Perdido Street Station: A Review

I’m not sure how to talk about Perdido Street Station (written by Mr. China Mieville). It does not want to be carefully tucked into a genre. It resists against it, in fact, violently if necessary.

It’s not quite fantasy, though there are magicks and strange creatures. The magicks are described in half-mystical and half-scientific terms, like 19th century descriptions of faeries.

It’s not really Steam Punk, or at least my limited understanding of “steam punk”. There is steam, yes, as well as clockwork-men and dirigibles and perhaps individuals who may be described as “punk”.

And it’s not science-fiction either, in spite of the aforementioned science. There are cyborgs (clockwork cyborgs), a sunpowered death ray and genetic tamperings.

China Mieville, I imagine, sat down at his desk and then bled out this world, whole and entire, from the local flora and fauna to the political machinations to the afterlife. He stared at it, plucked out a few characters that he had developed a fondness for and then wrote down their stories: Isaac, the self-absorbed and self-important scientist. Lin, the bug-lady artist. Yag, the bird-man, on a quest he won’t be shaken from.

He wove their narratives together, a subtle spider touching their stories and altering the course of things like a mad dancing god.

It’s an almost overwhelming story, with characters that appear and then disappear (or are viciously removed). There are unfinished plots, though the main arc is always touched on in some way. It only feels right that those threads are left unmentioned. Their part in the story is done, so why mention them? They haven’t been forgotten, they’ve been dismissed.

It’s a book that refuses to be encapsulated, just by the simple scope of the world. A rich, teeming, vibrant, disgusting, dirty, horrible little world, filled with petty awful people and terrible deeds and betrayals and insanity. Here, China Mieville has created a whole world and shared only a piece of it with the readers.

Dylan Charles

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