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)
I struggled for the first chapter to get into Perdido Street station, but after that, there was so much interesting stuff going on in the first half o...moreI struggled for the first chapter to get into Perdido Street station, but after that, there was so much interesting stuff going on in the first half of the book that I enjoyed. The grotty detailed descriptions of New Crobuzon had a strong flavour of Mervyn Peake, crossed with Pratchett's Ankh Morpork. Naked Lunch Insect headed people, and a crime lord who is a hulking lump of remade flesh a mountain of angry mouths and various animal parts. The tender, but frankly weird interspecies relationship between Isaac and Linn. The way that this is a fantasy novel full of creatures and yet it has a real city feel about it because our heroes go out to yuppie restaurants, get drunk in bars and talk about their job, or go to the fair, or take cabs, or wander round parts of the city etc. And all this feels such a different direction from the average quest story of a fantasy novel, it seems as if the story will be low key and political - about the crime boss and his machinations or the Maxist magazine and the riots of the Vodyanoi, Yagharek and his crime, those kind of things.
But then we take a big U turn into a fantasy quest/bug hunt, and add in a load of new characters - mercenaries and criminals, who are more suited to this kind of narrative, and who you don't care about at all - to bolster up the team ( now definitely a team rather than a bunch of selfish city types) - and dropping the most interesting characters like Linn, who don't fit this new storyline. As the story becomes a straightforward action adventure, I felt like all the endless descriptions and the new characters like the Mayor and his deputies, whose POVs we are forced to endure, are just clogging up and slowing down what needs to be a fast paced story. Especially towards the end, when characters like Pengefinches, who have barely been mentioned, suddenly gets a whole POV chapter, and there are chapters about random characters literally laying cable, for the Big Plan. And so what should be a relatively pacey third act, just seems to drag with endless detail and characters. I suppose it deserves more stars for the amazing opening half of the book, but by the last third it was a struggle to get to the end.
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)