Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville [5/5]

I actually finished this over a week ago, but I haven’t gotten around to writing a review until now. I even finished another book in the interim (which I’ll post about later). Now though, it’s finally time for my thoughts on Perdido Street Station.

I’ll start off by saying that, though I thought this was an absolutely brilliant novel, it’s not for everyone. The language is dense, and often disturbing, and China writes in a style that’s very much his own. If you like (or, in my case, love) the way he writes, you’ll likely think that Perdido Street Station is an extraordinarily good book. If you don’t like the way he writes, then none of the detailed world building or interesting characters is going to really matter. I know of more than one person with generally good taste in books who hasn’t made it through this one.

I, though, thought it was an amazing book, so obviously I’m one of those readers who likes the way that China writes. I’d read King Rat, his first novel, earlier this year and thought it was pretty good, but it didn’t really prepare me for Perdido Street Station. From the first pages, I was hooked by the flow of the words and the power of the descriptions. It’s not a book that I found to be a particularly easy read, which is one of the reasons that it took me a while to get through it, but it certainly felt like my efforts were well-rewarded. As I mentioned above, the world building is extremely detailed, and the city of New Crobuzon, where the story takes place, is portrayed in all of its festering glory. The setting for the story is sort of a mix of steampunk and sorcery, with lots of weird machines, weird races, and strange magics. It definitely doesn’t feel like a standard sort of fantasy though, so don’t think that this is just another sword-and-sorcery novel. The complex plot of the novel is something that is best experienced without spoilers, at least in my opinion, so I’m not going to go into any detail about that. It’s a tale of people forced to be heroes, and it’s dark, and it has lots of twists and turns. I wouldn’t say that the plot is the best part of the book, but it’s good.

So, if you like dense books written in their own distinctive style, and you aren’t afraid to put in some effort, I highly recommend that you give Perdido Street Station a try. You’re either going to love it or hate it, but I don’t see many people being ambivalent about it.

2 Responses to “Perdido Street Station by China Miéville”

  1. Jack Says:

    King Rat is currently at the top of my to-read stack (once I get through some games rulebooks), because I wanted to read that prior to PSS (which is also in the stack).

    Would you recommend sticking to this order or should I skip “ahead”? (I’ll probably find some reading time between now and Saturday when I could ask you directly…)

  2. Michael Says:

    King Rat is a good book, but it’s set in a version of modern-day London rather than the imagined world of Perdido Street Station (or The Scar), so there’s no real need to read it first, imo. Though it contains elements of China’s later writing style, it really doesn’t prepare you all that well for what he’s doing in Perdido. If you do skip ahead, I’d certainly recommend going back and reading King Rat later, whether you like Perdido or not.