Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon 1) Paperback – 6 May 2011
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A well-written, authentically engrossing adventure story, exuberantly full of hocus-pocus . . . Miéville does not disappoint. (Daily Telegraph)
A work of exhaustive inventiveness . . . superlative fantasy. (Time Out)
Brilliantly imaginative urban fantasy on a colossal scale from an award-winning author.See all Product description
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But it's not fantasy as you know it. Mieville, as always, bucks the trend and sticks every middle finger and tentacle up at fantasy stereotypes. You won't find elves here, instead finding humanoid insects and living, breathing cacti.
Mieville's worldbuilding and prose are dense and at times difficult, but I did not once find myself tempted to stop. There's a distinct danger of attempting to read the book cover to cover, something I'm not sure is even possible with such a hefty tome (if you need an extra little bit of justification to buy the paper copy, it would make a handy door stop or paperweight or blunt-force weapon should you be burgled).
It's hard to decide which bit I liked most: the depth and connection with the characters (a difficult feat in fantastic literature, especially when key characters include a mysterious giant bird man (who lost his wings, of course) and an anthropomorphised insectoid artist.), the quality of the prose or the gripping plot. Yes, it's not perfect, every book has its flaws. This is certainly a more literary and weird version of the fantastic than many readers will be used to. But the rewards are worth it.
You should go into this with the full knowledge that you will soon be purchasing the sequels, and lamenting the fact that only three exist in the series. At a push, I'd say The Scar manages to trump Perdido, which you may find hard to believe when reading it. You'll then go on to buy Mieville's entire catalogue. It's a good thing the paper copies are so well designed; I have one very well decorated shelf in my book case. After completing Bas Lag, I'd recommend (well, anything) Embassytown or The City & The City, which the BBC just released a four-part series of. That Perdido Street Station has not had the GoT treatment yet is criminal.
Halfway through reading the book I had already purchased both sequels, and given copies to three friends. Why are you still reading? Buy it now. I don't think I could ever recommend a book more.
In the city state of New Crobuzon scientist Isaac is trying to juggle his interspecies relationship with Lin, a khepri (beetle race) artist, and his scientific research. One day, the geruda (bird people) Yagharek, visits him, offering Isaac a lot of money in exchange for some wings (his were removed under circumstances he is wont to reveal). Whilst researching deeper into the aerodynamics of flight, Isaac realises he needs to view flying species more closely, putting the word out in the city that he will pay anyone who offers him anything that can fly. And this is how the literal nightmare story of Perdido Street Station begins. There is obviously more to it than that, but I would argue this is basically the amount of plot you need to get going.
Mieville's writing is eerie and poignant, his characters are so vivid and sympathetic (I found myself sympathising with every single character in this book, even the most despicable ones) and his world of New Crobuzon is a true feat of the imagination. There's always a rich sense of history to his world building and even though he writes about a big host of different species and their various different cultures, none of his characters ever feel like caricatures or stereotypical. The plot at the heart of the story unfolds at an organic pace, allowing for the various different aspects and parts of New Crobuzon to be revealed. I never wanted this book to end.
I've already finished book 2 of his Bas-Lag series and have now moved on to the third, feeling like I need to read everything by China Mieville before I read anything else!