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Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

Perdido Street Station (2000)

by China Miéville

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bas-Lag (1), New Crobuzon (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,056266710 (4.06)656
Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none -- not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory. Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger -- and more consuming -- by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon -- and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes ...… (more)
  1. 80
    Embassytown by China Miéville (mclewe)
    mclewe: For Miéville's ability to create a complete world, incomprehensible, fascinating, intelligent.
  2. 70
    City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer (bertilak)
  3. 96
    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.
  4. 30
    Iron Council by China Miéville (kaipakartik)
    kaipakartik: Same universe, a lot of the same creatures. Brilliantly done as well
  5. 53
    Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (fyrefly98)
  6. 21
    The Etched City by K. J. Bishop (Jarandel)
    Jarandel: Similar dark, steampunk-ish urban environments that sometime veer into the horrific and fantastical.
  7. 10
    This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the world building, for the heft of the plot.
  8. 32
    Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (aaronius)
    aaronius: Another dystopian dream-city to get lost in with weird sex and fantastic writing.
  9. 00
    Viriconium: "The Pastel City", "A Storm of Wings", "In Viriconium", "Viriconium Nights" by M. John Harrison (g33kgrrl)
    g33kgrrl: "Weird cities" staples.
  10. 00
    The Last City by Nina D'Aleo (GuyMontag)
  11. 00
    City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Macon)
  12. 00
    The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (majkia)
    majkia: no idea why exactly, but the two seem similar to me.
  13. 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.
  14. 00
    Sea of Ghosts by Alan Campbell (iftyzaidi)
  15. 13
    Earth by David Brin (freddlerabbit)
  16. 02
    Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey (Aerrin99)
    Aerrin99: An interesting world filled with unexpected people.

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» See also 656 mentions

English (263)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (266)
Showing 1-5 of 263 (next | show all)
Lesson learned after reading this?

Don't Experiment With Cheese.

Can you imagine how many problems could have been avoided had this novel had access to time-travel? It's practically the only trope not explored, and that's saying a damn lot.

Off and on through the entire reading, I wanted to declare that this is one of the most brilliant novels ever written. The sheer level of creativity and attention to detail, the fantastic explorations of ideas, the explosion of plot items and complications, and the REALITY of it all just begged to be placed up there as one of the very, very best speculative fiction ever written.

It's dense, but not unaccessible. The characters are vivid and fascinating and it's so easy to pick them all out of a lineup, despite there being a huge number of incidentals. And the plot is about as windy as they come while still holding to the straight and true. After things go to hell, it's practically a straight line, in fact, but that line is rich and a seemingly impossible goal.

I never stopped being impressed by the novel, whether it was my first time reading it or this second time.

But here's the "But".

I can't believe I'm saying this, but there was too much action after the moths. The city is as rich as they come, and so many damn things happened, including a great invasion scene, mind-sucking beasties, aerial monster sex, Steampunk AI emergence, mind-shit, and so many, many aliens. (Or whatever you want to call them.)

All the little things, all the attempts to put the genie back in the bottle, all the tiring attempts to right past wrongs, it was all just too draining for me. After a certain point, it was all brilliant descriptions and fascinating reveals, and by themselves I have no complaint. It was all tension and almost no release. As a thought experiment, I give it top marks in idea and execution. As a strictly enjoyable novel that lets the reader breathe every once in a while... well, not so much.

I'd almost recommend taking a break every once in a while, except that there's so many details to juggle and appreciate that I'd be afraid that I'd lose the thread. Not that the main thread was ever difficult to pick up again, of course, because like I said, it was pretty much a straight line for almost 3/5 of the novel. I found myself wishing for more dialogue and character stuff the way we had during the opening before the Crisis Engine was first turned on.

It was brilliant afterward, but it needed cycles and rhythm. It was frankly exhausting, even when I marvelled at how beautiful it was.

I can make a good argument that the main character of the novel was Perdido Street Station, itself, and Isaac and Yagharek and Lin merely being secondary characters.

It's not entirely true, of course, and I sincerely liked the flesh and blood characters right along the interesting constructs. I even like Isaac despite being the author of all this mess and his many fuck-ups. I even like Yagharek despite the shit he pulled, even if I agree with his judgement.

It's a depressing end to the novel, too, so perhaps my ongoing excitement for the tale took a downturn along with the tone.

Nothing it going to stop me, this time, from reading the Bas-Lag sequels. I didn't have any excuse last time, and I'm frankly chomping at the bit to read more of this world. It's so damn rich, and not even an unsatisfying end can ruin that. :) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
This is very hard to get into. For the first third or so of the book, I found it mind-bogglingly boring – so boring that trying to read it on the train, I would periodically decide that my own thoughts were more attention-grabbing and my eyes would glaze over and I'd stop reading. If you're not very patient, the book starts out as a hard slog.

But I persevered, partly because the last China Miéville I'd read was brilliant and partly because I feel like a failure if I can't finish a novel. Eventually, I got sucked in.

The thing that sucked me in was the impressive world-building, of course. Miéville has constructed an intricately detailed city, New Crobuzon, partly based on industrial revolution-era Europe but with a lot of fantastical twists. This is a city where humans are not the only sentient species, and the specific part of the book that really set me to begrudgingly liking it was where Lin ponders the history of her own migrant community, the khepri, which we would consider a hybrid of beetles and humans, probably. New Crobuzon has dozens of neighbourhoods whose histories and characters get fleetingly described in the novel – too many to actually remember, which is frustrating, especially when the description goes on too long and you're impatient to get back to some action, but fascinating nonetheless.

I will say that some of the other description, not devoted to telling the history or social situation of the city, got really boring. Actual events in the plot seemed to take forever to unfold, which sapped the narrative of a lot of the urgency I think it was supposed to have. Some of the plot didn't sit well with me, either; in particular, I was really disappointed with how Miéville dealt with Lin (seeming to kill her off to fuel the male protagonist's growth, then suddenly reintroduce her at the end of the story – only to immediately have her brain half sucked out by those slake-moths leaving her permanently retarded!). Considering how male-dominated the narrative was otherwise (there were only two women!), it was a pretty poor way to treat her.

So… as you can see, I've given this three stars. The world-building is fantastic, but the description is excessive and I disliked elements of the plot. It's interesting to note that out of everyone who's rated this book in Goodreads, only half have gone on to rate the sequel… (Dec 2013) ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
Perdido Street Station takes place in the city of New Crobuzon. It's a weird place. Think Victorian London with steampunk tech and magic. Lots of unusual races of people live here, ladies with bug heads, frog people, cactus people, humans, and those are the relatively normal ones.

I really love the beginning of this book. It follows a few folks, detailing their hobbies, jobs, and relationships that could only happen in this world. Just fantastic world building, showing what life is like here. There are lots of hints of political* and personal tension that felt like they were building to an interesting plot.

Then it turns into a monster hunting horror book. While it still features lots of fun world building, I wasn't a huge fan of this twist. These monsters are considered fantastical even within their already weird world. The fun of the beginning was seeing these weird scenarios treated as mundane within the setting.

Overall I'd say I still enjoyed it. I really enjoy good world building and there are lots of cool ideas in the book. But because of the length and disappointing plot, I would have a hard time recommending it to others.Unless they also will enjoy a book for world building alone.

*One of the reason I was interesting in reading Mieville's books is because I heard they were political. To me this book was hinting that the plot would focus on a working class uprising. Since this was his first novel, I'm wonder if he got cold feet about that plot line. That said, I'm still interested in checking out more of his work. I'm hoping they will combine the interesting fantasy elements with more political story-lines. ( )
  jdersch | May 8, 2020 |
I read this book because Iron Council was recommended to me (as a geek and as an anarchist), and I thought that I couldn't read the third of a trilogy and not read the other three first.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The initial chapters had me absorbing all sorts of fantastic images of this living, breathing city of New Crobuzon. The artwork and culture of the scarab-headed khepri, the watercraft of the vodyanoi, the anarchist desert hunter society of the garuda, all of these things fascinated me, as I haven't ever been interested in Fantasy novels in the past. They became even more lifelike as I poked around on the internet for fan art and saw that these species were drawn from Egyptian, Russian, and Hindu folklore.

The author also seamlessly integrated other races of sapient inhabitants that came from his bountiful imagination, outside of folklore. Reading about the wooden cactus-humanoid cactacae, the handlingers with their sinestral and dextrier (left and right) castes, the spider-poet aesthete weavers, the patchwork remade (both those punished to be remade and those who remade themselves), and more. I never felt as if the book was too full or too rich, which is a significant feat looking at my long list of different species of character, let alone the characters themselves. The class struggles and inter-species relationships drew me into the landscape of the city, and the book won me over.

Then the plot kicked in. As amazing as the introduction to the novel was, and as rich as the setting and characters were, the actual plot of the book was disappointingly thin. Comparisons to nearly any monster movie would be apt. When the plot of the book you're reading shares significant similarities with the 1998 Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick, you know you're in trouble.

The good news is that the plot doesn't get too in the way of my enjoyment of the book. The characters are still amazing, the city still breathes on every page, the theme of redemption and forgiveness is still palpable with every side-story, and the politics feel only the slightest bit allegorical, really quite real to the world that Mieville has composed for us. Even the paper-shuffling socialists are lionized in ways that feel appropriate to the story.

The edition of the book that I "read" was an audiobook by the very talented John Lee, whose thick, trilled British accent colored the way I thought about the characters, and was a perfect accompaniment to the steampunk gothic setting. Unfortunately, he didn't sign on to do The Scar. ( )
  magonistarevolt | Apr 30, 2020 |
This was excellent. I got really into the world he'd created, and the different races. Feels like a bit of a love letter to London.

"Choice theft" is a concept I particularly loved. I think I'd be interested to read more about garuda society.

It was almost like a few books in one (certainly felt like multiple books when I was carrying it), as there were different things going on. I liked all the different aspects - none felt like they failed or shouldn't have been there. ( )
  RFellows | Apr 29, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 263 (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 (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miéville, Chinaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bauche-Eppers, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, EdwardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oliver, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Villa, ElisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'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
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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