Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Published by Macmillan Publishers in 2000
Genres: Speculative Fiction, New Weird
China Miéville is one of my favourite authors, and Perdido Street Station is a triumph.
The linguistic complexity of Miéville ‘s writing has me constantly reaching for a dictionary, constantly learning new words and concepts. His writing is melodic and visual and his creatures are repurposed from popular culture and mythology with a unique twist. New Weird is the relatively new genre that authors like China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer dive into, crossing and recrossing the boundaries between fantasy, science fiction and supernatural horror.
The story is set in the city of Bas-Lag, and this city is loud, colourful, grimy and terrifying. It’s filled with some of the loveliest and most frightening “people” you could meet. The story is so incredibly vivid, you can almost smell, see and hear it. This is the power that China Miéville has. He has created a story that is intellectually engaging, intricate and unique.
Perdido Street Station is told from two perspectives. Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, an overweight, middle-aged, discredited scientist is approached by a creature, called a garuda, and asked to help restore it’s ability to fly. The creature, named Yagharek, who is part-human, part-bird was punished for a transgression by amputation of the wing. The other perspective is that of Isaac’s girlfriend, a part-human, part-scarab creature named Lin. She is approached by a mobster and asked to create a statue of him, which she makes out of her spit. The relationship between Isaac and Lin is a particularly lovely aspect of the plot, if you can past how weird it is. There are many other mixed-species part-humans in the story who struggle to fit in to a society mostly made up of humans, a few of them are really weird.
The plot is complex but you don’t get lost. The characters are thoroughly developed. The pace moves from leisurely, setting up the world, to rapid and packed with action. More than the plot, this story is about the world of Bas-Lag. You will be immersed, and perfectly set up for following standalone novels.
I believe in the past that I have declared this one of the greatest books ever written. The careful attention to detail, the creativity and the realism of the city and it’s people combine to make it one of the best books I have ever read.