BOOK REVIEW

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

I read quite a few books and I read pretty fast but the last book I absolutely didn't want to put down was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I read that one on a weekend car trip and was thinking every hour about how I could pick it up and read more of it. I had the same reaction to Perdido Street Station. I couldn't wait to pick it up and keep reading. It surprised me just how much of a fantasy book this was, I had always considered it science-fiction just by what I heard about it. The thing about this type of fantasy is that it's very grounded in a science-fiction style world. There's magic, but it's run by clockwork machines and is a part of the world, like electricity.

The only problems I had were where Mieville comes right up on something super imaginative (the cactacae, living cactus people) but then stops himself (they have breasts and bones just like a human). There are a ton of sentient species on the world of Bas-Lag but they're all fairly human. He tries to give them strange abilities (watercraeft) or laws (choice-theft) but when it comes down to it, they're basically just humans who look like birds. I have a pretty low tolerance for failure of imagination in SF books (which is why I never wrote a review of the craptacular I, Robot movie) so it's probably just me.

The thing I really liked about PSS is that it felt like it was written in one long rush of imagination, which I'm sure it wasn't. I like the feel of a book that seems like the author was caught up in the crazy world he was creating and just threw things around to see what worked. It doesn't all work but most of it does. And of what does work, there are chunks of mind-blistering originality, both of prose and of ideas. I bought Mieville's followup to PSS, The Scar, on sale sometime back but never read it for wanting to read PSS first. Now that I've read PSS, I had to discipline myself to read a library book before going on to The Scar. Finishing a book and salivating about getting to move on to the next one is a rare pleasure and one I thank China Mieville for providing with Perdido Street Station.