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China Miéville
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Penny Arcade on China Mieville

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message 2: by Nick (last edited May 14, 2012 11:56AM) (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments ROFL! Mieville's books take a special sort of patience. A punching bag with his face on it can help you through the thicker parts of his books.


message 3: by Brandon (new)

Brandon | 178 comments His books are not an easy read and not for everyone. I found Embassytown a very challenging read and frustrating at times.


message 4: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6376 comments Railsea is YA. Less punchable?


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael Underwood | 116 comments Tamahome wrote: "Railsea is YA. Less punchable?"

If it is more like Un Lun Dun than Perdido Street Station, I'd say yes. Un Lun Dun was Mieville's first book where I felt like his love of baroque language didn't get in the way of the story. And I say this as a big fan of his work (though I temporarily lemmed Embassytown because it was too dense for my taste at the time.)


message 6: by Nick (last edited May 14, 2012 02:27PM) (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments Sarah wrote: "Oddly, After seeing that comic this morning, I finally decided to get a library card and one of the first books I checked out was Embassytown.

I expect punchy feelings shortly."


Embassytown was toughest in the first 40 or 50 pages. Once you figure out what the different words specific to the universe he is creating means then its just a matter of understanding his deep discussions of language.


message 7: by Tyler (new)

Tyler Lutz (tylerlutz) | 233 comments I still love the crap out of Perdido Street Station and the rest of the Bas-Lag trilogy. They are full of wonderful, imaginative ideas, characters, and settings.


message 8: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 839 comments Nice one. I agree with Nick though. I haven'T read Embassytown, but both with Perdido Street Station and The City and the City I had some troubles really getting into the book (for different reasons), but once you're "in" there, it's totally worth it.


message 9: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4204 comments Sarah wrote: "Oddly, After seeing that comic this morning, I finally decided to get a library card and one of the first books I checked out was Embassytown.

I expect punchy feelings shortly."


Avoid brick walls. I can attest, that doesn't end well.


message 10: by John (new)

John Wiswell | 86 comments I've only read Perdido Street Station, but I didn't mind the complicated language at all. At several points he's incredibly playful with how he uses or even invents words, and the dense parts tend to affect tone well.

Maybe I'll change my mind in The Scar and Embassytown.


message 11: by Nick (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments John wrote: "I've only read Perdido Street Station, but I didn't mind the complicated language at all. At several points he's incredibly playful with how he uses or even invents words, and the dense parts tend ..."

The main story of Embassytown deals heavily with communication and language and the parts thereof. So when I said "deep discussions of language" it was meant quite literally.

Sounds like from what you've written here that you would definitely enjoy Embassytown though.


message 12: by Chris (new)

Chris Palmer | 61 comments I thought Perdido Street Station was challenging, beautifully written, and complex. But at the same time, I was quite unmoved by it and, frankly, didn't care much about what was going on.


message 13: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) Chris wrote: "I thought Perdido Street Station was challenging, beautifully written, and complex. But at the same time, I was quite unmoved by it and, frankly, didn't care much about what was going on."

I've only read Perdido Street Station, but I had no problems with the language and its use. It was often quite beautiful and did a wonderful job at mood setting. I did have a problem with the lack of follow through when it came to story and plot, or for that matter, characters. :)


message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex | 39 comments I am actually reading Embassytown along with our laser pick this month and I'm enjoying it more than I have a lot of his other books. I like him as an author and as an inventor/communicator of clever ideas, but I really feel like with Embassytown more than in any of his other books he's really gotten better at making you care about the characters and plot.(I have read most everything by him except Looking for Jake,Iron Council and I've semi-lemmed Kraken a couple of times.[Maybe I'll finish it one day]). With his other books character growth and development of plot/theme really seemed to take a back seat to really impressive cityscapes and other worldbuilding activities. I like these things, and I like Miéville for them, but I think that Embassytown is much better for having character and plot at the forefront.


message 15: by Stan (last edited May 15, 2012 05:43AM) (new)

Stan Slaughter | 359 comments So - if you read books for interesting plots or empathtic characters and protagonists - then stay away from Mieville ?


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Underwood | 116 comments Stan,

I'd say that setting and language are his greatest strengths, rather than plot and characterization. I found Deeba, the lead in Un Lun Dun, to be quite compelling, as well as the leads in Iron Council. But I'd agree that in general, empathetic characterization is not his strongest suit.


message 17: by Scott (new)

Scott Lee | 9 comments Genre usually feels looked-down-upon by Lit, and tends to be pretty touchy about anything that Lit says they *should* like. This is just a Genre guy overreacting to the implication that he’s not smart enough to “get” Mieville. The fact that that implication only comes from his internalized sense of what he thinks Lit people think about Genre is the important point. Until Genre starts to see itself as legitimate and not second-class, allergic reactions like this will continue to happen.

Having said that, I read King Rat and it was okay. He's obviously smarter than me, which is fine. I prefer my authors smarter than me. But he really digs the sound of his voice, and that can be a little tiring.


message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael Underwood | 116 comments Scott,

I found King Rat to be notably less impressive than all of his later work. If you're up for another run at Mieville, I'd suggest The City & The City, especially if you like crime fiction.


message 19: by Scott (new)

Scott Lee | 9 comments Michael wrote: "Scott,

I found King Rat to be notably less impressive than all of his later work. If you're up for another run at Mieville, I'd suggest The City & The City, especially if you like crime fiction."


Thanks, Michael. I was thinking about tackling Embassytown. I'm a sucker for prestige stuff like Nebula nominations (sarcasm, a little), and I love the feeling of disorientation that comes from authors playing with language. I'm enough of a hedonist, though, to not waste my time with books that simply don't work for me. It'll be an experiment. Thanks again.


message 20: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (Jefforama) | 12 comments Dear Penny Arcade, it's ok not to read Mieville; if you do, it's ok not to like him. Whoever told you that you are not smart because you don't like him was wrong. I'm sure you read lots of other great stuff.


message 21: by Alex (new)

Alex | 39 comments Michael wrote: "Scott,

I found King Rat to be notably less impressive than all of his later work. If you're up for another run at Mieville, I'd suggest The City & The City, especially if you like crime fiction."


agreed. to be fair though, it was his first novel.


message 22: by Alterjess (new)

Alterjess | 319 comments Chris wrote: "I thought Perdido Street Station was challenging, beautifully written, and complex. But at the same time, I was quite unmoved by it and, frankly, didn't care much about what was going on."

Bwahaha! That's exactly it - his writing is so gorgeous and so full of rich detail and vivid textures and it just. goes. nowhere.

I do continue to read his books just for the fantastic worldbuilding, but I need to space them out because the sluggish circular plots make me want to punch him in the face about halfway through each one.


message 23: by Kris (new)

Kris (kwouk) | 4 comments I'm not sure why everyone seems to think the implication was that the Penny Arcade guys felt they weren't smart enough to get Mieville's writing. The comic and news post seemed to me like they simply didn't like it.


message 24: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (Jefforama) | 12 comments I got that idea from here:

http://penny-arcade.com/2012/05/14/th...

Where the author says: "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."


message 25: by Scott (last edited May 15, 2012 10:11AM) (new)

Scott Lee | 9 comments Kristofer wrote: "I'm not sure why everyone seems to think the implication was that the Penny Arcade guys felt they weren't smart enough to get Mieville's writing. The comic and news post seemed to me like they simp..."

Good point. It's not that they felt they weren't smart enough to get it, but that they felt Mieville was being deliberately obtuse, talking down to them. Hence the violence of their reaction. You think somebody writes poorly, you say "meh" and you move on. This was violent, maybe because they believe he's being pretentious.

As somebody who's often been accused of pretension (sometimes with cause), I can sympathize with both sides. Mieville writes like he does. Like it or not, I'm sure he's not doing it just to provoke a person to violence. I'm pretty sure. Maybe.


message 26: by Andy (new)

Andy (andybender) | 9 comments I haven't read anything of his yet... I was going to try Railsea, but Tycho turned me off with that post.

Why do people want to punch him, exactly? I want to punch Ken Follett several times in his historical fiction because he constantly thwarts his characters goals, frustrating the reader. But that is a conscious choice as a storyteller, not because he is a bad writer.


message 27: by Alex (new)

Alex | 39 comments Andy wrote: "I haven't read anything of his yet... I was going to try Railsea, but Tycho turned me off with that post.

Why do people want to punch him, exactly? I want to punch Ken Follett several times in h..."


Railsea is more centered toward YA and in his other attempt Un Lun Dundefinitely toned down the baroque language (as a conscious choice). I say give it a try. I'm enjoying Embassytown for the plot and characters more than I have his other works and it's possible that he's continuing with that step in his craft with Railsea.


message 28: by Dan (last edited May 15, 2012 11:21AM) (new)

Dan | 5 comments I don't know if "punch him in the face" is the right phrase, but I get the sentiment.

I loved Mieville's earlier books, but as they got seemingly less "pulpy" they've become all but impenetrable for me.

I got through the Wheel of Time and Song Of Ice and Fire with no trouble, but Kraken, City and the City, and Embassytown each dragged horribly after the first 1/2 the book.

I think Mieville is trying to write more "grown up" books (at least with the three I mentioned) but really hasn't got the pacing down yet.


message 29: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 839 comments Michael wrote: "Scott,

I found King Rat to be notably less impressive than all of his later work. If you're up for another run at Mieville, I'd suggest The City & The City, especially if you like crime fiction."


Totally agreed. Of all of the books I read written by him, this was the weakest.


message 30: by running_target (new)

running_target (running_t4rg3t) | 52 comments Easy Answer, Iron Council. I loved everything of his before that. . .and have read nothing since. I may give him another shot when I run out of authors I'm fired up about.


message 31: by AJ (new)

AJ (dewey_decimatr) Stan wrote: "So - if you read books for interesting plots or empathtic characters and protagonists - then stay away from Mieville ?"

Lin, in Perdido Street Station, is a wonderful character that I completely empathized with.

As far as the argument is concerned, it comes down to whether or not you enjoy his language. I find it to be gut-wrenchingly awful, but in a fascinating way. My favorite passage from a book, pretty much ever, comes from Perdido Street Station:

"The empty integuments of grand buildings began to fill. Rural poor from Grain Spiral and the Mendican Foothills began to creep into the deserted borough. The word spread that this was a ghost sector, beyond Parliament’s ken, where taxes and laws were as rare as sewage systems. Rough frameworks of stolen wood filled the empty floors. In the outlines of stillborn streets shacks of concrete and corrugated iron blistered overnight. Inhabitation spread like mould. There were no gaslamps to take the edge off the night, no doctors, no jobs, yet within ten years the area was dense with ersatz housing. It had acquired a name, Spatters, that reflected the desultory randomness of its outlines: the whole stinking shantytown seemed to have dribbled like shit from the sky."

It gets me every time. I tutor creative writing at my college and I often use the above passage as an example of how to recognize an author's style.

I may be a fangirl, but I think he's great. I can't wait to see what comes out of his head next.

If you hated the Bas-Lag books I would give Kraken a go. It's a Lovecraftian, contemporary thing. It was my Bas-Lag gateway drug.


message 32: by Sara (new)

Sara (medusasmirror) | 44 comments I don't want to punch him, but I also haven't made it through any of his books either. so...


message 33: by Random (new)

Random (rand0m1s) Stan wrote: "So - if you read books for interesting plots or empathtic characters and protagonists - then stay away from Mieville ?"

IMO, yes. PSS initially looks like a multi tiered cake with beautiful frosting, intricate decorations, etc. Then you cut into it and find out there's no cake, just sawdust.

I remember telling my husband I felt like I was reading a RP campaign book. Rich world and background building, but all substance left out.


message 34: by Pickle (new)

Pickle | 192 comments I found Perdido, The Scar, UnLunDun & Iron Council easy enough to read. It was Kraken and City & The City i absolutely detest, with the language being the first thing i noticed i hated.

I feel his books are dipping in the quality of his Baslag novels.


message 35: by Joanna (new)

Joanna | 20 comments I have several Mieville books but have never read his stuff. Any recommendation on which book to start with?


message 36: by Tyler (new)

Tyler Lutz (tylerlutz) | 233 comments Joanna wrote: "I have several Mieville books but have never read his stuff. Any recommendation on which book to start with?"

The City & The City is a great place to start if you're not heavy into science fiction/fantasy. The setting of the book is fascinating.

The Bas-Lag trilogy is where I started. With Perdido Street Station, then The Scar, and finally Iron Council.

Kraken and Embassytown are definitely a lot harder to start wtih.


message 37: by Joanna (new)

Joanna | 20 comments Tyler wrote: "Joanna wrote: "I have several Mieville books but have never read his stuff. Any recommendation on which book to start with?"

The City & The City is a great place to start if you're not heavy into ..."


Thanks! I generally lean more towards fantasy than sci-fi. Mostly because a lot of sci-fi can be painfully dry. I've heard his books are more steampunk-ish than sci-fi, is that right?.


message 38: by Michael (new)

Michael Underwood | 116 comments Embassytown is the most SF of his works. The Bas-Lag books are mostly defined as New Weird, which has SciFi, Fantasy, Horror, and Pulp elements, with some Steampunk associations (though it is secondary world).

Fun with genre marketing categories!


message 39: by Tyler (last edited May 16, 2012 08:13AM) (new)

Tyler Lutz (tylerlutz) | 233 comments Joanna wrote: "Tyler wrote: "Joanna wrote: "I have several Mieville books but have never read his stuff. Any recommendation on which book to start with?"

The City & The City is a great place to start if you're n..."


Well his books are a mish-mash of quite a lot of things. If you read Perdido Street Station or The Scar first, you'll see what I mean. He creates this incredibly imaginative world with the strangest things. I guess, at the time, I hadn't really read anything quite like those two books and that's why I'm drawn to them, even with their flaws.

They are definitely more fantasy/weird fiction oriented though.


message 40: by P. Aaron (new)

P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Jeff wrote: "Dear Penny Arcade, it's ok not to read Mieville; if you do, it's ok not to like him. Whoever told you that you are not smart because you don't like him was wrong. I'm sure you read lots of other ..."

I don't think Gabe & Tycho actually believe disliking Mieville makes them unintelligent. As far as I've seen, the boys have no shortage of self-confidence. I think what you're seeing was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on those readers (nobody here present, I'm sure) who sometimes seem to think that liking a particular book or author somehow makes *them* better, smarter people. A quick glance through some of the GR reviews of Mieville's books illustrate the type, unfortunately. You know the ones: the black-turtleneck-wearing, espresso-sipping poetic types, scribbling furtively in their all-recycled journals while ostentatiously surrounded by copies of Proust and Tolstoy that they haven't actually read. That's a ridiculous caricature being trotted out for humor, of course, but hey, I was in Portland in the 80's. It wasn't that far from Truth.


message 41: by Jeff (new)

Jeff (Jefforama) | 12 comments Oh I know people like that. The rest of us should ignore them. I get the sense that the Penny Arcade guys have struggled, just a bit, to do that, and it has turned into vitriol for Mieville. It just seems like a lot of energy to waste on an author you do not enjoy.

An author not being any good is a nonsensical reason for wanting to punch them in the face. If, on the other hand, you are a bit self-conscious about your own intelligence because you don't appreciate the author's work, well, that could understandably turn to a desire to face-punch them.


message 42: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 839 comments As for where to start, I'd actually recommend Looking for Jake, his short story collection. Maybe it's because it was the first Miéville book I read, but I think it's actually a nice introduction to his style and settings.


message 43: by Dana (new)

Dana (rhysiana) | 8 comments I think part of the reason for the strength of their reaction is the way people always assume that if you're into SFF, you must like Mieville. He's become ubiquitous and trendy, and (certain) people give you this *look* if you say you don't like his work. It gets old.

I didn't personally have any trouble with his language, ideas, or concepts, but I generally find that I do not enjoy his worlds. It's not they're poorly constructed, it's that they strike me as unpleasant and not places I want to visit. I get a very synaesthetic reaction to his books; they all end up seeming very "brown" to me, which likely doesn't mean anything to anyone else, but pretty much kills my desire to read anything else by him.


message 44: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4204 comments I will say, I've never read any of Mieville's stuff, in part because of the intimidation factor. Seeing things like the PA strip don't help that...


message 45: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments I just finished Embassytown, and I really enjoyed it. From the reviews I expected more made-up words than I found, it seemed kind of standard for sf to me. I really like the word floaking, aspiring to do just enough to get by. (For comparison, I enjoyed PSS and The Scar, meh on Un Lun Dun, and really enjoyed The City and The City)


message 46: by Nick (last edited May 19, 2012 09:28AM) (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments For Embassytown it wasn't so much the amount of made up words but that there is almost no attempt to define the words that are made up. You have to divine the meaning completely from context. This to me meant in some cases having to read a page or more to get the meaning of specific phrases and hope I was guess right on that meaning.


message 47: by Chris (new)

Chris Hawks (saltmanz) "For Embassytown it wasn't so much the amount of made up words but that there is almost no attempt to define the words that are made up. You have to divine the meaning completely from context."

Just like you would any real word you don't recognize, short of running to a dictionary.

I thought Embassytown was brilliant, and was therefore quite surprised to read that Tycho (whose writing I adore) dislikes Miéville so much.


message 48: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 34 comments I adored Perdido Street Station and The Scar. They were certainly difficult to get to, and the heroine of the Scar is hard to really empathize with. But I loved the depth of imagination that went into the setting and characters and plot. I thought it was about as challenging as Anathem.


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