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Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
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Perdido Street Station (2000)

by China Miéville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bas-Lag (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,463193594 (4.08)527
  1. 70
    City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer (bertilak)
  2. 30
    Embassytown by China Miéville (mclewe)
    mclewe: For Miéville's ability to create a complete world, incomprehensible, fascinating, intelligent.
  3. 20
    Iron Council by China Miéville (kaipakartik)
    kaipakartik: Same universe, a lot of the same creatures. Brilliantly done as well
  4. 42
    Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (fyrefly98)
  5. 86
    The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Although The Windup Girl is more science fiction than steampunk/fantasy, I felt there were similarities in the exoticness of the world-building and readers who enjoyed Perdido Street Station may also enjoy The Windup Girl.
  6. 10
    This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the world building, for the heft of the plot.
  7. 32
    Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (aaronius)
    aaronius: Another dystopian dream-city to get lost in with weird sex and fantastic writing.
  8. 11
    The Etched City by K. J. Bishop (Jarandel)
    Jarandel: Similar dark, steampunk-ish urban environments that sometime veer into the horrific and fantastical.
  9. 00
    Sea of Ghosts by Alan Campbell (iftyzaidi)
  10. 11
    God's War by Kameron Hurley (electronicmemory)
    electronicmemory: Two excellent examples of twisted, dark and brutal stories with unexpected sci-fi/fantasy elements and engrossing worlds.
  11. 02
    Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (Aerrin99)
    Aerrin99: An interesting world filled with unexpected people.
  12. 13
    Earth by David Brin (freddlerabbit)
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» See also 527 mentions

English (191)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (194)
Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
Compared to most fantasy books (and I guess I'll define that genre as "books where magic is a thing that people are aware of") Perdido Street Station is a step up, maybe two. It deals with characters that aren't just archetypes, and those characters express emotions that are more nuanced than the usual melodramatic fare. The plot is likewise not your typical chosen one/epic war story, though still heavy with action and set pieces, and it goes in a couple unexpected directions toward the end. I'll applaud any fantasy story that both does something unexpected and is solidly written. If I were grading it on a fantasy book curve it'd be at least 4 stars, perhaps better, and if you're a fan of the genre definitely check it out.

There are several things that keep me from finding Perdido impressive without comparison to the genre at large, however. The setting is likely the highpoint to the book for many people, and it certainly is impressive, giving us a city with a plethora of differing neighborhoods, most of which with a distinctive and memorable flavor, populated by a menagerie of creatures. Unfortunately it never felt like a cohesive location to me because of Mieville's tendency to throw in new aspects of the world without any warning, even late into the story. The book starts by setting out the various "common" types of inhabitants of the city, but as the story goes on Mieville drops in demons, then weavers, then sentient robots, handlingers, undine, and more. The handlingers are the most extreme and problematic example of this- while the book tells us there have been rumors about their existence, it only tells us that after they've already been introduced. Thus instead of foreshadowing their eventual appearance they come out of the blue. Then they appear for a few chapters before being dispatched and not mentioned again for the rest of the story. It's a strange episode that doesn't feel integrated with the rest of the book, or even purposeful besides giving us one more action sequence and emphasizing the danger of an enemy we already knew was dangerous from a dozen previous examples. I'd guess that this was a symptom of Perdido being one of Mieville's first books, with him still getting comfortable with a longer medium instead of a short story.

Another problem I had with the book is the dialogue. As I already mentioned, Mieville is able to get at emotions better than most fantasy authors, but that's more thanks to his ability to put characters into realistic relationships and naturally tense situations and less to do with him being able to capture a realistic conversation. The main character Isaac, for instance, is presented as a brilliant scientist and proves himself to be one, but when he's talking to other characters he always sounds like more of a con-man than someone who actually knows what he's talking about. Having read later Mieville like Kraken, I can unfortunately say that the weak dialogue wasn't just due to Perdido being one of his first longer works of fiction.

Originally I also had a problem with how so much of the story relied on coincidence, as that's usually a sign of weak storytelling in my book, but the ending made me think that it might have been intentional on Mieville's part. Considering the end focusing on choice and its moral repercussions, and the judgment that such choices deserve, it put the action up to that point in an entirely different light. Because Yagharek committed rape (and thereby denying another person choice) Isaac refused to help him regain his flight, even with all that Yagharek had done throughout the course of the story in Isaac's fight against the Slake moths, because Isaac couldn't justify implicitly condoning Yagharek's previous actions. Though much less severe and with a more tenuous causal connection, however, Isaac caused even more harm than Yagharek. He was the one that got people to steal flying things for him, one of which he raised on a diet of drugs until it escaped and freed others of its kind, killing hundreds in the end. His lover accepted the money of a crime lord even though she knew at least vaguely what she might be getting into. Do those choices mean that they somehow deserve what they had to go through? And if not then to what degree are they different from Yagharek's actions? The obvious answer is foreseeability, but as the coincidence based plot of Perdido shows, the consequences of any act in New Crobuzon, from repairing a cleaning robot to publishing a news story you think is fake, can be entirely unforeseeable. Anyway, it made me think, which isn't something many fantasy books accomplish. Even if it wasn't intentional, the coincidence based nature of the story fits into some interesting ideas that Mieville introduces at the eleventh hour.

My other complaints are minor. The book was longer than it had to be, mostly due to the unnecessary episodes I've already mentioned, and so it could have been tighter. One of the main antagonists disappears from the story for maybe two hundred pages, to the point where you wonder if he's even important anymore. Crisis energy is a deus ex machina and far too much time is spent on Isaac talking about fake science. The title isn't very good. These complaints aren't that important. Nevertheless, they contribute to the reason why at the end of the day I only consider the book pretty good, and not any better than that. Again, if you like the genre, then definitely check it out. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
4.5

What an ugly and extraordinary world. The book too.

Perdido Street Station is an excellent first book in a series where horror meets science fiction and steampunk with some other genres thrown into the mix. The book has a great plot and well written characters, but what stands out and steals the limelight is the city itself. I can't think of any place worse than that hell hole. What else to say about a place that allows people to be remade as legal punishment; sometimes not even for the crime they committed as in the case of one particularly disgusting brothel. Of course, there is an inevitable militia with its spies everywhere, close-knit communities of other races (the cactus people, the vodyanoi, the khepri), sentient machines, corrupted government and so on.

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, an unconventional scientist, accepts a fascinating commission from Yagharek, a wingless garuda, to restore his flying ability. Only in the end of the book you are told the truth about Yagharek's crime.
Neither expected that the job would cause a domino effect and that they would almost doom the whole city. After reading about New Crobuzon seen through the eyes of various characters, I am not so sure it would be a bad thing.

Isaac is neither a hero not an anti-hero. I almost despise him. He is a genius who is forced to find courage to face more than his enemies. That still hasn't made me like him though. You see, everyone who crosses Isaac's path gets hurt one way or another. Still, whether you like the characters or not you can easily follow their steady development and changes in this book. There are no noble deeds here. Everyone uses whatever is at hand.
I just wish certain other characters got the ending they deserved. ( )
  Irena. | Nov 22, 2014 |
as far as i can tell, china mieville has a big, big world inside his head.

this book is set in one city. just the one. there’s pretty much no outside involvement, unless you count the place where yagharek comes from, and that’s only really mentioned. but this city is huge. it’s truly massive. there’s the ribs, and the university district, and the place where all the hipster bug-people live, and perdido street station itself, and a thousand other things, plenty of which i probably didn’t even pick up on. the city is dark and dingy and murky and yet has this magical, alluring something about it. imagine a place with cactus people, and humans with bugs for heads, called khepri, and people made out of water, and regular humans, all together, all struggling for something…

i can’t even begin to describe what this book is about without ruining it entirely. i’ve seen some reviews describe the plot as “meandering” and i just can’t agree. i was gripped from the very first moment, first by a sense of apprehension, then foreboding, then outright dread. in its essentials, the book follows a scientist, a man named Isaac dan der Grimnebulin, who conducts his research in a dingy set of rooms in the university district. one day, a garuda - essentially a humanoid bird - comes to him, asking for help. this garuda has been stripped of his wings, and wants to find a way to fly, truly fly. isaac has his own problems: his girlfriend is a khepri, AND an artist, and their relationship is becoming a little strained.

i loved the characters in this book. i loved all of them, even the horrible ones. mieville has this way of humanising characters that you wouldn’t imagine it would be possible to humanise. i find it difficult to connect to a book if there’s nothing i can relate to about any of the characters - whether it be in their characters themselves, or the things they represent (see brideshead revisited for a good example of the latter). where characters lack a human aspect it rarely works. look at spock, or k-pax, or the iron giant. they work because they’re humanised in the very best sense of the word, despite not being human themselves. they’re given an empathetic quality. mieville achieves this in spades, particularly with the garuda and the khepri. again, it’s hard to describe without spoiling the book, but the arcs of lin, isaac, and yagharek were dark, and addictive, and excellent.

the crown of mieville’s achievement with this book, though, are the words themselves. as is probably reasonably obvious, i’m a sucker for beautiful prose. what makes a book really shine for me are the words in themselves, the way they’re put together. it’s a little bit like music and a little bit like alchemy. again, this isn’t to everyone’s taste, but mieville’s extensive vocabulary makes this novel into a creature of beauty. the writing is somewhat lyrical and always magical.

if i’m not coherent, it’s because i’m a little bit in love.

the reason i have tried so hard to avoid spoilers is because i want everyone to read this book. okay, not everyone is going to like it. it isn’t for everyone. but it deserves tried. and i’m pretty sure some of the rest of you will fall in love like i did! ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
This book has an amazing story and style that gently unfolds to you. It was so amazing and dense and thick with description but the description didn't weigh the book down at all. I super recommend it. ( )
  lushrain | Sep 29, 2014 |
The book reads like an exquisite corpse written by James Joyce, Philip K. Dick, Philip José Farmer and Lovecraft. At 880 pages, it takes its time to unfurl the story, block by grimey block.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the book but it's taking a long time to read. Regardless of where I am in the book, I will mail it a week from tomorrow. Apologies for keeping it so long. ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 191 (next | show all)
Perdido Street Station is a well written and absorbing story aimed at breaking the rules for a number of different fantasy concepts.
 

» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
lee, johnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Villa, ElisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
'I even gave up, for a while, stopping by the window of the room to look out at the lights and deep, illuminated streets. That's a form of dying, that losing contact with the city like that.'

Philip K. Dick , We Can Build You
Dedication
to Emma
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Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine with either Die Falter or Der Weber. Perdido Street Station was split into two volumes for publication in Germany.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345459407, Mass Market Paperback)

When Mae West said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful," she could have been talking about China Miéville's Perdido Street Station. The novel's publication met with a burst of extravagant praise from Big Name Authors and was almost instantly a multiaward finalist. You expect hyperbole in blurbs; and sometimes unworthy books win awards, so nominations don't necessarily mean much. But Perdido Street Station deserves the acclaim. It's ambitious and brilliant and--rarity of rarities--sui generis. Its clearest influences are Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy and M. John Harrison's Viriconium books, but it isn't much like them. It's Dickensian in scope, but fast-paced and modern. It's a love song for cities, and it packs a world into its strange, sprawling, steam-punky city of New Crobuzon. It can be read with equal validity as fantasy, science fiction, horror, or slipstream. It's got love, loss, crime, sex, riots, mad scientists, drugs, art, corruption, demons, dreams, obsession, magic, aliens, subversion, torture, dirigibles, romantic outlaws, artificial intelligence, and dangerous cults.

Generous, gaudy, grand, grotesque, gigantic, grim, grimy, and glorious, Perdito Street Station is a bloody fascinating book. It's also so massive that you may begin to feel you're getting too much of a good thing; just slow down and enjoy.

Yes, but what is Perdido Street Station about? To oversimplify: the eccentric scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is hired to restore the power of flight to a cruelly de-winged birdman. Isaac's secret lover is Lin, an artist of the khepri, a humano-insectoid race; theirs is a forbidden relationship. Lin is hired (rather against her will) by a mysterious crime boss to capture his horrifying likeness in the unique khepri art form. Isaac's quest for flying things to study leads to verification of his controversial unified theory of the strange sciences of his world. It also brings him an odd, unknown grub stolen from a secret government experiment so perilous it is sold to a ruthless drug lord--the same crime boss who hired Lin. The grub emerges from its cocoon, becomes an extraordinarily dangerous monster, and escapes Isaac's lab to ravage New Crobuzon, even as his discovery becomes known to a hidden, powerful, and sinister intelligence. Lin disappears and Isaac finds himself pursued by the monster, the drug lord, the government and armies of New Crobuzon, and other, more bizarre factions, not all confined to his world. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In the squalid, gothic city of New Crobuzon, a mysterious half-human, half-bird stranger comes to Isaac, a gifted but eccentric scientist, with a request to help him fly, but Isaac's obsessive experiments and attempts to grant the request unleash a terrifying dark force on the entire city.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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