Ken-ichi's Reviews > Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
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Jul 30, 07

bookshelves: escape, fantasy

I feel like I've been reading this book forever. It's long, largely unstructured, and I never became particularly invested in any of the characters, so it just dragged on. The best thing I could say about it is that it's diverting. One of the quotes on the back describes it as "phantasmagoric," which seems accurate. All sorts of crazy random things, soul-devouring moth creatures, interdimensional homicidal spiders, creative reconstructive surgery as state punishment. That's all amusing to a degree, enough to keep boredom at bay while waiting in line or riding the train.

Which is not to say that this is a work of complete and utter novelty. All kinds of fantasy and scifi tropes, sentient parasite societies, machines acquiring intelligence, hawk people, oppressive government, blah blah. There are also passages like this:

"The glass was painted opaque. It vibrated minutely in eldritch dimensions, buffeted by emanations from within."

and

"Dark figures slid expertly, at breakneck speed, the length of the cords. They came in a constant quick drip. They looked like glutinous clots dribbling down the entrails of the disemboweled airships."

I mean, yes, hilarious, but imagine having to say these things out loud.

Ultimately, the author (who's smug mug defaces the back cover in possibly the worst author photo I've suffered to date) seems far too obsessed with the little hodgepodge world he's thrown together, too eager to throw in every little "wouldn't it be cool if" moment he ever imagined instead of focusing on the story. Maybe I just didn't like his writing. Or the fact that he used the word 'bituminous' on practically every page. That and 'ichor'. Anyway, I don't recommend it.
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Comments (showing 1-24 of 24) (24 new)

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Wendy White Oh man, ichor, yes. It was everywhere!


Caglar agrees heartily.


Gina I wish I'd read this review before I read the book, it'd have saved me a bloody long time trawling through page after page. I've never read a book that was such a chore before.

Add 'pugilistic' to the list of over-used words.


message 4: by Jill (new) - rated it 1 star

Jill I threw this book out my window last night. For all the reasons mentioned in your review and more...


Joel ha, i love this book! i can see why it isn't for everyone though.


Siddharth Bhatia BUllshit. this book is superb, but yeah it takes time to build. once it builds the story flies, the characters ALL intermingle, and plot takes such crazy turns that you will actually be glued.


message 7: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise I think this book wins the record of shortest amount read before I decided the book's not for me. The writer is TOO good at what he does and it's grossing me out too much. Not a big fan of giant bugs. Maybe I'll try another one of his.


Ken-ichi They're not giant bugs so much as people with bug heads, right? I forget. I guess there's some kind of giant interdimensional spider though. How did I not like a book with a giant interdimensional spider? Sigh.


Joel Ken-ichi wrote: "How did I not like a book with a giant interdimensional spider? Sigh."

i have no idea!


cerebus It's always interesting to read reviews like this...when I read it I didn't want it to end, I didn't want to have to leave the world he had created, so it's interesting to hear people having the exact opposite reaction :)


message 11: by Sarah (new) - rated it 1 star

Sarah I have to agree with this review. I got more than halfway through and I STILL wasn't into it enough to bother finishing. That was a sad months long investment when I realized I just had no interest to see where it went. My partner absolutely adores all his books though.


Ken-ichi Gotta love books that polarize seemingly like-minded people.


message 13: by Joel (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joel it made for a great discussion during my book club, much more so than, say, a book no one liked.


Lauren O'Farrell I loved this book but each to their own.

However ragging on the man's author pic is a little unfair. How is a writer of bestsellers meant to look? Is there some kind of face guide book they're sent out? Pretty petty comment. Sticking to reviewing books not author's faces is probably best. No one here is poking fun at your profile pic. It kind of takes away from your main points when you end up saying "Yeah and I don't like his face either".


Ken-ichi Petty indeed! However, this isn't a professional review, but a personal one, so I don't have a problem recording my reactions to aspects of my reading experience that have no bearing on the substance of the book, like the smell of the glue, the quality of the paper, or the expression on the face of the author if their picture happens to appear on the dust jacket. If, God forbid, someone was paying me to write intelligent criticism of every book I read, I would forsake my tendency towards petty snark, but since I instead write mostly for my own amusement and mnemonic assistance, the snark remains.

However, I think physical book design in general and author photos in particular are really interesting! A physical book is an object that stays with you for a period of days to weeks. You are constantly looking at it, so your response to minor details like the author pic is important, at least from a design perspective. While I was reading this book, it wasn't that I didn't like the author's face, per se, but I didn't like the photograph. The expression on his face, if I recall, was sneering or disdainful. Perhaps that was just my interpretation, but the result was that every time I picked up the book I thought to myself, "Oh great, not this guy again."


Magdelanye Joel wrote: "...i love this book! i can see why it isn't for everyone though."

Cerebus wrote: "It's always interesting to read reviews like this...when I read it I didn't want it to end, I didn't want to have to leave the world he had created, so it's interesting to hear people having the ex..."

Siddharth wrote: "..this book is superb, but yeah it takes time to build. once it builds the story flies, the characters ALL intermingle, and plot takes such crazy turns that you will actually be glued."

Ken-ichi wrote: "Gotta love books that polarize seemingly like-minded people."

I need to declare myself with these folks...well Ken-ichi it sounds as if you are finding it a bit more interesting. I think you either let yourself be seduced and submerge yourself in the world created, or you resist. I adored PSS and while I am slightly repulsed by the ichor I dont dwell on it.


message 17: by H (new) - rated it 2 stars

H Gilbert Loved the transdimensional spider. Took a LONG time for me to feel like this was going somewhere - like 400 pages or so.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

I really don't like to see a bad review. I believe that it is better to make no comment at all because all we cannot all like the same books. I'm struggling through a book at the moment and it is evidently superb but not to me. I will probably give it three stars.


message 19: by H (new) - rated it 2 stars

H Gilbert Lynne wrote: "I really don't like to see a bad review. I believe that it is better to make no comment at all because all we cannot all like the same books. I'm struggling through a book at the moment and it is ..."

If that's the case perhaps yournextread.com is more suited to your tastes? This site, for better or worse, gives the option of rating a book you've read as good or bad. It's an opinion site where we can add opinions.

You may not care for the negative reviews but I've found them useful for finding others that have tastes similar to my own. I've read quite a few books over the last two years that the reviewers were over the moon for that I read and couldn't stand. I've followed reviews from others who agreed and in the process found books I love.

I guess if you don't care for the negative reviews, it's well within your power to just skip over them. As you said, others will have different opinions. Given the nature of this forum, some will slag books they don't like - some of these may offend. Some of the reviews are hilarious.

Sorry I'm losing the thread now, and will check out.


Ken-ichi +2 for using the word "slag"!

Lynn, I understand where you're coming from. When I read a negative review of a book I love I always feel outraged at first (how could they not love this book?!), and then derisive (only a complete idiot wouldn't like this book!). But then comes the self-doubting (what if they're right and I have no taste?!), and finally, if I'm feeling particularly adult that day, contemplation and ultimately enlightenment, b/c contrary opinions force me to question my own, which either leads me to discard the ones I no longer believe in (or weren't very well-substantiated to begin with), or to strengthen them if I still think they're right.

You should also think of the value of negative reviews in a social context. Since you don't know me, you have no reason to value my opinion, but if I was someone you knew and respected, this negative review might help you avoid a book you might not like and guide you toward a better one.

"If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all" is a fine philosophy for the dinner table, but I personally don't think it's appropriate when discussing public cultural artifacts like novels.


message 21: by H (new) - rated it 2 stars

H Gilbert Reread your review and laughed out loud at the description of Mieville's smug photo. Kind of made me want to smack him as well.

Overall though I thought some of the book was interesting it was a pure slog. Read half, returned it to the library and then picked it up again months later. Still loved the transdimensional spider, but thought for all the descriptions and...descriptions, there seemed to be remarkably little plot considering the length of the book. As someone said above - the rest was just filled up with somewhat throw away ideas that seemed to be added just because.


message 22: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex Tank c'mon the dreamshit scenes are always amazing.


message 23: by Ron (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ron Couldn't agree more. Smug photo of a guy who was 30 at the time and is trying to impress us with how brilliant he is. When a supine character rolled onto her back and he chose the modern misuse of 'fraught' several dozen times, I was over his 'brilliance'.


Stephanie I totally agree 100%. The "wouldn't it be cool factor was to the nth degree. So transparent.


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