 18 contains 16 minutes of repeated material, and chapter 46 has approximately two paragraphs cut out. Not a deal breaker for sure, but inexcusable nonetheless.

41 of 46 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great story... ending a bit muddled

Wow, China Mieville can sure write a great story! The fabric of this story is so well described, so well written, I feel I've actually been to New Crobuzon.

Great work. Wish the ending was more upbeat and focused, but no worries. Not all stories are happy ones I guess.

Big gripe... there is a chunk of the story missing on the audiobook. Dunno how much. The main character is getting ready to leave his hideout to save the day, then a skip and a millisecond later he is across town planning with his team. Could have been a missing page or a missing chapter, dunno.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Pricy but "most excellent"

Well I still hate the 2 credit for one book but I read this book years ago and I really enjoyed listening to it and, "in my humble opinion," the narrator is top notch. I actually believe I'll re-listen to this several times.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 01-23-12

Mixed feelings

Wow, did I ever have a time with this one. It was a love-hate-love relationship. At first the book drew me in with the language. I am almost always about writing over plot so I was immediately drawn in by the words and their construction long before the plot even began to quicken. Some has been written about how Miéville repeats certain words and, while I noticed that (for me it was pugnacious and detritus), it was not too distracting. Actually, given that the landscape was usually strewn with detritus and and its inhabitants pugnacious, these were probably the best choices of words. That being said, the words were wonderful. I spent some time with my dictionary.

For me, the physical, steampunk world and the environment of Perdido Street Station were vividly drawn and easily recognizable, its technological content not so much. Atmospherically, it is vaguely 19th century, Victorian but that only a trope; this is a world definitely not that of our own. This is a world of many sorts of alien life that sometimes includes the humans themselves, humans who copulate with sentient, insect-like creatures. While we may not be at all sure about the time, the place is very well constructed.

Actually, let’s just cut to the chase; at the core, this is a story about the love and mating habits of a human (at least I think he’s human) and a vegetarian insect (my imagination had her looking kind of like a cross between a praying mantis and Angelina Jolie) who is an artist and spits a lot. Oh, and also it’s about giant, psychedelic, mesmerizing moths that literally have s#it for brains and that suck the dreams out of everyone in sight and turn them into zombies. I am not making this up. This is what this wildly acclaimed book is about. The sex and the insect wasn’t too bad but when we got to the moths and zombies, I started to wonder WTF was I reading.

Okay, Robert, calm down... Remember Angelina? The artist? I mean, the insect? Well her real name is Lin and she [sic] really isn’t an insect, she’s khepri, uhhh, she only looks like an insect. I guess that makes it better. And the s#it for brains stuff? It really isn’t s#it. It’s only called that. It’s really the moths’ milk. I guess that makes it all better now. Are you confused yet? I would not be surprised. And we haven’t even gotten to The Weaver, the multi-dimensional spider who speaks in torrents of free-verse poetry. The Orkin Man would’a had a field-day here.

It sounds like there’s a lot going on in this book and there is. There just might be too much going on, especially toward the end. While there was no lack of narrative stamina this reader weakened, weakened to the point of nearly giving up. Weakened not out of fatigue but out of a loss of interest. The narrative toward the end seemed to drone on and on. I actually had to get a fix from my fellow reviewers. I plugged into Goodreads, read some of my friends’ positive critiques of PSS, regained my strength and resolve to continue and continue I did to finish the book. I am not sorry that I did. But even in the ending, I was a bit disappointed.

The narrative of the book is all over the map. We have all kinds of contrivances, some biological, some technological. They come and they go almost as suddenly. However, there was one particular subplot that seemed to be somewhat central but for me, very poorly developed. A garuda, a winged creature by the name of Yagharek comes to our main protagonist, Isaac, for help in restoring his (its?) wings, wings which were lost as a result of a sentence passed on to him (it?) for having committed a particular crime. We do not find out what the crime was till the end of the book but it is how our hero, Isaac, responds to finding out what the crime is that seemed so unsatisfying. Something so central to the book here did not seem to me to be sufficiently fleshed out. It was at that point that I realized there were so many other instances of just that incompleteness in the book. Miéville throws everything but the kitchen sink into this novel but never fully or even moderately develops any of it.

While I found the author’s use of the English language often quite wonderful and beautiful, I found nothing terribly unique in construction nor could I identify any particular stylistic invention with perhaps one exception. The way the spider character, The Weaver, spoke was brilliant. The other characters: Meh. The author’s command of the language, the construction of sentences, how they were phrased were competent. I just expected more about that which he wrote. This was not a short book and to have spent so much time on drivel seemed a waste.

If I had to characterize the depth of scope for PSS, it would have to be superficial. Perhaps these characters just had no great depths to plumb, but damn it, I wanted to know more about Isaac and the garuda. How could the author be so incredibly detailed about the landscapes of this world but tell us so little about the psyches of its inhabitants? While I realize this work has received many awards, for me, in constructing it, I do not feel this author worked on it as hard as he could have. I certainly see the tremendous talent of Miéville but I do not believe for a moment he spent that much time particularly on the ending of this book.

In spite of all of the criticism I have wreaked on the book, I’m still giving it 4 stars. If I could, I’d give it 3.5 and give John Lee’s reading of the book 5 stars. As always, Mr. Lee’s narration was absolutely brilliant.

27 of 31 people found this review helpful

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Amazing story, fantastically read.

What made the experience of listening to Perdido Street Station the most enjoyable?

John Lee's reading was terrific and I'm a bit of taken back by many of the bad reviews of his performance. Born and raised in CA, USA I found I had no issue understanding John's British accent. If anything, I felt that it added a welcomed appeal to Mieville's world which ultimately gave the story authenticity and 'life' when read aloud. His stylizing between the different characters worked well for me and eventually they became instantly recognizable through John's voice. His reading gave credibility which matched the book's tone perfectly. I can't imaging the reading performed by an American voice, it would have fallen short. Of the seven titles purchased so far on Audible, John Lee's narration is by far the best. I'm a serious person, I like my literature read with passion, intelligence and sincerity. If you're looking for 'light weight', teen fiction, this might not be for you- the story alone requires you to think, Lee's reading just enhances Mieville's detailed and realized writing. If it helps any, I purchased Hugh Howey's Wool read by Minnie Goode and I couldn't get further than 20 minutes into it due to what I felt was a poor narration full of childish character accents.

What did you like best about this story?

Inventiveness and intelligence woven together in an intriguing story which was masterfully crafted. The world of Bas-Lag is so well developed and fully realized, it's staggering. Mieville makes the fantastic and surreal so believable through superb writing. The richness of his vocabulary and story telling reminds me a lot of early Clive Barker.

Have you listened to any of John Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Not yet, but I just purchased The Kraken and can't wait to dive in.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Anytime Yagharek spoke, specifically the epiphanous last chapter.

Any additional comments?

I'm embarrassed to say that I have had Perdido Street Station sitting on my bookshelf since 2003 and it took me this long to finally get to it via Audible. It's an incredible book, hands down which will stay with you for days after your finished with it. I'm looking forward to reading all 3 of the Bas-Lag novels now. China is truly a gifted writer. If you haven't read him and are a fan of "intelligent" sci-fil/horror/fantasy (or New Weird) you owe it to yourself to check him out.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful