Perdido Street Station is the main hub of New Crobuzon, the place where all the transportation and communication lines of the city converge. It serves as an appropriate metaphor for New Crobuzon and the novel itself, in which converge the various threads of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. New Crobuzon is a city filled with monsters. To the xenophobic, the various races which occupy it--scarab-headed Khepri, amphibuous Vodyanoi, plant-like Catacae, winged Garuda--are just the most obvious example. But there are true horrors, some of which the city hides and others which it displays openly. A corrupt government punishes offenders through monstrous mutilations of the flesh of the convicted, while a secretive and deformed drug lord packages and sells the stuff of nightmares in order to control the city's underworld.
The protagonists are themselves somewhat marginal figures--artists, thieves, convicts, rogue scientists, rabble rousers--as can be expected in a city of such extremes. When events come together to release a terrible threat upon the city, they have to come together to defeat monster of almost unfathomable danger.
If not for Mieville's imaginative and narrative powers, that would sound like a rather conventional plot. But the craft with which the city and its various inhabitants are described and the imaginative turns the story takes make for an engaging reading experience, and I sometimes thought of how in my younger days, I could become immersed in works of science fiction and fantasy that I would nowadays find clunky and cliche-riddled. Some of the inhabitants we meet, from the noble mournful Yagharek to the seemingly insane Weaver, were really fascinating.
If there is one flaw, it is that of a large proportion of science fiction/fantasy: exposition. The exposition in Perdido Street Station wasn't bad, just what was necessary to understand the action, but there were moments where the exposition broke the flow of the story a little bit. The best works in SFF manage to make the exposition almost invisible, which doesn't quite happen in this novel.But as I said above, it is still an incredibly enthralling experience. Conventional enough that it's quite easy to get into, while the innovative setting, story and characterization take it to a whole new level.
What did you think of this review?