Tag Archives: Perdido Street Station

Book Review: Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

In recent years, young adult fiction has morphed from Fear Street thrillers and gothic romances into books that transcend age. From books like The Hunger Games to The Book Thief, young adult books have attracted the notice of critics and people way too old to be shopping in a section that also peddles Gossip Girl novels.

I myself enjoy the Chaos Walking Trilogy and Leviathon and recommend them to people who like dark science fiction and steam punk, respectively. I also fervently recommend Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. I’ve mentioned Mieville before and he’s one of my favorite writers. He’s a bit tricky to recommend whole-heartedly however. His writing style can swing wildly between the gritty and fantastical, the hyper-descriptive and the dry and monochromatic. Most of his books end with the reader being both depressed and in awe.

Un Lun Dun is less depressing, but just as fantastic as his other works. It’s Mieville playing nice. While there are moments of darkness and despair, for the most part Mieville is not trying to crush all of your hopes and dreams. What he has done, however, is create a fantasy work that is fundamentally about thumbing your nose at convention.

And this isn’t just the theme of the novel, although Mieville is less than subtle about his anger at politicians and the businesses that drive them. The very structure of the novel tweaks the nose of every fantasy trope. Everything from the protagonist to the central quest she embarks on is a big wet raspberry at the cliches of the genre. The hero isn’t what you expect, the villains are monstrous in surprisingly realistic ways, and the world they inhabit is an original and novel place.

This is a good place to start with Mieville, a way to see his extraordinary imagination at work with less of the nightmare-tinged despair of Perdido Street Station.

A billion stars or something.

Dylan Charles

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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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