Customer Review

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deep in the Dark, 17 Mar. 2003
This review is from: King Rat (Paperback)
For all the many words and apt phrases that Mieville uses, there may be only one word that describes Mieville's works: dark. All of his novels to date have this sense of being written at the bottom of a dank, odiferous, and pitch-black well, to where the tiny bits of color that he allows shine through like the sun after a cloudburst.
For this, his first work, he confines himself to the comparatively mundane setting of underground London, underground in both the physical and slang senses of the word, as we follow the story of Saul Garamond, heir apparent to the King Rat of Pied Piper fame. From the sewers to the rifling of garbage heaps for dinner, Mieville delights in offending your hygienic senses while enticing you with glimpses of a musical sub-culture that is just as strange to the average person as the rarified air of sub-atomic research. Bringing the characters of the ancient fairy tale to life is no small task, and Mieville succeeds admirably in the persons of King Rat and the Pied Piper himself. The Pied Piper comes across as a truly sadistic being, as shown by his actions, though at one point he specifically denies that characterization, while King Rat is easily identified with as the whining, downtrodden person who can never quite reach his goal of revenge. Their conflict is very real and very understandable, couched in a thousand years of remembrances of wrongs done, and is an effective mirror of all too many human interactions.
What is not so well crafted is the character of Saul. His reactions to the impossibility of the reality of King Rat, or to the murder of his father, come across as much too accepting, reactions that no normal person would have. But it is even hard to judge just how close to normal Saul is, as his background, his emotional makeup, his normal life are only sketched in before being plunged into the midnight realm of rats and sewers. The emotional impact of this book would have been greatly enhanced had Saul been given much more development prior to the start of the fairy-tale action. The secondary characters are also given short shrift, and as these characters have important roles to play in the final outcome, this once again subtracts from the full power this story could have had.
For a first novel, this is excellent, already showing signs of Mieville’s imposing command of the English language to evoke mood and feelings, but the necessary cohesiveness between story and character that would make this a great novel is lacking. Still a very entertaining read, worth the time and effort, and very much recommended before tackling his later works of Perdido Street Station and The Scar, where he shows how much more he can accomplish.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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Location: San Jose, CA USA

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