If you know me IRL, follow me on twitter, or on tumblr, you’d know how I have fallen madly in love with China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station. I’ve talked about it so incessantly that a few people have asked for copies which I was happy to give, but made me anxious in retrospect. See, Perdido Street Station is NOT an easy read. It’s not the kind of book that would make you swoon right off the bat. It can be a backbreaker but Miéville turns the tables on the whole story about halfway through and anyone who wouldn’t persist that far would miss out on several of the greatest fantasy monsters.
The novel is an astonishment, the work of a brilliant world-maker with a stunning and inexhaustible imagination. In Perdido, we are in a degenerating cesspool of a city called New Crobuzon, where humans, xenomorphs, urban poor, altered criminals and cyborgs jostle and thieve and whore under the eye of a vicious, all-seeing militia. China really takes the “show-don’t-tell” adage to heart and plunges you headfirst into a politically-charged world without any priming. You get to know the place as you read, and the world becomes another character.
Perdido Street Station shows us the limitless and awesomeness of story-telling. China’s words are powerful, strange, and poetic, all at the same time. His voice is so unique, and his ideas so wonderfully weird. I bet you a dollar that you can’t find another living writer that could wield wit, oddity, and command of the language as powerfully as he could.
Perdido Street Station is a great book but it is not perfect. People will ramble on about weak characters, verbosity, and so on, which may or may not be merited, but on the whole people have their own ideas about how all novels should conform to a certain standard, so I take all literary criticisms with a grain of salt.
For example: People have complained about the weak plot but I particularly liked the ambiguity of the plot lines and the lack of clear resolution. It was go-back-to-bed-depressing on some levels but I feel that all too often, fantasy and science fiction stories tend to be a bit sophomoric in plot and rely on a model right out of common fantasy tropes. Real life rarely gives us conflict resolution wrapped up with a ribbon and a bow, so why should fiction?
And this love is not blind to its faults – I know this can be a difficult book. Things can get tedious, some portions can get confusing. The fantastical science and even more fantastical math takes so much out of you but it was a sacrifice you give for a rewarding reading experience. Easily one of the best books I have ever read in my entire reading life – and this isn’t even Miéville’s best work yet – a revelation that makes this all-too exciting for me. It feels like an entire universe has unfolded before me, and I now have new planes to discover, new surreal reading experiences to be explored.
It’s been ages since I have felt this intense unraveling over a book. I am glad, and a bit surprised, that I still have this in me – a sordid and frightfully expensive nerdiness over a novel, a living author, and an unfamiliar genre. I love you, Mr. Miéville. Thank you for this book.