Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

The Blurb On The Back:

A stranger has come to the city …

The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the centre of the world. Humans and mutants and arcane races brood in the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the river is sluggish with unnatural effluent, and factories and foundries pound into the night.  For more than a thousand years, the Parliament and its brutal militia have ruled over a vast economy of workers and artists, spies and soldiers, magicians, junkies and whores.

Now a strange has arrived, with a pocket full of gold and an impossible demand.  And inadvertently, clumsily, something unthinkable is released.

While the city is gripped by an alien terror, the fate of millions lies with a clutch of renegades on the run from lawmakers and crime-lords, outcast and alone.  The urban nightscape has become a hunting ground.  Battles rage in the shadows of uncanny architecture.  And a reckoning is due at the city’s heart, in a vast edifice of brick and wood and steel, under the chaotic vaults of Perdido Street Station.

A nightmare has come to the city.  And it is too late to escape. 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Perdido Street Station is the main railway station in the city state of New Crobuzon, a vast sprawling metropolis that house humans, wyrmen (small flying creatures with a basic sense of humour and tendency to poo on everything), khepri (women with human bodies and the heads of insects), cactacae (essentially sentient cactuses), vodyanoi (water based creatures), gardua (feathered creatures with the ability to fly) and various other weird and wonderful creatures and hybrids.

Isaac (a human scientist) and Lin (a khepri artist) are lovers who live in the city but who must keep their relationship secret because interspecies romances are frowned on and could see Isaac lose his (already precarious) University backing.  One day a gardua called Yagharek arrives in Isaac’s laboratory.  Having lost his wings as punishment for an unspecified crime, he wants Isaac to find a way for him to fly again and he has a large amount of gold to help pay for it.  Seeing a way to further his own research, Isaac agrees and unwittingly the two set off a chain of events that pose the most deadly of threats to themselves, those they love and all of New Crobuzon’s inhabitants …

China Mieville’s fantasy novel couples dazzling creativity and invention, stunning concepts and a thoroughly imagined alien world with a twisting, complicated plot that draws on numerous strands but is prevented from being truly great by some purple writing, under-utilised female characters some stilted dialogue and a down beat ending that seemed to undermine the characters’ previous experiences together.  There’s a lot to admire in the book – not least the world building with Mieville building a convincing semi-industrial world filled with weird magic, weirder science and a bewildering mass of cultures and peoples that together form a wonderfully realised and believable city.  However Mieville’s prose at times is very purple and the dialogue (especially Isaac’s) is really stilted at times so that I never quite believed in it.  Lin’s storyline unfortunately devolved to give her a standard woman-in-peril role although I enjoyed Isaac and Yagharek’s growing friendship, which is probably why I was so disappointed in the ending when a reveal about Yagharek makes Isaac act in a way that seemed to run counter to their experience together.  That said, I do think this a must-read for fantasy fans for the scope and worldbuilding alone though and will definitely check out the sequel.

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