"Perdido Street Station" (2000) is the second published novel by British author China Miéville. The novel is completely sui generis: it defies categorization, containing elements of urban fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, horror and slipstream, to name just a few. While this may sound messy, it is also an utterly brilliant piece of literature.

The novel is set in the fictional city of New Crobuzon, an ancient and sprawling metropolis which Miéville describes in vivid and loving detail. New Crobuzon is an architectural nightmare of good and bad neighborhoods, human and non-human residents, politics, public transportation, militia, ... Much like in the Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake, the squalid setting is an integral part of the story.

The plot of the novel is hard to summarize, but to give you an idea of some of the threads: Scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is contacted by a garuda (a half-bird, half-man species) who has lost his wings and wants to re-gain the power of flight. While researching this, Isaac obtains a mysterious caterpillar which evolves into a dangerous predator that feeds on the dreams and thoughts of other sentient races. Isaac has a forbidden inter-species relationship with a khepri (a bug-like alien). One of the first scenes in the novel is a love scene between the khepri and Isaac, which is one of the only literary scenes that has ever given me nightmares. The khepri, Lin, is a spit artist: she can ingest a certain substance mixed with coloured berries, and exude it through a special gland to create statues. She is commissioned by a crime boss to create a likeness of him. There are many other plot threads and characters, some of which are only briefly touched upon in the course of the novel.

It is hard to compare "Perdido Street Station" to anything else out there. I've read several hundred science fiction and fantasy novels - this is by far the hardest one to classify. It's also one of the best I've read in years, and highly recommended.

In 2002, the author published "The Scar", set in the same world as "Perdido Street Station".
Perdido Street Station is, itself, only a minor part of the book that is its namesake. Only near the end do the characters actually go there, even though it is often talked about during the book. It's the center of the city of New Crobuzon, where all the trains and vehicles come and pass through, and is probably the most important area too.

The plot is heavy, as is the atmosphere in this paperback which numbers a bit over 860 pages (51 Chapters in eight parts), and it needs the length; The sheer number of twists and subplots is incredible, and to tell you even one would really ruin the book, they tie so well; All the mystery, suspense, and surprise is slow enough to keep up with, but quick enough to startle.

The cast is relatavely large, but the author gives each his/her/its own voice, and sticks to it. There is no one-size-fits-all speech pattern here. You can recognise characters by the way they talk.

The book contains some pseudo-science and is more science fantasy than science ficton.

The number of races in this book is also quite a feat of imagination: Though the Humans are the most common, there are scarab-headed women called Khepri, Bird people called Wyrmen and Garuda- Garuda being more like birds of prey and the Wyrmen like Seagulls- bloated water-living beings called voyodani, cactus-folk... the list is extensive, and though I'd like to continue it, it would spoil some of the book.

The first main plot is that Isaac Dan van Grimnebulin, a notorious freelance scientist, gets paid by a Garuda called Yagharek to help him fly again. I say first main plot because- they develop more. And more and more...

The thing is, China's imagination is incredible. The attention to detail is worthy of a masterpiece, and the humour ithough black is realistic. One can really imagine the sprawling, insidious metropolis of new Crobuzon, the cruel Militia- the group of police the Government control...

A genuine masterpiece that takes my breath away, China breathes life into the world of Bas-Lag.

Like Anzin, I think this is a wonderful book and should be found by everyone as quickly as possible-and bought up.

Available from www.panmacmillan.com
ISBN 0-330-39289-1

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