Monday, August 1, 2011

Perdido Street Station (Book)

Wings. Choices. Punishment. Betrayal. Outcasts. Sentience. Crisis. Nightmares.

Amazed. I was amazed by China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, which won the 2001 Clarke and British Fantasy Society awards and was nominated for five other major Science Fiction/Fantasy awards. The novel can be categorized as a dark fantasy with some science fiction and horror elements. Mieville creates an unusual setting, with strange races—many of them animal/human hybrids—and makes it all seem perfectly plausible. What I found most astonishing is how Mieville describes the thoughts of the characters, how he gets into their psyches. This is a long book, which continues to reveal something new about the setting and characters until the end.

Briefly, Isaac is a scientist who is a bit of an academic outsider and is interested in many types of science. Lin, his girlfriend, a human/insect hybrid called a "khepri", is an artist. Near the beginning of the story she begins a project for a mysterious patron. One day Yagharek, a human/bird hybrid called a “garuda”, asks for Isaac's help. Yagharek’s wings have been cut off, and he wants Isaac to help him fly again. Isaac soon becomes obsessed with wings, collecting huge numbers of specimens. One of these specimens, a grub, is stolen from a research lab, unbeknownst to Isaac. After it comes out of its cocoon, it escapes to find its siblings. The five of them go on to terrorize the people of New Crobuzon. Isaac and his allies attempt to stop the creatures.

I put down Perdido Street Station after 150 pages, read a Jasper Fforde book, and then went on to finish Perdido Street Station. The novel is unsettling. I was not sure where it was going, and some of the images were disturbing. This actually might be considered a good thing, because it speaks to the originality of the story. Perdido Street Station is the first novel in the New Crobuzon Trilogy. Part of me is drawn to Mieville’s skillful writing, and part of me just doesn’t like dark fantasy. We will see if and when I read the other books.

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