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Perdido Street Station
China Miéville
Del Rey paperback $7.95

review by Amy Harlib

China Miéville, author, at the time, of one previously published dark fantasy novel, King Rat, a very distinguished debut with a contemporary London setting as the backdrop of a clever reworking of the Pied Piper legend, ventured into far more phantasmagorical realms with his sophomore effort, a science fantasy epic so astonishingly good I can't praise it too highly!
   Perdido Street Station, set in an urban-gothic fantasy metropolis of New Crobuzon, sprawls and seethes with weird technology and thaumaturgy and teams with diverse inhabitants of all sorts of human and sentient nonhuman persuasions. Magical and 'steampunk' technology co-exists, there being Babbage computing engines, coal-powered robot 'constructs' and an underclass of bio-magically 'Remade' victims of harsh judgements who may be part machine, part animal, or wholly horrific.
   A visiting Garuda - a winged being now stripped of his aerial appendages as punishment for a crime he committed amongst his own kind (about which he stays taciturnly reticent), approaches the plump, eccentric amateur scientist Dan der Grimnebulin, hoping to buy back the power of flight. The resulting research project produces an unforeseen concatenation of monstrous consequences in which a deadly horror is unleashed - an entity so powerful that even the demons of Hell fear to fight it (declining when New Crobuzon's corrupt government begs help from the ambassador of the Netherworld).
   Now Grimnebulin and his rag-tag group of cronies must do what they can to deal with the flying terror, these protagonists including: Isaac's khepri lover (a sculptress from a hybrid human-bodied, scarab beetle-headed insectoid race); Yagharak the garuda; a gutsy lady reporter for a viciously suppressed subversive newspaper; the clandestine group-mind of New Crobuzon's constructs; a secret traitor; a gangster-for-hire; and the Weaver (a truly unique giant intelligent spider with uncanny dimension-spanning powers).
   Miéville's consummate writing skill makes all this fit together in a feat of imaginative creativity, devising a truly original setting of Heironymous Boschean decadent complexity and atmosphere written with stylish expertise equal to any of the masterful works of Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe or Mervyn Peake.
   Behold thoroughly dimensional characters, quirky and flawed and utterly believable whether human or nonhuman or mixed amidst a background of dazzling intricacy, rich in gothic atmosphere, bizarre cultural diversity and 'local colour'. Enjoy a wildly exciting and thrilling plot that relentlessly grips the reader and never lets go until the unexpected ending. (But be warned of the presence of totally appropriate contextual darkness here, some non-gratuitous gross-outs, and plenty of true-to-life cursing).
   One of the best books I have ever read, Perdido Street Station being so splendid, so vivid, so clever (for example in Miéville's use of terms such as garuda and khepri from our own global mythic heritage to evoke imagery), one hates for it to end. At 700-plus pages it leaves one craving for more, awestruck by its refreshing and ingenious approach to fantastic fiction. This extraordinary tour de force of the imagination deserving the highest awards and encomiums went on to win them too! Miéville's talent should be nurtured in order to continue to enrich us all!
Perdido Street Station

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