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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Perdido Street Station

by
China Miéville


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Perdido Street Station



Title: Perdido Street Station
Author: China Miéville
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000
Length: 710 pages
Availability: Perdido Street Station - US
Perdido Street Station - UK
Perdido Street Station - Canada
Perdido Street Station - India
1. Die Falter and 2. Der Weber - Deutschland
Perdido Street Station - Italia
La estación de calle Perdido - España

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Our Assessment:

B+ : impressive fantasy

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Spectator . 6/5/2000 Michael Moorcock
TLS A+ 1/9/2000 Edward James


  From the Reviews:
  • "This is an astonishing novel, guaranteed to astound and enthral the most jaded palate. It is exhilarating, sometimes very moving, occasionally shocking, always humane and thought-provoking. Its exuberant and unflagging inventiveness, as well as the strong narrative, keep up interest throughout, despite its length." - Edward James, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Perdido Street Station takes place in New Crobuzon, a large metropolis, teeming with life (and death), in an alternate world Mieville has conceived. Technologically it's not entirely as advanced (in most respects) as our own. It's also not the most pleasant of places:

     New Crobuzon was a huge plague pit, a morbific city. Parasites, infection and rumour were uncontainable.
       A variety of sentient species populate the city, including humans, khepri and cactacae (more insect- and cactus-like, respectively), and a spider-like being known as the Weaver. Not satisfied with what nature allows there is also a great deal of experimentation with so-called Remade, beings punished by being organically or mechanically pieced together, or remade in some way to serve particular needs.
       The central figure is the human Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, nominally still affiliated with the university but in fact working, not too successfully, on his own as a scientific dabbler. He is having an inter-species relationship with Lin, a khepri (with "their women's bodies, their insectile heads"), but it's when another creature comes with a commission for him that his life really changes. Yagharek, a garuda whose wings have been removed (for some terrible crime he committed among his own), approaches Isaac with the hope that the scientist can get him airborne again. It's exactly the sort of job the scientist can't resist.
       Meanwhile Lin gets a commission of her own. She is an artist -- a sculptor with an unusual technique (though a natural one for khepri) -- and she is hired by underworld boss Mr.Motley to immortalize him.
       Miéville introduces this fantastical world well, without painstakingly describing each element as it appears but rather offering it as what it is: the way things are there. Details are, where necessary, fleshed out, but a great deal is left to the reader's imagination, a balance which the author, for the most part, strikes well.
       It's a wild, dark world in which all this takes place, and Miéville vividly presents this varied urban setting: as in the great city-novels of London or Paris or New York, New Crobuzon is a big part of the story, as much (and as varied) a character as Isaac or Yagharek or Lin.
       Mieville also displays a sense of humour throughout -- though it generally is also darkly tinged, as when Isaac sees:
the weed-choked forecourt of his local, The Dying Child. The ancient tables in the outside yard were colourful with fungus. No one, in Isaac's memory, had ever sat at one of them.
       There's also a rather touching love story in Perdido Street Station, between Isaac and Lin, which Mieville very effectively (if somewhat ruthlessly) prevents, for the most part, from becoming too sappy.
       The story also unfolds nicely in that Mieville doesn't always do the obvious. The story takes several turns before the central storyline is reached, and that is followed by some unexpected twists in the resolution.
       Isaac's experiments with flight lead to the introduction of yet another species to New Crobuzon: so-called slake-moths. These are bad, bad creatures and they have to be stopped. As something explains to Isaac:
The outcome is straightforward. Unchecked, the prognosis for bloodlife in New Crobuzon is extremely bad.
       The slake-moths are also quite remarkable creatures, without practically any vulnerabilities. They are not readily stopped, in particular because of their ... dining habits.
       It's up to Isaac and his motley crew of acquaintances to save this world, of course, and Mieville makes it a fairly interesting contest. Isaac's work with crisis energy ("it's in the nature of things to enter crisis, as part of what they are" -- a notion that seems pretty self-evident in this book) finally comes to fruition, and a few convenient (if also dangerous) allies are found. The outcomes are open to almost the very end -- though Mieville, in a bit of a letdown, doesn't opt for one of the truly daring possibilities.

       Perdido Street Station is a long book, which doesn't get straight to the point (or the action), but for the most part that's for the best. It's generally the more focussed scenes -- Isaac's experiments, Lin's art, the garuda's pain, as well as the glimpses of the other life-forms and -styles -- that are the most interesting. Much of the action is good too, but parts do also bog down in the predictable and simplistic, and there's some disappointment that Mieville doesn't take some of the risks he could.
       Still, this is an impressive achievement and an entertaining read, a very solid and memorable fantasy.

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Links:

Perdido Street Station: Reviews: China Mieville: Other books by China Mieville under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author China Miéville was born in 1972.

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© 2003-2011 the complete review

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