I finished my second reading of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. The first time I read this book I was blown away by its uniqueness and the beauty of Mieville’s prose. The second time, in addition to enjoying the beauty and the weirdness of it, I was struck by what a really good story it is.
It was really hard to decide what to quote. I finally decided on the first description of the structure that gives the book its name.
It was not a purer realm that loomed vastly over the city. Smokestacks punctured the membrane between the land and the air and disgorged tons of poisonous smog into that upper world as if out of spite. In a thicker, stinking haze just above the rooftops, the detritus from a million low chimneys eddied together. Crematoria vented into the airborne ashes of wills burnt by jealous executors, which mixed with coaldust burnt to keep dying lovers warm. Thousands of sordid smoke-ghosts wrapped New Crobuzon in a stench that suffocated like guilt.
The clouds swirled in the city’s filthy microclimate. It seemed as if all of New Crobuzon’s weather was formed by a massive, gradual crawling hurricane that centred around the city’s heart, the enormous mongrel building that squatted at the core of the commercial zone known as The Crow, the coagulate of miles of railway line and years of architectural styles and violations: Perdido Street Station.
An industrial castle, bristling with random parapets. The westernmost tower of the station was the militia’s Spike, that loomed over the other turrets, dwarfing them, tugged in seven directions by taut skyrails. But for all its height the Spike was only an annex of the enormous station.
The architect had been incarcerated, quite mad, seven years after Perdido Street Station was completed. He was a heretic, it was said, intent on building his own god.
Five enormous brick mouths gaped to swallow each of the city’s trainlines. The tracks unrolled on the arches like huge tongues. Shops and torture chambers and workshops and offices and empty spaces all stuffed the fat belly of the building, which seemed, from a certain angle, in a certain light, to be bracing itself, taking its weight on the Spike, preparing to leap into the enormous sky it so casually invaded.
Of course that doesn’t even begin to give you a clue as to what the story is about. It is dark urban fantasy, full of monsters, adventure, romance, a little steampunk, in a culture of several weird races in addition to humans. If I have convinced you to buy Perdido Street Station please click on the link above.