book review: perdido street station

China Mieville is a writer whose name I’ve seen bandied about a bunch by other writers on the internets. When I saw Perdido Street Station at a used book store before leaving for Calgary I saw a perfect bus book: long and plotty. I hoped I’d like it, and I did. It’s kind of an urban steampunk/fantasy with birdmen and thaumaturges and science and flintlocks. It drew me along well, even though the main “We must save the city” plot only begins a third of the way in, which was an interesting choice. I liked it because we were being drawn into this other, less urgent, problem of science and art first which got us into our main characters (one of whom gets dropped once the big bad plot begins). By the time everything begins really happening we can see how much of it is our heroes own fault and we’re really attached to them. Very well done, and somewhat different from the school of thought saying you must start as late as possible.

The other interesting thing is whether this counts as SF or horror. In the shop I bought it, it was in the SF section but has a horror stamp inside. There were lovecraftian sorts of beasties in it, and a couple of descriptions were pretty nasty. Definitely not some sort of high fantasy, but I’d have a hard time seeing it as a pure horror movie. The main characters do have quite a bit of agency and though not everything is wrapped up with a nice neat little bow, not everything dies. There are more New Corbuzon novels and I’ll probably read them as they pop up in used book stores.

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