I can’t remember the last time I took this long to finish a book.  Perdido Street Station by China Mieville is one hefty book, heavy on the politics, heavy on the messages (subtle and no-so much) heavy on just about everything.  And don’t get me started on how much of a sesquipedalian China is.  Oh you don’t know what a sesquipedalian is?  Well Imagine having to look up at least two new words every couple of  pages throughout a 650 page novel.  At least the Nook has a built in dictionary.

China is known as somewhat of a “Thesaurus writer”, and just to be clear the connotation of the word sesquipedalian is somewhat pejorative and I want to be clear that Mieville is not using big words to make you feel stupid.  In fact, he uses words that are just as complex as the world he has invented is.  It is this that makes him such a brilliant writer and one that I will continue to follow.

I’ve reviewed a China novel before; EmabassyTown which I will, one day, revisit.  I have also read Kraken (which was my first of his novels).  Some say that Perdido Street Station, his second published novel, is bristling with too many ideas that China himself couldn’t readily keep track of and control on the page.  I don’t know if I agree, Kraken had several characters that were introduced for a brief period and somewhat dropped, these characters I enjoyed more than some of the main protagonists of the book itself.  Now while Perdido st. does have a zillion and one things going on all at once, China is creating a world that you’ve never encountered before, with it’s own politics, it’s own stench and vibrancy that all the things he creates, introduces and sometimes drops all make up the tapestry that is New Crobuzon.  Think of someone trying to introduce the creation of NYC without trying on some level to incorporate it’s rich history, slums, rich and vibrant areas, parks (the good and the shady) the towering edifices of engineering genius vs. the dark subway tunnels.  It would be a lot to cover, but when all is said and done, you’re walking the city streets with the characters.  That is exactly what China has done here, he has created a world like non-other that I have ever experienced.  If you think the Star Wars Universe or the Potter Universe is something .. just wait till you read about New Crobuzon.

Perdido Street Station is a novel set in a steampunk-esque, London/New York squalor world of Bas-Lag.  Here is how China describes it, ” New Crobuzon was a huge plague pit, a morbific city.  Parasites, infection and rumour were uncontainable”.  You want a true-to form, history including time-line description head on over to wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Crobuzon  I can’t even begin to describe it and do it justice.  The novel follows several characters, at the heart of it is Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin.  Isaac is a scientist, a little off the wall, a little crazed but a likeable guy.  Fat.  Like really fat.  China describes him as “big and detumescing” (cue Nook dictionary, basically Isaac is at the point of bursting he’s so fat.  In another passage he is described as a dirigible).  Isaac is in love with, and having quite the time doing the nasty with a Lin.  It’s gets interesting right from the get go with this couple; Lin is a Khepri.  A Khepri is a creature with a human body and an insectoid head.  Yep.  Much akin to Umberto Eco’s description of the Abby wall in In the Name of the Rose, this is where China challenges the reader saying; “if you can’t handle this, stop now, it’s only get’s better from here”!  Lin is an artist, Khepri’s eat these colored berries and then regurgitate or “spit” out a mucus like – web like substance from which art is made; the biggest deal is that it comes out the back of their “head” so they create art in a very distinct way.

So while Lin is contacted by a very dubious individual for her creativity, Isaac is contacted by someone for his knowledge of the “science/magic” known as thaumaturgy.  Isaac is not a thaumatury himself but he knows enough about it that this is where I crammed in that bit of info.  Isaac’s patron is Yagharek who is a Garuda (think bi-pedal Hawk with a huge ass wingspan).  Yagharek’s wings have been taken from him as a punishment for a crime he committed against his people and he wants Isaac to get him to fly again.  In Isaac’s research on crisis energy and flight he enlists the help of a variety of underworld denizens to get their hands on anything having to do with aviation.  He gets a hold of a grub like creature, that when it grows and escapes; the whole city goes in a tizzy (even getting the governments panties in such a wad that they call on the help of Demons from hell, they say no as well to help).  What it is, is truly amazing.  The remainder of the cast and the rest of the action is palpable.

As I said before, there is a lot !!! going on in the pages of this novel.  The world is full of aliens and subterfuge, politicians hiding their corrupt dealings with the gangsters.  I didn’t even get to the remades; people and animals mechanically (and painfully so) reconstructed into (sometimes pragmatically used) grotesque amalgams of other things.  Or the constructs.  Or the psychedelic spider who has a penchant for scissors, tic-tac-toe and stream of consciousness poetry.

Needless to say, this is one to read folks.  As for China Mieville (I’m not saying anything new here) is a phenom writer who other novels I will be reading and reviewing in the future (as I get to them) and you should too.

By the way, after reading this novel, you may end up walking backwards with a mirror attached to your head so you can see behind you; that way the nightmares can’t get too you!

Enjoy,

and I’m stealing (hopefully with his graces) a line

Be fecund!!

the professor 🙂

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