Friday, December 23, 2005

Perdido Street Station

I recently finished China Mieville's second novel, Perdido Street Station (on a generous recommendation from CGB).  Difficult as it was to put it down, I read it in several delightful interludes over many weeks, just chipping away at it between the reading I was doing for coursework. And I've never identified as a genre-fan of science fiction or fantasy, but all of that's changed now (it's in crisis).

In and around the complex sci-fi/fantasy cityscape of New Crobuzon, Isaac Dan der Gimnebulin, a self-described "dilettante" scientist working on a crisis engine, dodges close-call after close-call after he accepts a project commissioned by a nomadic Garuda (bird-person) named Yagharek.  Yag lost his wings as recompense for a crime we only learn about at the end of the novel; he walks many miles to the city where he recruits Isaac's assistance in restoring him to flight.  Isaac accepts the difficult assignment.  He immerses himself in research on flight, and in doing so, circulates a call for winged things to observe (develop a heliotype, model, etc.).  Several roguish figures want in on the money.  They bombard his lab with winged specimens.

And this is just the start.  Perdido Street Station is unrelenting with its startlingly fast pace, vividly developed figures and terrain, and wild, shocking twists.  I don't want to give too much of it away; I suspect that if you read this entry and you haven't yet read Perdido Street Station, you'll be tempted to run out and pick it up.  Mieville's fiction, here overflowing with eccentricity and imagination, is so irresistibly, punishingly smart, the pages threaten to drink your mind like the antagonist slake-moths.  A taste:

     The construct jerked.
     Deep in the construct's intelligence engine circulated the peculiar solipsistic loop of data that constituted the virus, born where a minute flywheel had skittered momentarily.  As the steam coursed through the brainpan with increasing speed and power, the virus's useless set of queries went round and round in an autistic circuit, opening and shutting the same valves, switching the same switches in the same order.
     But this time the virus was nurtured.  Fed. (210)

There's so much more here that I'm afraid I can't really do it justice: Weaver, a plane-traveling spider-figure who wields razor-honed scissors; an army of remades who follow the orders of their pieced-together crime boss, Motley; a vodyani watercrafter, Lin, who dates Isaac; a Construct Council self-foraged from a heap of rubbish; and a bad-ass team of slake-moths who play havoc on the psychosphere of New Crobuzon. Oy.  I heartily recommend it.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at December 23, 2005 9:45 PM to Reading Notes