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on 21 February 2005
It's huge, and its beautiful in a strange dark sort of way and reads like an Heironymous Bosch painting put into words...
This incredible. fabulous fantasy tale is set in New Crobuzon. The sprawling metropolis who's skyline is dominated by the building that give the book its name, Perdido Street Station.
We begin the story on the polluted river Tar, as a stranger enters the vast industrial city. The stranger is Yagharek, a Garuda. A huge birdlike creature, who as a punishment for a dreadful crime, has had his wings removed and has travelled from the dessert with a purse full of gold to seek the help of Scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin to have his wings restored.
This is the story of Grimnebulin's quest to help the Garuda, and he and his assorted friend's subsequent attempt to defeat the evil he inadvertently releases while doing so. Evil so strong, that the City's militia are useless and the hell demons consulted by the corrupt rulers of New Crobuzon are afraid to help.
New Crobuzon's population is as grotesque as it is marvellous. Among its strange inhabitants are Lin, Grimnebulin's Kephri Artist lover with the human body and scarab head, who makes marvellous pearl coloured sculptures with a secretion from the back of her head and the biomagically made "Remade". Altered as a cruel punishment for wrongdoing, these once human creatures can be partly mechanical, partly animal but either way wholly horrific.
This book is very probably one of the best I have ever read and one that is almost impossible to put down. At 710 pages it's not a book that's for light reading... It's intricate and absorbing. Set against an intriguing industrial gothic background filled with weird science, which Mieville has blended seamlessly with magic to produce something that will feed your imagination for years to come and leave you desperately wanting more.
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VINE VOICEon 29 October 2010
I'm ordinarily not much of a fantasy reader and would otherwise not have read this but for a friend's suggestion, but this wasn't bad at all. As other reviewers say, however, it could stand some severe editing-down. The plot truly doesn't start going in any one particular direction until literally 400 pages in (roughly halfway), and even I'm surprised I persisted with it to that point. But I did, and more than anything else, that's what I find unusual here.

The story would frankly take too long to even attempt to summarise, and contains a ton of literary allusion which a friend noticed but I didn't, and all things considered, ends very weakly in comparison to the rest of the book. I had a vague feeling that Mieville was trying to write what he hoped would be a big-budget TV miniseries, but the story is fundamentally pretty dark, violent stuff and clearly it's never happened either way. I can honestly say I'd recommend this if you think you'd like to try something a little different - it's well-written, the characters are mainly all fleshed out very well, and you can't fault Mieville for his imagination. I might even be tempted to try some of his other novels off the back of this.
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on 8 February 2014
I will not add my analysis to the other eloquent reviews of this novel, just read the other five star reviews.

I approached this warily as Mieville said he was inspired by Mervyn Peake, enough said. However, it really is worthy of its place on my bookshelf next to Gormenghast. The trouble is that since finishing this book, I have not been able to settle on any other novels - they are all too insipid after spending a couple of weeks in New Crobuzon. Perhaps I will just surrender and read The Scar!
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on 6 November 2002
In this excellent second novel, Mieville delivers on the potential hinted at in his first work 'King Rat'. Whilst 'Perdido Street Station' is very strong on characterisation and plot, its major achievement is the creation of a unique metropolis, which never fails to surprise and engage the reader.
Mieville is a true polymath, with an ingenious imagination and a formidable vocabulary. He seems able to write with authority on most subjects and weaves technical language and metaphors in to his work with ease. However, one of the greatest joys of this novel is its accessibility; the author uses his obvious intelligence to entertain rather than to impress. The result is an engaging, exciting and highly enjoyable read.
However, a valid criticism of this book is that it is overwritten. This becomes a serious nuisance towards the end of the book, when the highly descriptive prose slows down the plot instead of allowing the pace to pick up as the finale approaches. This loss of momentum caused me to lose interest at what should have been a critical point in the book.
Although this is a great novel, it is certainly not the best that this author can produce. The follow-up, set in the same world, is a far more accomplished novel and if you like 'Perdido Street Station' you will love 'The Scar'.
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on 17 January 2017
Cant believe this got a hugo, dull and tedious, not a lot happens expect some stuff about giant mothswhich are supposed to be "terrifying" NOT recommended
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on 2 May 2017
Mieville has been hailed as some kind of genius for this work. Personally I found all the distorted 'races' smacked of unconscious racism and xenophobia. Otherwise quite enjoyable, but if you really want sf and fantasy that provokes social discourse buy 2000AD comic.
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on 19 March 2001
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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on 5 December 2003
This book was bought for me by my dad one CHristmas, a few months after it came out. I was slightly weary of it, as my dad had said he had found it difficult to get into, and me and him usually have similar book-tastes.
All i can say is that i am so glad i gave the book the benefit of the doubt. THis is probably my favourite novel ever! the City of NEW Crobuzon is literally alive,and the immensly deep descriptions which put off some only empahsized Mievilles amazing writing style for me.His characters develop fantastically throughout the book, and with their development we are left many morals for real-life which simply don't exist in other books.
All in all this is an AMAZING book, and i highly reccomend it to anyone who is looking for a refreshing new direction for sci-fi/fantasy, away from all the Elves and Secret Agents.
Also see The Scar, the sequel to Perdido Street Station. anaother fantastic book from Mieville. This author has a bright future ahead of him.
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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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on 16 June 2003
Some mild spoilers:
With the risk of repeating what other people has already said, the real star of the book is the city of New Crobuzon - a vast and polluted metropolis, filled with cruelty, injustice and horrors both incomprehensible (the weaver, torque) and all too familiar (the militia and its methods). It reminds me of the future Los Angeles as depicted in "Blade Runner" in that you would not want your worst enemy to live there, yet you would pay almost any price to walk its streets and behold its wonders for one night.
Yet it does not lack for strong characters, especially the lead protagonist: a fat and perverted rogue scientist by the name of Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin - which serves a brilliant example of CM's ability to come up with great names.
In fairness, there are a few weak points, enough to make the book warrant only four stars: a number of interludes that does not bring the plot forward (e.g. the Handlingers), a series of coincidences that feels a bit forced (e.g. the way that the construct council becomes involved) and some historic detail that detracts rather than adds to the mysteric atmosphere of the city. The book is not "too long" - but sections of it are. However, the ending (which is where most writers fail to deliver in my opinion) ties together a number of loose ends in a very elegant manner and is also suitably down-beat to match the tone of the rest of the book. Paralleled only by "The Scar".
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