It’s been 2 months since my last entry for my book challenge. This means I’m officially in violation of my self-imposed rules, since I’m supposed to get to at least one book a month. Fortunately I made up the rules and there’s no penalty for breaking them, so I can carry on and futilely try to describe Perdido Street Station, published in 2000. Here goes nothing.
After the unfortunate unpleasantness of the previous two books in this challenge, Perdido Street Station was like a long luxurious shower. It starts off very slow, immersing you in the grubby streets of New Crobuzon without much sense of direction at first. I honestly didn’t enjoy it much at first, but the writing was so much better than the previous entries that I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and I’m very glad I did.
The overarching story of the book follows a wingless garuda trying to regain the power of flight, and this is a completely gross oversimplification. It follows a scientist, an artist, a political dissident, and a whole host of supporting characters along the way. An unfortunate series of events culminates in a horrifying predator being unleashed on the city, and the strange band of outcasts must try to put a stop to it. I’m being intentionally vague because I would absolutely recommend this book and for me part of the enjoyment of it was watching the seemingly unimportant bits of narrative come together into a greater whole.
The novel sways around a bit, sometimes a steampunk take on unions and workers rights, other times deep horror as much about monsters as about losing yourself. This is a story about science and art, about dreams and consciousness, about politics and justice. The threads of the different components are woven together with the deftness of a Weaver, one of the “Dancing Mad Gods” that also gets wrapped up in the story.
One of my few complaints about the book in fact is that the Weaver is so alien and powerful that it comes across as a bit of deus ex machina, but at least it is on-theme. My other minor complaint is probably due to me not really loving steampunk, and being slightly annoyed at words like aetherochymical. There is also a lot of worldbuilding, which may be a pro or con depending on your tastes. For me it started as a distraction but eventually I became immersed in this city and felt like by the end I was finally starting to know my way around its districts, rivers, and railways.
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
Rating: 4/5 stars
Verdict: A slow burn but an utterly rewarding one. Would recommend.
If you’re following along, next up is Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.