[Name Redacted]'s Reviews > King Rat

King Rat by China Miéville
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Aug 27, 12

bookshelves: urban-fantasy, politics, dark-fantasy, to-read, tripe
Read from July 12, 2010 to August 27, 2012

This was the first book by China Mieville I encountered, back in the late 90s when Barnes & Noble still published weekly/monthly genre-specific magazines filled with reviews of new books. I thought the premise sounded intriguing, but I never got around to reading it and then I wound up in the jungle for a few years -- surprisingly, there are no bookstores in the jungle.

When I returned, I discovered that Mieville had been crowned the New Gaiman and I was told that I had to read and revere his work because everyone who was anyone did so. That was enough to keep me from reading his work. His fans were just so insistent, so pretentious, so fawning -- I decided to steer clear of his work on general principle. My desire to read "King Rat" has remained (perhaps because I love rats?) and I compromised by buying a used copy off eBay last Summer.

Today i finally re-added it to my GoodReads "to-read" shelf, and who should offer up his own assessment of Mieville but my separated-at-birth brother Jerry "TychoBrahe" Holkins of "Penny Arcade":

"The difference between Neal Stephenson and China Miéville for me is that I never liked the latter, even though I’m supposed to; even though it is simply an accepted fact that people of any cognition whatsoever are turning each page with a shaking hand, ready to receive his next sacred revelation. I own every one of his books, each time thinking this will be the one until his unique ocular drill begins to whir and I must hurl the book across the room or be blinded. This may be the first time you have read on a website that China Miéville is something less than a God; I’ve certainly never seen it typed, which was reason enough to do it. (Comic featured here: http://penny-arcade.com/comic/2012/05/14 )

"In trying to understand what it was precisely I found so intolerable, I recalled a song called 'Fit But You Know It' by The Streets. Being smart, or beautiful, or strong, or confident, or epitomizing any other virtue is whatever. But you can push these things, you can grind them into another person, and we have social censure for this kind of behavior. His writing is incredibly smug. I can feel him leering at me through his typewriter, shoulders up, breathing hard. That’s when I stand up, walk over to the bookshelf, and place it with the others. No way. We have no shared history; I’m not going to bore through one of these things out of deference to some prior affection. I don’t owe him shit.

"Apparently he has a book where there are two cities and they, like, overlap. That’s what I heard anyway, and if someone else had written it maybe that would matter."



UPDATE: I gave up 35 pages into this. I kept trying, I really did, but I finally reached a sentence so pretentious and nauseatingly pseudo-intellectual that I couldn't go any further: "Back in that cell, the grotesque figure calling itself King Rat had impaled Saul with his grandiloquent and preposterous declamations." It was insufferable & amateurish, a pathetic imitation of Gaiman's far-superior Neverwhere written by someone who reads like a college Freshman double-majoring in Creative Writing and Poli Sci.
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Reading Progress

08/17/2012 page 11
3.0%
08/18/2012 page 13
4.0% "I'm less than 15 pages in and already I find him insufferable. If I'd read this back in the 90s, before everyone and their mother was singing paeans to his dubious genius, I might have given him the benefit of the doubt. Now however, I demand that he live up to his own hype." 4 comments
08/18/2012 page 20
6.0% "Clumsy attempts at verbosity, feeling only pompous and amateurish. Gaiman's genius lies in knowing when to rely on brevity and when to pull out the purple prose. Mieville, at least based on this book, does not share this genius."
08/19/2012 page 35
11.0% ""Back in that cell, the grotesque figure calling itself King Rat had impaled Saul with his grandiloquent and preposterous declamations." Yeah, that's it. Sorry, Mieville-ites, I'm done with this for now. It reads like something a teenager would write while trying to prove to himself how clever he is."
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Terry (new)

Terry I gave up on Perdido Street Station and never looked back. I think if Mieville wasn't so free to share his personal opinions in any forum he is given, and so smug about the rightness of them, I'd be inclined to give his work another try. Also, yeah...I don't like being told by "those who know" that I simply *must* read his books and love him.


Matt The thing is that it's all down hill from here. This is his best and most polished work. The more he writes, the more pretentious and nauseatingly pseudo-intellectual he gets. And, since he gets praised for it, the smugger and more arrogant he becomes.


[Name Redacted] I'm glad I'm not the only one. Then, to quote gentle Tycho: "No way. We have no shared history; I’m not going to bore through one of these things out of deference to some prior affection. I don’t owe him shit."


Ashlea I hadn't heard of him before I studied 'Fantasy & Science Fiction' as part of my lit major. This was a required reading but it just bored me to tears.


message 5: by Bobbie (last edited Oct 15, 2012 11:49AM) (new)

Bobbie Kitay I find it appalling that anyone compares Mieville to Gaiman. The latter is so twee and precious he makes my teeth hurt. If he is the benchmark of urban fantasy, we're in trouble. Mieville's first novel was a first novel, and was written in 1998. Try reading his later works, where his skill and facility with the language make Gaiman look like the over-rated hack he is. If you're really only reading Mieville because somebody tells you you must, you deserve Gaiman, and welcome to him.


message 6: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie Kitay Matt wrote: "The thing is that it's all down hill from here. This is his best and most polished work. The more he writes, the more pretentious and nauseatingly pseudo-intellectual he gets. And, since he gets..."

The fact that you don't understand an author doesn't make him "psuedo-intellectal". Sure, Gaiman's easy to understand, but who wants to?


Matt "The fact that you don't understand an author doesn't make him "psuedo-intellectal"."

I understand him. He's not actually that deep. He's a political writer, and he writes not that below the surface political allegory that is most certainly not working on multiple levels. It's not like he's actually working through multiple layers of self-criticism and asking the reader to really engage difficult questions. Rather, he thinks he knows all the answers, that he's smarter than anyone else, and that what he's doing is really deep (even when its not). Ergo, psuedo-intellectual.

He doesn't hold a candle to Wolfe, Tolkien, or Silverberg in terms of depth. Heck, I'm no fan of Scalzi, but 'Red Shirts' just went miles past anything Mieville has ever done in terms of ambition.

Do you ever have a better responce to hearing things you don't like than the ad hominem? Why don't we start with the assumption that I do understand, and ask me why I think what I do. Then, at least you are being civil and have something to respond to.


[Name Redacted] Matt wrote: ""The fact that you don't understand an author doesn't make him "psuedo-intellectal"."

I understand him. He's not actually that deep. He's a political writer, and he writes not that below the sur..."


This.


message 9: by Bobbie (new)

Bobbie Kitay Matt wrote: ""The fact that you don't understand an author doesn't make him "psuedo-intellectal"."

I understand him. He's not actually that deep. He's a political writer, and he writes not that below the sur..."


Ian wrote: "Matt wrote: ""The fact that you don't understand an author doesn't make him "psuedo-intellectal"."

I understand him. He's not actually that deep. He's a political writer, and he writes not that ..."

Not particularly interested in anything more you have to say.


[Name Redacted] Bobbie wrote: "Matt wrote: ""The fact that you don't understand an author doesn't make him "psuedo-intellectal"."

I understand him. He's not actually that deep. He's a political writer, and he writes not that ..."


Then you've probably picked the wrong discussion on the wrong website.

Also, as I stated in my actual review, I developed an interest in this novel entirely separate from Mieville's reputation, because he had no reputation when this book was published. No-one recommended it to me.


message 11: by Tiberius (new)

Tiberius Bones You totally missed the point, dude! Reading China is a slightly more fun way to read a dictionary! :D


message 12: by Matt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt Tiberius: If I wanted a tour guide on an excursion through the darker and dustier corners of the dictionary, I'd go with Gene Wolfe.


[Name Redacted] Matt wrote: "Tiberius: If I wanted a tour guide on an excursion through the darker and dustier corners of the dictionary, I'd go with Gene Wolfe."

Hear hear!


message 14: by Dewi (new) - added it

Dewi I have read his four most re ent novels, none of which are perfect but all of which are excellent. I've heard from a friend that is obsessed with him that this is far and away his weakest. The sentence quoted above is certainly awful but doesn't sound like his later work. I've read Gaiman's Neverwhere and thought that was awful, overly simplistic ideas and characters and pedestrian prose.


[Name Redacted] Dewi wrote: "I have read his four most re ent novels, none of which are perfect but all of which are excellent. I've heard from a friend that is obsessed with him that this is far and away his weakest. The sent..."

"Neverwhere" is pretty weak as far as Gaiman goes, but it's a novelization of a TV mini-series he wrote with another person.

I keep trying to give Mieville a chance, and each time I hit something as obnoxious and awful as the sentence I listed.


message 16: by Matt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt In my opinion, Mieville's writing just gets worse and more obnoxious with every book. I haven't been able to finish one sense Perdido Street Station, and even then, I wished I hadn't bothered.

I don't exactly hold Gaiman among authors of the first rank either, but if you want to compare Mieville to Gaiman then let's do it on the basis of a fair comparison - works within the same genera. How about the utterly lame 'Un Lon Dun' versus anything Gaiman has ever written - including Neverwhere? Gaiman comes out miles ahead on that one.


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