July 02, 2003

Books: China Mieville

China Mieville (2000),Perdito Street Station (New York: Del Rey: 0345443020).

China Mieville (2002), The Scar (New York: Del Rey: 0345444388).

Posted by DeLong at July 2, 2003 04:52 PM | TrackBack


(1) "Del Rey", not "Del Ray."

(2) The Scar, not Scar.

(3) His first novel, King Rat, available from (ahem) Tor Books. Featuring what is undoubtably the most nuanced, emotionally resonant, morally consequential, and downright moving garbage-eating scene in all modern literature.

(Also the ultimate exercise in the ancient game of Finchley Central. But that's later in the book.)

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden on July 2, 2003 08:30 PM

I strongly recommend Perdido Street Station, having finished it myself a couple weeks ago. I'm very interested in fantasies that draw on industrial age elements rather than pre-industrial ones, and it's the best one I've encountered so far.

Posted by: Scott Martens on July 2, 2003 11:00 PM

Hmm... I found reading Perdito Street Station a not particularly pleasant experience (Mieville does 'Yuck' very well, but I have a limited appetite for Yuck unseasoned by much of anything else). Nor, from a technical literary point of view, did it strike me as being as good as the hype promised (not bad, just not that good): I was particularly disappointed in the sub Prof. Zarkoff ending:

(very slight possible spoiler below...)

In a blinding flash, our professor hero figures out the deep structure of the universe, the deep structure of the silt moths, and armed only with a couple of old paint tins and a screwdriver, knocks up, on the strength of his enlightenment, a natural-philosophical weapon to save the day.

Posted by: Sean Matthews on July 3, 2003 01:11 AM

I agree with Sean about the ending, though I wouldn't describe the spoiler as 'slight' at all --- one of the pleasures of Perdido Street Station is the absolutely marvelous first half of the book, where you are wondering where it is all going to go, and revealing that it is basically (spoiler)
a monster hunt (as has been said elsewhere)
is likely to spoil some of the fun for a first-time reader.

That said, everyone should read Mieville. He's insanely creative, and less than perfect plotting aside, a great read.

Posted by: jhp on July 3, 2003 07:48 AM

Scar is one of the most imaginative SF books I have read in a decade. I have a signed first edition.

The world in the book is really creepy, though. You would not want to live there. And the nation that the main character, Bellis, is faithful to is horrifying. For example, they punish their criminals by "remaking" them, which means mutilating them in bizarre ways. One minor character has had her legs amputated mid-thigh, then mounted on a sort of steam-powered tractor machine. She has to constantly scavenge wood pieces for fuel or she would end up permanently immobile. Since her legs are in a fixed position it is hard for her to have sex. Others "remade" have other things attached to them. Ick.

I don't want to turn people off to this book, you should definitely read it. Mievelle presents a refershing challenge compared to the endless parade of sword-and-sorcery tales.

Posted by: Alan on July 3, 2003 09:40 AM

They're both a whole lot of fun. Perdido Street Station is more of a blast (although the ending is rather more ambiguous than Sean's spoiler would suggest). The Scar is more ambitious, and not entirely successful - but really, really has some great stuff. On the one hand, it's economically literate - Mieville's Ph.D. is on how the Law Merchant and Law of the Sea gave rise to modern interstate relations, so that he has 17th-century style mercantilism down cold. On the other, it's enormous fun too - he's as well versed in pirate novels as in Grotius.

Posted by: Henry on July 3, 2003 10:47 AM

Nobody has mentioned this, but the real problem with Perdido Street Station is how poorly written it is. The descriptions are so overwraught, the language so hoary -- it's like wading through sewage. Maybe, given the setting of the story, this was the effect he was trying to achieve, but I doubt it ...

Posted by: physicist on July 3, 2003 01:33 PM

I really, really, enjoyed Perdido Street Station, and I feel the writing is very evocative of a Victorian era, but the RPG bullshit at the end is very disappointing.

Posted by: bobdobba on July 4, 2003 08:43 PM
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