Friday, 15 January 2010
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Perdido Street Station is set in the jumbled, ramshackle, festering metropolis of New Crobuzon. Situated at the cross section of three major rivers, New Crobuzon is run by fascistic militia-influenced government and crime lords alike. It's conglomeration of species, classes and criminals makes it a vast, cosmopolitan melting pot full of humans, cactus people, amphibious people, scarab-headed women, and Remade: people with various animal or mechanical parts grafted onto their bodies as punishment for their crimes.
Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, an 'outlaw scientist' as he likes to think of himself, receives a visitor one day in his cramped laboratory; Yagharek, a great bird-man from the desert. Yagharek seeks Isaac's help, because his wings have been mercilessly severed from his body in punishment for crimes against his people. He wants only one thing: to be returned to the air. To fly again.
Unbeknownst to them, Isaac and Yagharek's meeting has triggered a series of events that lead to a city-wide nightmare plague, the emergence of dream-eating monster moths, an other-worldy giant spider with human hands and a terrifying insanity, an enormous trash heap with a brain, and various other ghouls from the deep, cavernous pits of Miéville's mind. New Crobuzon feels authentically like a city; a whole and complete place in your imagination - I almost felt that I could buy a ticket to Perdido Street Station and wind up right in the middle of it. Miéville is a complete poet. His language is convoluted and multi-layered, but worth every re-read sentence.
I oddly find Miéville's characters completely unrelatable - I tend to find his protagonists annoying, and in this case it was no different. I felt more sympathy towards Yagharek, until right at the end. I can't decide if my inability to really like Miéville's heroes is a personal thing, or if it's down to poor writing or actual intent. I doubt it's poor writing - but I have to speak to some other Miéville-ites in order to tell if it's just me, or if the characters are written that way. Despite them though, once again, the story - the great and fantastic story - outweighs anything else, and I was drawn in to the last word. I marvel and wonder at the immensity of the imagination of the man who writes these incredible settings, unbelieveably complex cultures and languages and physiques. China Miéville, I salute you.