Thursday, July 22, 2010

Perdido Street Station - China Miéville

867 pages of genius writing.

A garuda, a bird-man from the faraway desert land of Cymek, terribly punished for an incomprehensible crime approaches renegade scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin petitioning to have his flight restored. In his researches Isaac unwittingly unleashes five slake-moths upon the city of New Crobuzon. These unstoppable multidimensional predators suck the psyches from the city's inhabitants leaving drooling idiots ... and begin to breed.

The rest of the book coils subplots into an atmospheric tale of crisis resolution.

When Adrian finished it and I asked what he thought of it, he simply breathed "Remades". I had forgotten the ubiquity of these biologically-curdled human-machine hybrids, ordered by magistrates to fit the crime or manufactured from hapless victims by crime lords for their own specialised purposes.

Here is an excerpt (page 549).

The man approaching them was nude and horrifically thin. His face was stretched into a permanent wide-eyed aspect of ghastly discomfort. His eyes, his body, jerked and ticced as if his nerves were breaking down. His skin looked necrotic, as if he was submitting to slow gangrene.

But what caused the watchers to shudder and exclaim was his head. His skull had been sheered cleanly in two just above his eyes. The top was completely gone. There was a little fringe of congealed blood below the cut. From the wet hollow inside the man's head snaked a twisting cable, two fingers thick. It was surrounded by a spiral of metal, which was bloodied and red-silver at the bottom, where it plunged into the empty brainpan...

This is the avatar of the steam-powered AI construct which features prominently in plot resolution.

China Miéville's greatest achievement in this book is the invocation of the grubby vitality, squalor and corruption of New Crobuzon through layer upon layer of inventive metaphor and lurid description. Wonderful stuff.

Check out Miéville's "The City and the City" as well.