Customer Review

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, but needs editing down by at least 200 pages., 19 Mar. 2001
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
That said, the dark, almost medieval atmosphere is conjured up most effectively and the idea of a world like our own, but gone strangely awry, is undoubtedly compelling. The inhabitants of the City have an understanding of "chymistry" and physics akin to that of a modern day alchemist and ally this with "thaumaturgical", i.e. limited magical or supernatural power, to achieve their idiosyncratic technology. This peculiarly employed and strangely dated technology, and the cumbersome ways of achieving many of the things we take for granted, are intriguing. Mieville has also come up with some inspired life forms to populate his city: the Kephri and Weaver are particularly evocative. The man sized Garuda are also an interesting development of a classic myth and restoring flight to one who has lost his wings is a central theme in the book. However,how do you get past the old schoolboy problem of angels: where are the muscles to power their wings and how can all that weight ever be lifted?. That may be a bit pernickety, the real flaw is that the ideas in the book are over stretched. Far, far too much space is devoted to constant reference to places: it is intrusive and completely unnecessary. The map at the beginning is a bit of a giveaway and re-affirms my suspicion of any science fiction book that needs such a detailed geographic map to guide the reader. Places and scenery should be generated by, and flow naturally from, the passage of the characters through the narrative, as they do in a "Snowcrash" for example. The topography should be secondary, rather than dominant, yet one feels that for Mieville the map and the names and the rail lines are an end in themselves! Many readers are going to find themselves skipping over repetitive and superfluous descriptive passages. The book would be a far better one if less rein were given to this grandiose world designing and the plot was allowed to flow a little better. Perhaps Perdido is intended to be the setting for a series of novels; if so, maybe the plot and the characters should be allowed more space on the stage and less time and room be devoted to the backdrops.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Jan 2010 12:01:36 GMT
Mr G says:
I gave up on flicking back and forth to the map after about 50 pages and don't think I lost anything. I agree with the general thrust of this review that the book could have done with some editing, but I disagree with the point about too much time being taken to describe the places. I think Mieville is trying to create a sense of place, and I think he succeeds. That's no trivial achievement where the place in question is a fantasy city.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2012 15:41:04 GMT
Clem Feeney says:
I haven't read this book but I'm seriously considering it having enjoyed "The City and The City" personally I can remember reading short sci fi stories that manage to describe whole imaginary worlds well-via, as J Thompson rightly says, "the passage of the characters through the narrative." On the other hand I recall reading Stephen King's uncut version of "The Stand" while keeping a map of the USA handy.
The City and The City did not need a map, and in that book the City was pretty much the lead character, which leads me to suspect that this novel would be somewhat weaker than the later one. Am I right?
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