I've waited several years after hearing about Mieville and the New Weird genre to finally pick up one of his books. I was disappointed. This is a bookI've waited several years after hearing about Mieville and the New Weird genre to finally pick up one of his books. I was disappointed. This is a book I really wanted to love, I like his politics, we share the same alma mater, I liked the concepts, themes, grittiness, grunginess, steampunk technology, blending of genres, alien species, and I like the way in which his worldbuilding is brought to life by real political problems. This isn't Narnia, it's London. Having said all that - the book has some serious problems that I just couldn't overlook.
- This book drags on. It's a brilliant 400-page book delivered in nearly 900 pages. It only really takes off 400 pages in. The author has a tedious Sisyphean resolve to describe absolutely everything that could possibly be described. Entire chapters of the book served no purpose, pushed the plot nowhere. It is scene-setting to death. He writes well, he enjoys wordplay, and he's proud of his worldbuilding, as he should be - so he smothers you in it. I was ready to pull out my hair at the Construct Council cable laying scene - exposition heaped upon mountains of exposition. Normally, writers describe the minutiae of a scene to indicate that this is going to be an important scene, or to build tension. Mieville will spend 30 pages describing the quality of the sunlight and textures that dance on walls, and the history of the workers who built those walls, and what they're wearing, and who sewed the clothes they're wearing, and who grew the textiles for those clothes - and then you'll find out that it's completely irrelevant. The book feels extremely long particularly when you consider how small the cast of characters is.
- This brings me to pointless and abstruse scenes, of which there were many. There were some scenes that felt like filler episodes in cheap tv shows. Why am I reading about this?? The mercenary goodbye scene - what purpose did it serve? Cut it out of the book man! If it's not pushing the plot forward or even scene setting then it is utterly useless. This also goes for the handlingers hunt scene. I can see how it is connected to the central plot. Fine. But you can't have a mono-action scene where you introduce a bunch of different species and do it in a rush so as to avoid sacrificing the action, (view spoiler)[and then never bring up those characters or species again. (hide spoiler)] The entire scene made no sense to me as a reader. There were many instances like this - why describe (view spoiler)[ Motley's army if they serve absolutely no purpose in the end? (hide spoiler)]. Why have a beautiful, dramatic, exciting (view spoiler)[labour strike, when it has absolutely no impact on the central plot whatsoever? (hide spoiler)] Connect them to the plot man, come on!
- This segues to the science stuff. This isn't real science. You don't need to actually work it out and explain it to the reader. The entire concept of 'crisis theory' fell flat for me, and the author insisted on spending what felt like 200 pages expounding upon it. It is so overly worked out for the unconvincing concluding applications to make it seem ridiculous. All that expounding and expounding just fizzles out in lameness.
- Now regarding the language and writing. Many reviewers have complained that he writes with a thesaurus by his side. Personally, this doesn't bother me too much. I like crafty, dense prose. I'm liberal about alliteration. I can forgive him his over-extended exertions. As he would say, it wasn't "scandalous and outré". Because more often than not, it was beautiful. However - if the narrator keeps using the word 'skeins', then don't make your character use it. It's too distinctive and you destroy the character's voice by reminding us of the narrator.
Lastly, my final 2 complaints are that the protagonist and supporting characters were not very likeable. I'm not sure why. The only character I ever really rooted for was Yagharek. And the last 200 pages felt sloppy. In terms of pacing, writing, and plot construction. There's a random deus ex machina in the form of (view spoiler)[Jack Half-a-Prayer (hide spoiler)], and the ending seems bizarrely contrived, stuck on the end like a plastic pig mask. It leaves you finishing the book with a bad taste in your mouth, that I think was intended to be deep and philosophical, but wasn't.
Ultimately, I've read that this was his first Bas Lag book and that he improves a great deal with the others. So I plan to give him another chance and pick up The Scar....more
I was told by an expert on Islamic geometric art that Eric Broug's work contains many mistakes. I didn't think much of the comment, and have attendedI was told by an expert on Islamic geometric art that Eric Broug's work contains many mistakes. I didn't think much of the comment, and have attended 3 of his lectures and workshops since then, and purchased this book at one of those workshops.
Unfortunately, I've discovered problems with the work myself. Look at the pattern on page 55 - the Alhambra alicatado. Then look at an actual photograph of the pattern. They aren't the same at all. Broug's construction is mirrored and slanted from the original, and doesn't even the resolve the centres. This is a glaring mistake. The real pattern doesn't even tile on a pointed hexagon like in his drawing, it tiles on a flat hexagon.
The concept of the book is great, but I feel that Broug has simplified many of the patterns to make the steps shorter and fewer. As others have pointed out, he treats the designs as single motifs and has only chosen patterns that tile with squares and hexagons. There are actually far more difficult patterns out there that tile with a mixture of rotated squares and hexagons and rhombi. This means that the entire book is actually easy level. I don't know whether all of these patterns truly tesselate in simple grids as he's done, or whether he has simplified the tiling. However, from my experience, patterns often tesselate with interstitial shapes in between the hexagons and squares. He leaves this aspect of the geometric art out of the book entirely and never discusses it.
The best thing about the book really is 'Chapter 1: the Basics' where he explains to beginners the construction techniques behind square, hexagonal, and pentagonal patterns. This is a valuable introduction since so many other authors skip this and go straight into specific patterns. However, I find his simplification of the patterns and the existence of glaring mistakes like the Alhambra pattern to be sloppy and insulting to the artists and craftsmen who first designed these patterns. If you can't get the pattern right in this 8-step format, then perhaps the format is just wrong.
I will update the review as I find more mistakes....more