Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Pages: 623 (paperback)
Published: 2003 by DelRey
Recommended for: readers seeking a compelling if lengthy fantastical novel set in a world which is unique to say the least
Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none—not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory.
Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger—and more consuming—by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon—and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes . . .
I didn't write my own synopsis for this book, which is very unusual in of itself. To say that Perdido Street Station is an unusual book is like saying 'The Louvre Museum is big' or 'Man, that show LOST is a tad bit confusing, isn't it?' I've read a lot of books, and I can safely say that Perdido Street Station stands out from the crowd to an enormous extent.
The world which China Miéville has created in New Crobuzon is so vastly complex, riddled through with fantastical factions of creatures and humans alike. It's like any other metropolis in that it has its militia and mobsters, university and bohemian community... only members of that bohemian community might be anything from Khepri-- a humanoid race similar to praying mantises in appearance if not intellect-- to Vodyanoi-- enormous beings which cannot survive out of water for extended periods of time and are skilled in magic involving water. In Perdido Street Station, we have monstrous moths who fly amok over the city poisoning its population with horrendous dreams and draining them of hope and humanity. We have a gigantic arachnid called the Weaver whom the militia attempts to employ as a weapon against the aforementioned moths... and who despite this generally takes whatever actions he thinks would eventually create the prettiest pattern in the web of fate. And we have Yagharek, the Garuda, a noble yet rightfully ostracized outcast whose magnificent wings were stripped from his back by his own people. Steampunk themes are everywhere, but I think the name Miéville and other authors have given this sub-genre of fantasy is a fitting one: the New Weird.
The storyline is actually simple considering the complexity of the world in which it is set: Isaac, a Crisis Theory scientist, becomes inevitably involved in a crisis in motion when one of his most mysterious experiments abruptly breaks free of its cage and goes on a vicious killing spree along with others of his kind. His girlfriend Lin-- who is Khepri and has abandoned her people's lifestyle in favor of becoming a rather unconventional type-- of artist is held captive by a monstrous mobster suitably named Mr. Motley. So, Isaac and a few of his friends in the New Crobuzon Underground set out to destroy the monsters. Along the way they encounter every kind of creature and individual imaginable and many more which I doubt anyone but China Miéville could ever dream up independently of this book. This book is an experience. It took me a week to read, and I'm a voraciously fast reader. But its chaotic beauty, messages of coexistence, and shocking yet satisfying ending make Perdido Street Station very much worth the read.