Reading: Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is a phantasmagoria of brilliant fantasy, philosophy and steampunkery. Miéville paints with some of the most carefully crafted language and semantics I’ve ever seen. His word choices are extraordinary…psoriatic instead of flaking, cossetted instead of enclosed…his prose is poetry.

Acknowledged by the author, and obvious to anyone who has ever been exposed to that classic of fantasy fiction, is Perdido Street Station’s debt to Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. Both Miéville’s New Crobuzon and Peake’s Gormenghast inhabit the texts that spawned them like living creatures: they are not only settings, they are characters. Both works also show a predilection for baroque — and oddly evocative — names. Perdido Street Station is no mere imitation, though; it is a work of relentless inventiveness.

New Crobuzon and Perdido Street Station defy easy categorization. They are the mesmerizingly complex creations of China Miéville’s intricate imagination. They are seductive and perverse, beautiful and menacing.

I found the end troubling, and have had trouble reconciling it with the characters I’d built in my head. My friend who was rereading it at the same time, saw the end as something more hopeful than I did; whereas I found it nihilistic and disheartening. But that is the wonder in Miéville’s work, that two people can read the same words and come away with such radically different impressions.

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