colleen the fabulous fabulaphile's Reviews > Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
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's review
Sep 28, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: weird, group-read, library-read
Read from September 06 to 28, 2011

I'm not really sure how to rate this book. Well, I gave it three stars so I guess it's more apt to say I'm not really sure how to review this book or explain my rating.

On one hand, I didn't really dig the writing style. I don't agree with some reviewers who felt he had a thesaurus open while writing it. Honestly, I never got that feeling and there were only a handful of words I was at a loss with - most of which I could figure out in context or, honestly, overlook.

But I do feel like it's over-written. There are these big descriptive paragraphs about the city and the world and its inhabitants - but often times I felt like it didn't add that much to the story. And maybe it's not meant to. Maybe it's just meant to paint a picture, or show off his weird little city. And, honestly, most of the time when I felt like the book was getting bogged down with needless descriptions I just sort of started skimming them.

I found the action hard to follow at times, though, in addition to this and, as a group-member said in her review, I never really got what the point of the story was. In a way it felt like Un Lun Dun in that I felt that the story is just a loose thread which ties together the scenery - that the point of writing it wasn't to tell a story but to showcase the world and the species, etc.

In other words "Look at how clever and cool the shit is in my brain. Let me show it to you. Oh, yes, and here's a story to showcase these things - but, really, it's about the things."

And, in some ways, that's ok - but it's not why I tend to read.


On the other hand, there were some moments of brilliance. Parts where I didn't care whether there was a story. Parts where I really was so dazzled that it didn't matter - not so much by the world, but by the ideas.

Crisis energy is an amazingly cool idea. A mixture of arcane philosophy and a sort of quantum physics, and I didn't catch everything he said but I got the gist and I got wrapped up in Isaac's excitement about it because, my gods, what a fucking concept.

And then there's the Weaver, the mad dancing god, and his monologue which reads like dream logic.

The slake-moths who are terrifying and yet enrapturing, in a way, and the way that something presented as so appalling can also be erotic and needy.

The Council and issues of consciousness and individuality and reality, and what is life, anyway?

And also moments of poignancy - of beauty and agony. Of art and culture - of shucking off ones indoctrination, and saying fuck you to the status quo, of inter-species entanglements and struggles, of crime and betrayal and just pain and terror and ecstasy.

If there were more of these moments, or if these moments weren't buried in a lot of dross and detritus, if I didn't feel slogged down so often, I'd probably have a much higher esteem for this book.

When it shines, my gods, how it shines, but the moments are small and fleeting... and a lot of the rest felt like a chore.


One last thing I will say, though, is that one cool thing he did was that a lot of things in the beginning which seemed random and inconsequential became relevant later on in the story. I still don't feel like I missed anything in skimming the descriptions of the city - it was more in characters and moments and connections and things, but it was cool when all the "wtf is this about?" pondering came together and paid off in the end.


So, yeah. Not a book for everyone. Not necessarily even a book for me - except sometimes.
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Reading Progress

26.0% "The crises theory is rather interesting, actually. Reminds me of my own philosophical attempts to find where the physical, mental and spiritual, as it were, unified."
30.0% "Chapter 18: I found Lin's story of leaving the indoctrination of her youth and finding refuse in a new system, only to later find it lacking, to be very familiar..."
34.0% "It's alive! ALIVE!!! ;)"
38.0% "It gets good... then slows down. Picks up... then crawls a pace..."
09/20/2011 page 318
51.0% "Yum..."
09/26/2011 page 533
86.0% 1 comment
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-8 of 8) </span> <span class="smallText">(8 new)</span>

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Becky Good review, Colleen. :)

colleen the fabulous fabulaphile Thanks. :>

I was worried it was too manic and all over the place, but I guess it works for this book, all things considered. ;-j

message 3: by Lee (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lee Excellent review. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the book as I found this quite a difficult book to review. Like you I found it overly descriptive ( i think there is a 5 page scene of someone swimming off into the sunset) yet found parts of the story very engaging.

colleen the fabulous fabulaphile Thanks. :>

And I think I remember those 5 pages. LOL ;)

message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian (first person omniscient) I think you did a wonderful job of reviewing a book that seems to do its damnedest to defy being reviewed. In actuality, you reminded me why I fell in love with it and, I must admit, why I just skimmed parts on later readings.

I gave it a star value as well but if asked I don't think I could honestly tell you how much of that was based on how good the book actually is as a whole or simply because of how well I remember those moments were I just wanted to laugh out loud at the sheer brillance of some idea or creation the first time I read it.

Even if I never picked it up again, twenty years from now I would still remember the Weaver, Lin and her spit art, Yagharek and crisis energy... so I guess if I rated it on anything so quantifiable it was that.

The biggest reason though that I wanted to stop and comment on your review is because of how well you sum up the high points along with the low without ever slipping into ambivalence.

Oh that and it made me smile thinking about how your review with a little tweaking could describe the author's entire body of work.

colleen the fabulous fabulaphile Thanks so much for your kind comments, Ian. :)

This definitely wasn't a book which inspired ambivalence for me. I vacillated between frustrated boredom and awe - but never ambivalence. I'm glad that came across.

I agree that there are definitely things from this book that I will remember down the line. It is very powerful and moving in places, and very original, and those things will definitely stick with me.

Stuart Though I disagree on you star rating, I like your review as well. There was just something about the book despite it's flaws that really grabbed me. If I am honest it was a five star book for me, but you made the case for your three star rating so well that I will not try to persuade you to add the extra stars.

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