Juushika's Reviews > Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
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Feb 26, 11

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bookshelves: status-borrowed
Read in February, 2011

On the streets of New Crobuzon, the strange citizens live in a cacophony of culture, pollution, and alchemy. But their greatest threat may come not from their turbulent politics or research into unstable energy—but from a deceptively harmless, exotic grub. Perdido Street Station begins in one direction, exploring the intricacies of a fantastical city and the liminal work of two lovers—one a scientist, one an artist—within it; it continues in another, with a more traditional great evil and the difficult quest to defeat it. This quest still occurs on the strange streets of New Crobuzon, and so maintains much of the unique worldbuilding promised by the beginning of the book, but the change of theme and direction is a disappointment. The book is also overlong and overdrawn (suffering thesaurus abuse and a glaring overuse of "fouled"), and while the setting is often fascinating the cast of characters and list of locales grows overwhelming, making this a 700-page monster: dense, pretentious, and laborious. The epilogue, meanwhile, comes fast and hard, leaving some issues unresolved—among them potentially feminist issues which, coupled with the questionable role one of the female characters, makes for a frustrating conclusion.

These complaints are obvious and loud. Perdido Street Station is a troubled book, and much of it irked me. But it's not unreadable: I stuck with it for the utterly unique world of New Crobuzon, which is alien and complex, sometimes verging on brilliant although its simple vastness leaves many interesting aspects unexplored. Once the disappointment of the changed direction has worn off, the plot serves as a competent vehicle for the setting and is occasionally satisfying in its own right. Miéville has an appetite for violence, which (aside from the bodily fluids "fouling" every available surface) gives great weight to the book's events: stakes are high, no one is safe, and so the tragedies and victories become meaningful. I survived Perdido Street Station with many complaints and no small amount of fascination; I would love to see other settings as realistic and original as New Crobuzon. But I wouldn't recommend Perdido Street Station, because its strengths are outweighed (and in a massive trade paperback, often smothered) by its weaknesses.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jill (new) - rated it 1 star

Jill Ha! "Thesaurus abuse." My new favorite phrase!

Ross Hi Jushika.... I agree.

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