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.

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