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on 25 October 2006
Obviously most of the reviewers have enjoyed this book, but I found it absolutely rubbish. Overwritten, excessively wordy, with characters who simply appear as cameos with no real addition to the story (Jack Half a Prayer), and more feel for how the city is coming from the blurb on the back than the story itself. The descriptions of the city sectors, and the streets etc, make it at times more like a travel guide than a novel - and most of these descriptions are entirely uneccesary as they contribute nothing to the plot.

It seems unfinished too, with people just wandering off at the end with their stories unfinished....it's as though the author himself didn't know what story he was trying to tell.

There is also the unpleasant revelation near the end that one of the main characters is a rapist....but it's too late to have any real impact on the story..it's just a 'so what' moment by then.

Ugh, avoid this book like tha plague; but that's just my opinion.
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on 18 October 2011
I should have known how bad this book would be just by looking at it - a science fiction/fantasy book over 800 pages long should have set alarm bells ringing.

China Mieville would appear to be yet another writer in this genre who can't distinguish between quality and quantity. The book is at least 50% too long and almost every paragraph needs stringent editing. The author needs to be advised that using long words a lot doesn't make you a good writer - it's just irritating. I seem to remember the word "desquamate" make TWO appearances in about 15 pages - there is no excuse for writing that bad.

The plot of this book is clumsy and telegraphed at every opportunity, you know exactly what is going to happen from about page 250.

The characters are paper thin and completely unsympathetic - you just do not care what happens to any of the people in the book.

I skimmed the last 100 or so pages as I had completely lost interest, but I refused to be beaten by this book as I had invested/wasted so much time reading it in the hope it was going to get better.
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on 12 September 2012
This is the first of China Mieville's books that I've read. I'd heard a great deal about this author, and almost all of it good. In actual fact, it is only for want of time that it's taken so long to get around to reading his work! My opinion of 'Perdido Street Station' during the first half of the novel was pretty positive. I liked the world Mieville has created, and I rather liked his writing style too, albeit on the heavy side. I suppose I was caught up in the story to an extent, but what I was most drawn by was the world-building, the fascinating collection of races inhabiting his vast cityscape, and the cultures they belonged to. I wanted to learn more about the history of the place, and experience more of the bizarre technologies and seedy goings-on. I didn't mind the relatively slow pace of the story, as what I was learning in the meantime was all quite interesting, and - for the most part - relatively original, or at least freshly imagined. Also, based on his reputation and the things I'd heard, I was fairly sure the story would soon take off.

It was only about 300 pages into this massive book that my enthusiasm started to wain, and I came to the uneasy realisation that the story was not going to be anywhere near as sophisticated as its location. This fact became increasingly clear as the pages rolled by, and I grew frustrated. By the time I was 600 pages in, reading 'Perdido Street Station' had become a chore (so much so in fact that I read two other books alongside before I'd finished it!). I had no strong empathy for the characters who are, if anything, mildly unlikeable, and the plot was quite clearly a total mess. Perhaps due to my frustrations, I found increasing irritations in the writing too. This is only the second of Mieville's novels published, but I know he had been working on it for a number of years. I mention this, as the writing style felt to me increasingly like that of an amateur. For all his impressive vocabulary (and you WILL be faced with long complex words on an irritatingly regular basis), there wasn't much flow to his prose, with frequent reuse of words in the same paragraph, or even sentence. It might just be me, and the fact I was becoming fed up by the end, but the last half of the book didn't seem to be as smooth flowing as that which came before. The ideas too became frankly ridiculous, and not nearly as well crafted. For example, I disliked the 'constructs' (Mieville's mechanical, steam-punk robots) which felt so out of place, but proceeded to take centre stage in the tale.

But the thing that ruined 'Perdido Street Station', most of all for me was the ending. It was just bad. The only interesting story strand was abandoned as far as I was concerned, leaving an entirely unoriginal 'let's kill the monster' mission in its stead. The last hundred pages or so simply dragged. They included (and I kid you not) at least 20 pages which described the laying of a long cable from one location in the city, to its centre. Mieville's decidedly incompetent management of 'action scenes' became all too clear as well, for they were slow-paced, over-written, and non-engaging. While earlier on in the novel I forgave many of these faults, by the end I really wanted some story and some excitement, having been saturated with details of the 'world'.

I am not giving up on Mieville, as I believe him to be one of the more original and interesting fantasy/sc-fi writers of the moment. I do however really hope that his writing style has improved, and that story and plot play larger parts in his later work. I must confess to being very disappointed with 'Perdido Street Station' having heard so much good stuff regarding it. I also cannot understand some of the more enthusiastic reviews on this site!!! But each to their own. Perhaps if you're a fast reader you'll be less irritated than I was at having spent so long wading through 850+ pages for little reward.
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on 28 March 2016
First Impression Of The Book: I was not aware of the page count involved when I reserved this tome on the local library website, it is rather large, at first I was intimidated about getting stuck into PSS but im really glad I did. The books depth is unbelievable, the detail is astounding and China Mieville's mind is a master at creating fully fleshed out worlds with larger than life characters and other beings. This book is part of a trilogy, a trilogy that totals 2,500 pages across three books, but totally worth it!

Summary Of The Story:

There is a lot to this story! I have seven pages of notes...just on story elements....I had a great time with this book so it was definitely worth the effort.

Perdido Street Station which is set in the city of New Crobuzon follows Isaac Dan Der Grimnebulin, a human physicist who works in the field of material science. The book also follows Isaac's girlfriend Lin, a Khepri which a humanoid bug and Yagharek who is a Garuda which is an avian humanoid. There are many species that populate New Crobuzon including humans, Khepri, Garudas, the Remade (biologically altered beings), Vodyanoi (water beings), Wrymen (gargoyle...ish beings) and Cactus People...among others :D.

Isaac is approached by Yagharek one night in his laboratory, the Garuda asks Isaac to research ways for him to regain his ability to fly after it is taken from him by his own people. Yagharek pays handsomely and Isaac accepts this opportunity and starts to research any being that is able to fly as well as use physics to create a machine that may allow the birdman to fly at will.

As his research progresses Isaac becomes to believe that it is a fruitless task, his fellow scientists become irritated by the constant presence of copious birds filling every corner of the lab. Isaac hires a shady fellow to get him some of the rarer forms of flying creatures not readily available to the common citizen, amongst the batch of illegal specimens that Isaac receives is a grub stolen from a bio hazard lab nearby. Isaac grows fascinated with the bug, he discards his other research and pours his energy into seeing how this creature ticks.

Meanwhile the story follows Lin, who is an artist. Lin is building a sculpture for a known criminal boss who pays well and treats her right. Her story arc doesn't really progress the story but adds the element of a love story to fill the gaps in Isaac's story. Lin's presence also adds a sense of danger that doesn't present itself in Isaac's own story until well into the novel.

Isaac figures out what makes the creature evolve, he manages to get the grub to grow into its adult form, which turns out to be a Slake-Moth, a much feared beast who is capable of bringing New Crobuzon to it's knees and the Slake Moth has friends! The rest of story follows the events of the Slake Moth's eventually escape and the havoc it wreaks on the city and everyone in it. There are many other side-stories arcs that bring that extra level of depth and intrigue that makes this an amazing book instead of an okay one.

The Review:

The highlights of the book are the monsters that occupy these pages, the Slake Moths are truly intense evil beings and they are not even the worst, for myself the Weaver is the actual fear bringing element. A spider monster who takes fate into it's own hands and can turn on anyone at any moment. They are the highlights because they are the most memorable aspect of this novel, I can still see their images in my mind, their horror and their presence, China Mieville really nailed the overall description that accompanied these characters.

The main themes in this book are poverty, horror and science. New Crobuzon is a dirty city, full of people barely scraping by, overshadowed by the Perdido Street Station. The PSS is mainly a presence in this story and doesn't add much the overall effect. The poverty aspect brings a desperation sort of affect to the story, highlighting the affect of the 'heroes' defeating of evil as a positive effect. The horror brings the reader in, it makes the reader live and breath each encounter and fear for the characters. The science fiction in this novel is here and there but very potent and enjoyable. The genre of this book is a bit wobbly, it is mainly science fiction/fantasy but it does has great horror parts and some romance and comedy thrown in.

I have few dislikes about PSS, the length bothered me a little as it took me a week to finish and there were a few parts that felt unnecessary and brought very little to the effect other than either an 'ohhh' or an 'ahhh' or even a 'grrrr' at some missed potential. The ending was satisfactory, though the build up in the book that takes 700 odd pages to come together finishes on a high note, the rest of the conclusion just felt rushed and merely a formality, but that may be required for the sequels that I am yet to read.

Perdido Street Station is a world you can get lost in, there plenty to it, it has loads of re-read value and the science fiction is spot-on. That part with the lady who can seek out and contact people via a unique method is awe inspiring and one of my most notable parts of this story. PSS is a long volume and China Mieville did this for a reason as any less detail or impact would have left a bad taste in one's mouth.


If you liked this review check out my blog at alwaystrustinbooks.blogspot.co.uk or add me on twitter @AlwTrustInBooks, or like my Facebook page or friend me on Goodreads for updates.....ahhhh social media :D see you around and happy reading!!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 July 2011
This is the second novel by China Miéville I've read. The first was Kraken... which I loathed.

Why, then, did I read Perdido Street Station? Partly, I think, because a friend recommended it and assured me it wasn't awful. And partly because I actually want to like China Miéville. I didn't hate Kraken with glee. I hated it with immense disappointment.

Fortunately, Perdido Street Station is a hundred times better than Kraken. It has more heart, more warmth, more energy. I certainly don't think (unlike Miéville himself, apparently) that it bears any favourable comparison to the rich, languorous work of Mervyn Peake in all its shadowy beauty, but then I don't think anything does. Peake's prose seems effortless, as if Gormenghast and its inhabitants simply spilled themselves slowly on to the page like dark, bittersweet treacle, but there are many moments in Perdido Street Station where Miéville's words are contrived and self-conscious. While I could certainly lose myself for long periods in this engaging, original fantasy, I was regularly brought back down to earth by the overwhelming sensation that Miéville was jumping up and down in front of me shouting "Look at me! Look at my imagination! Look at my writing! LOOK!"

Broadly speaking, Perdido Street Station tells the story of maverick scientist Isaac, his artist lover Lin, who has a scarab beetle instead of a head, and Isaac's attempts to restore the power of flight to Yagharek, a sort of bird-man from a far-off desert whose wings have been sawn off as punishment for some terrible, unspecified crime. During the course of his experiments on various flying creatures, Isaac acquires through nefarious means a strange caterpillar. With the hatching of the caterpillar comes the unleashing of a terrible, almost apocalyptic threat to New Crobuzon, the huge, corrupt, festering city-state in which the story is set, teeming with human, 'xenian' - and as it turns out, artificial - life.

I found, however, that I wasn't immensely bothered about the novel's plot. Indeed, I enjoyed it more when nothing much was happening. I derived far more pleasure from the long digressions into the steampunk squalor of New Crobuzon and its bizarre inhabitants than I did from the action-packed climax. It was, oddly, the action-adventure towards the end of the novel that I found drawn-out and tiresome, not the rambling scene-building and vivid, intricate descriptions and vignettes that mostly make up the first three or four hundred pages. The real star of this baroque fantasy show is neither plot nor character, but New Crobuzon itself. For all its foulness, its filth, its brutality and betrayals, its uniquely capitalist horrors, I wanted New Crobuzon itself, above all, to survive. I could have gone on reading about New Crobuzon, and its strange, diverse inhabitants from cactus-people to amphibious dockers to the horrific artificially 'Remade' underclass, forever. The glorious names of the suburbs and side-streets and stations, too, all help to build the vivid sense of place.

Unfortunately, the characters just aren't that appealing. Isaac, who likes to bandy around words like 'moolah' and 'capice', is an irritating mockney, and the scenes in which he and Lin meet with their bohemian friends just made me think of a bunch of pretentious Hoxtonites. Maybe this was deliberate on Miéville's part, but it certainly didn't make me empathise with the characters in any way, and it was here that I saw strong echoes of the self-conscious hipster posing of Kraken. It's possible that the author wants us to dislike the characters so that there is an element of surprise in learning that these are the people who will be forced to save the city from destruction, so that they can be shown to grow and change, but for me, this wasn't a strategy that succeeded. There are a hundred wonderful things about Perdido Street Station, but I think Miéville is best when he's at his most meanderingly descriptive and conceptual, rather than trying to deliver action-adventure or character-driven storylines.
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VINE VOICEon 12 February 2017
Perdido Street Station is the main railway station in the city state of New Crobuzon, a vast sprawling metropolis that house humans, wyrmen (small flying creatures with a basic sense of humour and tendency to poo on everything), khepri (women with human bodies and the heads of insects), cactacae (essentially sentient cactuses), vodyanoi (water based creatures), gardua (feathered creatures with the ability to fly) and various other weird and wonderful creatures and hybrids.

Isaac (a human scientist) and Lin (a khepri artist) are lovers who live in the city but who must keep their relationship secret because interspecies romances are frowned on and could see Isaac lose his (already precarious) University backing. One day a gardua called Yagharek arrives in Isaac’s laboratory. Having lost his wings as punishment for an unspecified crime, he wants Isaac to find a way for him to fly again and he has a large amount of gold to help pay for it. Seeing a way to further his own research, Isaac agrees and unwittingly the two set off a chain of events that pose the most deadly of threats to themselves, those they love and all of New Crobuzon’s inhabitants …

China Mieville’s fantasy novel couples dazzling creativity and invention, stunning concepts and a thoroughly imagined alien world with a twisting, complicated plot that draws on numerous strands but is prevented from being truly great by some purple writing, under-utilised female characters some stilted dialogue and a down beat ending that seemed to undermine the characters’ previous experiences together. There’s a lot to admire in the book – not least the world building with Mieville building a convincing semi-industrial world filled with weird magic, weirder science and a bewildering mass of cultures and peoples that together form a wonderfully realised and believable city. However Mieville’s prose at times is very purple and the dialogue (especially Isaac’s) is really stilted at times so that I never quite believed in it. Lin’s storyline unfortunately devolved to give her a standard woman-in-peril role although I enjoyed Isaac and Yagharek’s growing friendship, which is probably why I was so disappointed in the ending when a reveal about Yagharek makes Isaac act in a way that seemed to run counter to their experience together. That said, I do think this a must-read for fantasy fans for the scope and worldbuilding alone though and will definitely check out the sequel.
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on 2 November 2017
For the positives, this is a novel boiling with ideas, and ideas of an interesting, intellectually challenging kind. At its themic heart lies the principle of binaries - or, more properly, the transgression of binaries: of the mechanical merging with the biological, mammals with insects, the respectable world with the degraded, and so on. There is an interest in the role of perception in MAKING sense, joining up points to make art, faces, logics, plots; and with the abject, with things that foster disgust, and usually lie 'underneath', constantly drawn to the fore. This is terrific stuff, if not unfamiliar. I suspect the author studied some critical theory sometime in the 'nineties.

On the negative side, all this is explored completely and at length before you are halfway through the novel, and as for the rest... The main story does not begin till about 400 pages in (yes, 400 pages). When it does begin, it has little or nothing to do with the good stuff noted above, and is, honestly, not that interesting. The rest of the book is description, pages and pages of it, all in prose that I suspect is meant to be literary but is horribly over-ripe and heart-stoppingly repetitive. It is mostly the city that is described - or rather, its dirt, sewers, corruption, degradation... you get the picture. By 100 pages in I wanted to tell the author: yes, I get it, you can stop now, but it carries on for the entirety of this rather long novel.

I suspect that this is partly a question of sensibility. If you really like description - and like gothic, and like steampunk - this probably works for you. I don't and just found it infuriating. Certainly the author has imagination - but really, who doesn't? Your world-building has to be really good, and has to DO a lot, if you are going to do it at such length.

I am giving the novel 3 stars because it is pleasingly intellectually ambitious (and, really, intellectually successful) and that is so rare, even among novels deemed to be 'literary'. I couldn't say that I enjoyed most of it, though. I'm glad I read it, and I fought my way to the end, but it was often a fight.
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on 18 January 2011
I'm not sure why people feel Mieville's prose is worthy of mention. His frequent use of adverbs alone is enough to debunk any assertion to the contrary. A wonderful worldbuilder, as others have commented upon, is not enough to overshadow schoolboy errors in his writing...thought nervously, grinned fleetingly, wrinkled suddenly and more all on one random page. Passive voice creeps into some of the first hundred pages, and he has a worrying tendency to over describe (both background and foregrounds). He is also guilty of telling not showing, especially with regards to pubs and shops. (The Moon's Daughters springs to mind on page 81) He hurries out descriptions like a child projectile vomiting. Sometimes it is good to let the reader guess for themselves.

To write is human to edit is divine. Obviously the author has paid no heed to the basic tenets of his craft. Elmore Leonard would have conniptions reading this. The narrative is ruined, for me at least, by his incessant use of pauses in dialogue... etc. Again judicious editing would sort these bad habits out, as long as the author is amenable, and that as all editor's know only too well, is the key.

I'm afraid I like others only lasted about 150 pages in. If a book does nothing in that time, the prospect of another 700 pages won't lure me to read on. I can only conclude that any awards given were not done so for prose or craft but merely for worldbuilding. If this is where writing is going God help us readers. The worldbuilding is the only reason I give this two stars instead of one.

Once again the onus is on publishers and editors to set the standard. This isn't well enough written or engaging enough as a story (remember, isn't that what we are supposed to be creating?) to harvest the reviews or the rewards. Of course opinion is exactly that. But I do wish that books in general be treated with more pruning and less fawning and marketing. Still an admirable imagination is good to see, if only it were more disciplined in delivery. Great books are like treasures and great imagination should be prized, but sometime truly great imagination is found in the little things secreted away in the page. After all, an orchestra can play a symphony to perfection, but put your head in the timpani drum and you would come away with a very different opinion of it.

Ultimately the world is such a mixed bag of opinion that mine will count for very little. But if it may help some decide then so be it.
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on 28 March 2008
The characters swear when they talk in this book, they say *uck and *hit and *astard. Thats not all they say though,there is dialouge in this book: a banal stilted exchange ( and when i say that the dialouge is banal and stilted, i really do mean it TRUST ME!-- it would make a comic-book writer blush, were talking brain dead territory here folks.

The author seems to have had a web page open at a Thesaurus whilst writing Iron Council (so many words with similar meanings used as substitutes for their more commonplace counterparts) this inturn is used to mask the shallowness of the writing.

The plot moves along at a snappy pace. we are told to look at one situation before being hurried on to another and another and another. So many scenarios, so little development on those scenarios.

The Characters -they really cant be called characters at all- there just the author talking to himself; Pale. wraith-like creations, immediately forgotten.
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on 24 July 2013
"Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth."

With this first line, China Mieville begins our journey into the heart of his vast fantasy metropolis, New Crobuzon. It's a heaving, vicious and chaotic beast; filled with a host of bizarre sentient species and a sprawling network of train lines, culminating in the heart of the city: Perdido Street Station.

Perdido Street Station is the story of Isaac der Grimnebulin, fringe scientist and research extraordinaire. When Isaac is hired by a Garuda (a sentient bird-like species) named Yagharek to restore his powers of flight, Isaac sees the potential to apply some of his more bizarre theories to something tangible, and proceeds to examine a host of different flying species, to see just what it would take to get Yagharek off the ground again. But through a series of unfortunate events (Yup) Isaac finds himself in possession of something far more dangerous than he realises. And when that things is unleashed on the city of New Crobuzon, it will take all of Isaac's considerable genius to stop everyone from coming to a horrifying end.

This is China Mieville's second novel, and it is enormous. Normally, 300 pages of Mieville is enough to get my brain spinning with ideas for months on end. Suffice to say, I won't be forgetting Perdido Street Station any time soon. It is jam-packed to bursting with elements of the fantastic which are completely original. Every page has something new to absorb; be it a weird creation, a bizarre monster, an ingenious idea, or just Mieville's ever-striking prose. I've read Mieville before and so had a small idea of what to expect, but with this book I just wanted to absorb every sentence - every word.

The characters that Mieville has created in Perdido Street Station are all fully rounded individuals - nobody, except perhaps the villainous Mr. Motley, is black or white. Isaac is the novel's central protagonist, but there are plenty of moments, particularly towards the end of the novel, where he makes decisions which are questionable at best. Mieville also manages to give the non-human characters personalities of their own, all affected by their cultural backgrounds and life in New Crobuzon, and the rest of the outside world (Bas-Lag).

But the real main character of this novel is New Crobuzon itself. It comes alive in ways I haven't seen in any other single novel. The only other fantasy city I can think of which has this level of depth and realism is Terry Pratchett's Ankh Morpork, and that has developed over many years and many books. New Crobuzon is alive from the first page - as Yagharek, an outsider, much like the reader, is introduced to every physical element of the city as it slowly envelopes him, the further in he travels. It's a real masterwork of fantasy creation, and I can see why it is always placed so highly when discussions of fantasy settings take place - despite Bas-Lag only featuring in 3 novels to date.

The plot itself is perhaps the novels weakest attribute. Mieville spends much of the early stages of the book setting the scene and introducing us to New Crobuzon, that the plot barely moves forward in the first 150 pages. Although I personally didn't have a problem with this (as the setting was an absolute joy to read) - I did notice that it began to get a bit much in the later stages of the book, when the plot catches up with Mieville and he has to race to tie everything towards a climax. Ultimately, it's a bug hunt - but this is China Mieville we're talking about - so those bugs are far from simple. Once Mieville sets up his players, the endgame is fast, frantic and dripping with tension. The ending is quite shocking and thematically, the perfect closure for a book which puts the city at the heart of everything.

I really enjoyed Perdido Street Station. It took me about 10 days to read, but it really was a joy to soak up Mieville's world, despite how dirty it made me feel at times. It's plot is perhaps underwritten - despite the fact I would not suggest lengthening the book any further. Ultimately, though, Perdido Street Station is about New Crobuzon. It introduces a world which is so well developed, I'm dying to dive into the next Bas-Lag novel, The Scar, as soon as possible. As someone else has suggested to me, Perdido Street Station is the work of a master craftsman at the top of his game. All I have to say is, if this isn't the top of his game - I'm extremely excited to see what is.
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