Thailand, some time in the future. In a world of unrest, pollution and disease, water is scarce. Calorie Corporations control the food supply and exer...moreThailand, some time in the future. In a world of unrest, pollution and disease, water is scarce. Calorie Corporations control the food supply and exert political influence over governments. Genetically created crops, animals and New People (or windups) are a reality and there's old and new technology - click springs, airships and gas devices, but there's also a lack of oil, and consequently no computers, combustion engines, or electricity.
Anderson Lake, a Calorie Man from AgriGen, has come to Bangkok in search of a mysterious gene hacker called Gibson who's creating illegal fruit and vegetables for the Thai Government that may be immune to disease. In a sex club he meets Emiko, a raped and abused windup girl from Japan. She wants to escape the city, but cannot. Windups are illegal in Thailand and she would be destroyed if the authorities ever found her. Through selfish motives, Anderson helps her out and they both become pawns in a military coup that is about to sweep through the country.
I listened to the audiobook version, which was probably a mistake, I think you really need to have the paperback so you can flick back and forth to work out what the hell is going on.The plot is very complicated (much more so than the synoposis suggest) and follows the machinations of at least ten or fifteen characters. It was hard to remember who was who and what they had been doing previously. I was disappointed that so little of the book revolved around Emiko, who was by far the most interesting character. Her story arc was also very slow to get going, but when it did, in the second half of the book, it was riveting, and I wish this had been more of the main thrust of the story. Apart from Anderson and Emiko I never really felt I got that close to the rest of the characters, although the world they inhabit is amazingly detailed and thoughtfully constructed. The East-meets-stempunk-meets-genetics theme reminded me of 'The Diamond Age' by Neal Stephenson, which I think, on balance, I preferred. Although both books seem to reach the thrust of the action a little late in the day. (less)
For me it was up there with Northern lights as a great piece of middle grade steampunk fiction. The balance of adventure, innovative tech, world build...moreFor me it was up there with Northern lights as a great piece of middle grade steampunk fiction. The balance of adventure, innovative tech, world building, and characters is perfect, and the action packed pace doesn't lag from the first page to the last. I will try and write a longer review of it soon!(less)
First the good. I liked the book's main conceit, the idea that vampires and werewolves are just another part of the Victorian society and how all sort...moreFirst the good. I liked the book's main conceit, the idea that vampires and werewolves are just another part of the Victorian society and how all sorts of etiquette and rules have developed to deal with that civilly. I thought the main plot was a bit hackneyed, but with potentially interesting characters and situations. I really liked the opening pages, which set a tongue in cheek tone. I imagined Alexia as a sort of Mary Poppins vampire slayer, a no-nonsense spinster, operating in Victorian England, and trying to get her job done, whilst dealing with all of the social etiquette and niceties of that time. Unfortunately, this was not exactly how the book panned out.
What I thought, up front was going to be all victorian vampire slaying turned out to be mostly cheesy bodice-ripping romance, and there was a lot more slobbery french-kissing than there was tongue in cheek comedy. When narrative tension arises the author does a brilliant job of diffusing it by telling you what a secondary character is thinking, or by dropping a storyline completely, or by whisking her heroes out of harms way as soon as she's put them in jeopardy. Characters start a chapter by sitting down for tea and giving a brief summary of the last chapter's action. There is little description and no geography, so that a story set in London might as well be anywhere. The dialogue tries for victorian wit, but often comes across clunky. The scene between Alexia and Lord Maccon repeat in variation with almost the same dialogue and the authors idea of changing this up, is to have Lord Maccon lose more clothes. But most disappointing of all is the fact that Alexia doesn't get any vampire/wolf/gollum killing action, all that gets left (in one brief scene) to Lord Maccon. In fact the vampires and villains and werewolves are all so neutered that the action never really has a chance to take off.(less)
It's around 2050 in the Shanghai region of China. Different tribes of peoples live on artificial islands in the bay outside the city. In the prosperou...moreIt's around 2050 in the Shanghai region of China. Different tribes of peoples live on artificial islands in the bay outside the city. In the prosperous community of the Neo-Victorians a nano technology engineer named John Hacksworth takes on a commission to create a book - 'The Young Ladies Illustrated Primer.' The book is an ever changing story, an AI device that teaches young ladies to be maverick individuals. Nell, a young Dickensian heroine from a broken home in the modern projects receives one of only three copies of the book when her delinquent brother steals it from John Hacksworth. It gradually becomes her surrogate parent and sets her life on a new path.
Once I got into this book I was actually really addictive and I read it in about three days. The story is very immersive and intriguing and the character of Nell and her growth and change through the story is handled very well. I like the idea of a pocket of (Neo) Victorian Society with those morals and concerns that is surrounded on all sides by a crazy chaotic Bladerunner world. (The concept throws up echoes of Colonialism, which could've been explored more in the story). I also love the idea of a book within a book, which gives the author a chance to go into a whole other fairytale hero's journey, reminiscent of YA stories.
The theme of the book seems to be 'order vs chaos.' Order being Victorian Values and controlled mechanics and digital binary information, and traditional communication. Chaos being modern Shanghai, the slums, the drummers, the hippie orgies and the possibility of a sort of psychic internet?
There is too much of Hacksworth in the second half of the book and maybe not enough of development for Nell in the real world. The ending is a bit sudden, just as the story is about to go off into a new interesting direction.(less)
This is the first China Mieville book I have read. It is a YA fantasy story where Deeba, a teenage girl, and her best friend Zanna stumble into Un Lun...moreThis is the first China Mieville book I have read. It is a YA fantasy story where Deeba, a teenage girl, and her best friend Zanna stumble into Un Lun Dun – a surreal version of London. They are tasked with ridding both cities of the evil Smog - a personification of an environmental disaster. To do this they must gather a gang of trusted friends together; solve a few tasks and collect some magical weapons. Along the way there are twists and betrayals. The usual Quest story basically.
The story and the world reminded me of both Alice and The Phantom Tollbooth. The child hero Deeba I found kind of drab, her only character trait seemed to be that she slips into Cockney every now and then. The Un Lun Dun'ers are more interesting, surreal and imaginative characters that seem to have escaped from a stop motion animated movie. In fact, I can imagine the story working well in that format. Especially when it's distilled, because as it is it seems like there's a little too much going on. I find it hard to judge the length of books on Kindle but I would hazard that its a little longer than other children's quest stories, because I started to feel there were a few too many tasks and characters to be got through before we reached the final battle. Sometimes complex stuff or the chance for character development seems rather glossed over in favour of more surreal action, which meant I thought that the book has less heart than it could, and although I liked the characters I didn't really massively care about any of them.(less)