Friday, May 25, 2012

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville - Book Review

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading Perdido Street Station (PSS), I came across this benign little conversation from Great Expectations:
"Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures," replied Estella, with a glance towards him, "hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?"
"No," I returned; "but cannot the Estella help it?"
"Well!" said she, laughing, after a moment, "perhaps. Yes. Anything you like."

So, is this candle the beacon?
PSS is a journey. An arduous, olfactory, insectan, long-winded journey through an overbearing thrashscape called New Crobuzon. Some of the chitinous (or feathery) characters are familiar; some of them are as strange as the words Mr. Mieville employs. Oh the words! They entrap you in the "Palimpsest of their meaningful gossamer". Be ready to take frequent dictionary trips.

The characters that loiter around in this book are unlike any other I have read so far. Garudas, Khepris, Vodyanoi, Cactacae, Remade (very, very interesting and intriguing!), Wyrmen, Moths, and even some of the humans. Mieville exploits your imagination to the limits. It's almost like your mind is turned into a mannequin whose strings are safely ensconced in the authors hands. To describe it in the author's own words: "to manipulate it within the limits dictated only by imagination". Every character has some interesting quality. The watercraeft of the Vodyanoi, the societal classification and choice-laws in Garudas, the manicurist habits of the Cactacae, the spit sculpting of the Khepris, the bravado of Isaac... all just wow! And then there is one Optimus Grime.

Oh and what's the story about? It's starts of as Yagharek's, a poor Garuda's, efforts to engage the services of the whacko-geek scientist Isaac Dan Der Grimnebulin in order to fly again. Then the story moves around as Isaac digresses from his research and unknowingly unleashes something unstoppable on his city. The book moves on to describe how this affects the personal lives of these characters, the administrators, the militia, the mob, and others. Mieville pushes you down a rather sewery rabbit hole and you keep tumbling along the cloaca of the great beast known as New Crobuzon.

That brings us to the amazingly filthy city of New Crobuzon. Every time Mieville pukes paints the city, most of the times, it's the browner shade of black. The city is complex. As complex as the various species that dwell in it's aromatic arms. You have to read it for yourself and immerse in the various shanty places, the stations, the individual species-infested holdings. Some of the best descriptions of the city are seen when the characters are traveling between train stations and while Yagharek delivers his monologue. The effluent city, surely, is the most important character in the book. It has all the elements of an actively participating character that shape the story in the author's inimitable style.

Yes, China Mieville Phd, does write in his own awesome style. I still remember Isaac tripping on dreamshit, Militia's dock-attack, the way the moths escape, hunt, and keep hunting, the way that web-lover sings, speaks, and weaves, and some such. These events bring the best out of the really good Mieville. Yes he digresses right in the middle of a super-fast situation, he puts in characters and ideas anytime and anywhere, yet his writing is a pleasure to read.

I can go on and on about this book. My very first Mieville (and am sure more to come!) that I was about to give up during the first 1/3rd of book, even though I was already impressed by the writing. I was jaded because I read it too slow. Then, things started happening and I stopped worrying about the number of pages. I realized that the big words, the complex ideas were building up towards an almost smooth, evocative execution of the plot. PSS is indeed a book that is a big bunch of writhing ideas. Imagine looking at a disturbed mass of long-legged spiders whose intimate congregation is broken by a pelted stone. Just observe and feel the tingling sensation on your skin evoke the familiar eerie feeling.

It's a colossal, stupendous journey.

Ok, I am off to recover from my Bas-Jet-Lag.
P.S.: If there is a lack of appropriate adjective usage in this review, please forgive me. PSS does belittle you when you try to engage these noun qualifiers freely.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 21, 2012


Number 14.
Curiosity drove me to open the Wiki page and read the significance of this quotidian number. Maybe some importance that might have slipped my ageing mind… and there I saw it. A little line that was hidden in the midst of all the excessive information:
The number of lines in a sonnet.
Life is poetic when memories rhyme and they remind you of the melody of a long lost tune. Memories.

Number 14.
Dad has a good collection of audio cassettes. (“Had” would be more appropriate since these old cassettes are no longer in use. Lying around, inexorably gathering dust.) There was this cassette numbered 14 that was special, at least for me.
Cassette Number 14.
The date written on the inside mentions that it was recorded sometime in 1986. That’s 3 years younger than me. :) The neatly typewritten song list displays the offerings. Boney M, Donna Summer, and a few soundtracks from them oldies. Remember Come September and For a few dollars more?

What reminded me of this cassette was Donna Summer. The Queen of Disco who recently began her journey on the stairway to heaven. She who sang those joyous, energetic, and naughty songs. Disco as we know it. Made us groove, made us move. This cassette had just 2-3 of her songs, but the initiation was just enough.

The remembrance of listening to those songs on the old Walkman, the rusty memories of being an adolescent suddenly interested in the "fairness" in the world, the moments of trying to rebel against the parental restrictions of not listening to this “adult” music… and so on…

Donna Summer. May God rest her soul in Peace. You meant a lot to so many in the world and you divinely contributed to the one true religion, Music. You will stay with us forever. You made me realize that importance of music, the fun of listening to songs secretively and growing up (and thinking about it now). You made me think of the bygone times and the present day and the ever-changing nature of us humans. What was once a cassette that was kept away from me now is lying around without notice. How temporal material things are…

Yet, music is eternal. Memories more so. I respect Donna Summer and the many Gods that came later. You were, and will be, passed as a legacy. Your creations will be fondly remembered, your songs will be lovingly enjoyed. We will lose ourselves to music and then we will find our own tunes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lane of Memories :: Ricochet

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
- T.S. Eliot in Burnt Norton (Four Quartets)

A fissure or a little crack. That's how it starts. That's how it started. Communication breakdown.

"You still won't talk to me will you?"
"Got nothing to say, girl. It's the whirlwind of circular thoughts, centrifugal more than centripetal."

Complete shut down. Strangling hope.

"It's the same thing over and over again. What new do I have? Nothing!"
"You can talk the same things over and over again."

Is there a point in justifying intense emotions? Can we really be a healthy mix of rational and emotional? Practically handling emotions? Not everything is in our control. Sometimes we might believe so. Sometimes we teach ourselves to believe so. We fight the easier acceptance. Just let the syringe in. It might save, it might not. But just let it in.

"I am like my element water. I take the shape of the container with each person. I am how they are. I am a chameleon."
"So with me too right?"
"You think so?"
"I don't want to think really."

Escape. Escape the very words that differentiate white from black. Love from hate. Release yourself from worries. Just to plunge in a sea of unknown. Where memories are just images. Quarantined from feelings.

"I still like to think that You and I are strong and the US even stronger."

Suddenly you put out a hand to touch an image and realize the futility of your escape. Apart from the ultimate escape, are humans really strong enough as they believe themselves to be. Suddenly the water starts choking and you fight to breathe for acceptance. Acceptance of your own emotions.

"I came to meet you as soon as I was in town. Because I know how I was feeling and I felt what you must be feeling too."
"I was broken then, completely broken."
"I am still. I don't even know how many parts are missing."
"I am not. I am healing. Because of you. Because you are there. Because of the little moments I spend with you. Because every time you make that extra effort. Because of those texts, song dedications, poems. Do you know, I have not written so many poems about anyone as I have for you. Because I can't just keep my emotions in place. I just can't. When it's you, poetry flows."

Words. All entrapped in words. Language trying to bridge the inexplicable connection of the soul. The most pure tainted link. Trying to shield each other. A rope with an entwining thread of 26 alphabets. A losing bet.

"Because I know whatever little part I play to make you feel better, I will feel better. And it's you I reach out to when I am in the depths of despair. YOU. You idiot. Just YOU. Because I feel u there, I feel a part of you and you a part of me. Why don't you see me trying to be perfect for you? WHY?"
"Don't be perfect for me. Really. Just make sure what you do is good for yourself in the long run."

Indifferent chill. Impending inference. Unattainable scenario. Just a circus within a circus. A trapeze act swinging towards the ultimate separation. 

"I meet you today, act stupid to make you smile, because I feel that tomorrow this today's smile would be our strength."
" I know. Don't I ever make you smile?"
"You do. You don't even have to try. You just do."

Then the striking question. Words they hid from. Both searching answers for the answer that will either hammer the nail in the coffin, or maybe snap it open and set them free. Free from everything, free from each other. Intangible, incarcerating freedom. 

"Then why do you think we are drifting apart? Why? Why?"
"Circumstances has a name?"
"Not sure."
"So we let an endless list of questions damage the US that we have been trying to keep safe for so long?
"You know, I should not be feeling so low. Because I had predicted this happening. You were the one that said it would not. Quite ironic ain't it."

Irony. The joke's on them. 

"But then I still keep loving you."
"That's an imaginary situation."
"I always will."
"Well, that I will too. I always will. You know, love is what love is between you and I. Will always be the same or rather grow fonder."
"That is the only love I know too."
"These petty things won't affect that love."
"That's what I am begging you too.That's what I am begging you too. Don't let it affect us."
"It won't."

Eventually reality barges in. Screaming like a warrior mustering all the remaining strength to strike a last blow against the challenger. The world. It's a losing bet. But hope has a way to trick everyone in believing otherwise. 

"But that was also very new to me. Very, very new. Because, before that I was in a self created paradise. And suddenly I saw the only guy I have ever loved go away right right in front of my eyes. It was new. And you pulled me back. You can always pull me back."
 "You know me, every time I meet you, it is a self created paradise and when I go I am almost on the verge of tears. Every time. But then I think of something you had said or did, and that gives me a glimpse of tomorrow. A tomorrow where you and I could be stronger. But the time before that happens is really tough. That's the time that i am going through right now. I want to safeguard our love."

Schism. It had to fall apart. They were never meant to be always together. It was just a momentary oasis in the desert. A temporary salvage that was going to destroy further. The moment when a mountaineer reaches the summit and suddenly the trickster pulls the mountain from below the climber. The moment when two people are caught in a swirling tornado and forcefully thrown out in opposite directions.

Joke. A joke where no one laughs.

They were forced to go separate ways. Who knows if their paths will cross again, though their memories are filled with each other. They have gardened their sweet secret places full of flowers and by lanes and raindrops. An easy escape and an easy wormhole.

Mandrake and Mehnaz's very own private Wonderland.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sinistry of Magic

They always said I looked like my father but had my mother’s eyes. Wonder what would they have to say about my nose.

I am out waiting to begin another interesting project. Getting rid of annoying good guys is not easy. Especially, when there are so many of them. A few of them sparkle, a few of them turn to werewolves (the latter would have been OK had it not been for all that romance!), a few of them put a ring around their necks, some have weird pets... I can go on about this, but I have to meet up with Lobo for a drink really soon.

Yeah, I cut my own nose. Not to imitate Laxmana, but to imitate the only true person who inspired me and made me his equal.

Someone had to take his place. The revolution continues.