"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".