Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. Dark fantasy.
I love a big book with lots of worldbuilding, and, well, that’s good, because Miéville never describes anything in one paragraph when he’s got ten pages to spare. Sometimes it’s brilliant; sometimes it comes off as sheer wankery. (He also goes out of his way to be gross, which I found comical after a while: this book contains the word “filth” 49 times and then there’s his hilarious passion for “glutinous”) The story itself–monsters!–doesn’t really get started until page 130, and those are a very long 130 pages. After talking to the person who enthused about this to me, I came to the conclusion that your reading experience will be highly dependent on whether monster stories give you a frisson of horror or not. They work for her; they do not work for me, and without that to keep me on edge, the plot dragged. There’s definitely some cool stuff in Perdido Street Station, but if you read for character, as I do, this is not the book for you. Only two of the characters have anything like personalities; one, Lin, is removed from the story relatively early, and I found the ultimate conclusions of both Isaac’s and Lin’s arcs to be unsatisfying and irritating. (BIG SPOILERS: one exits the book with an act of cowardice, blowing off a comrade-in-arms with a letter when at least a face-to-face confrontation was owed; the other is rescued after long off-page imprisonment, promptly does what she’s told not to, and ends up irreparably brain-damaged. I don’t ask for happy endings, but seriously? This?)
It was not a purer realm that loomed vastly over the city. Smokestacks punctured the membrane between the land and the air and disgorged tons of poisonous smog into that upper world as if out of spite. In a thicker, stinking haze just above the rooftops, the detritus from a million low chimneys eddied together. Crematoria vented into the airborne ashes of wills burnt by jealous executors, which mixed with coaldust burnt to keep dying lovers warm. Thousands of sordid smoke-ghosts wrapped New Crobuzon in a stench that suffocated like guilt.
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