Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled for the first chapter to get into Perdido Street station, but after that, there was so much interesting stuff going on in the first half of the book that I enjoyed. The grotty detailed descriptions of New Crobuzon had a strong flavour of Mervyn Peake, crossed with Pratchett’s Ankh Morpork. Naked Lunch Insect headed people, and a crime lord who is a hulking lump of remade flesh – a mountain of angry mouths and various animal parts. The tender, but frankly weird interspecies relationship between Isaac and Linn. The way that this is a fantasy novel full of creatures and yet it has a real city feel about it because our heroes go out to yuppie restaurants, get drunk in bars and talk about their job, or go to the fair, or take cabs, or wander round parts of the city etc. And all this feels such a different direction from the average quest story of a fantasy novel, it seems as if the story will be low key and political – about the crime boss and his machinations or the Maxist magazine and the riots of the Vodyanoi, Yagharek and his crime, those kind of things.

Then the story take a U turn into a fantasy quest/bug hunt, and add in a load of new characters – mercenaries and criminals, who are more suited to this kind of narrative, and who you don’t care about at all – to bolster up the team ( now definitely a team rather than a bunch of selfish city types) – and dropping the most interesting characters like Linn, who don’t fit this new storyline. As the story becomes a straightforward action adventure, I felt like all the descriptions and the new characters like the Mayor and his deputies, are just clogging up and slowing down what needs to be a fast paced story. Especially towards the end, when characters like Pengefinches, who have barely been mentioned, suddenly gets a whole POV chapter, and there are chapters about random characters literally laying cable, for the Big Plan. And so what should be a relatively pacey third act, just seems to drag with endless detail and characters. I suppose it deserves more stars for the amazing opening half of the book, but by the last third it was a struggle to get to the end.

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Jane Eyre

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Brilliant, really. It’s like some strange fever dream of a story. The style is so modern, with its closeness to Jane and the emotions that she goes through. After an amazing Dickensian opening where Jane is locked in the red room by her evil guardian, which surely must have inspired all the modern YA and MG gothic fantasy that came after it. Jane gets a job as a governess at Gateshead Hall, the gothic pile of Mr Rochester, looking after a little french girl Adele the step-daughter of the strange Mr Rochester, with the aid of the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax.

Mr Rochester. How could anyone fall in love with Mr Rochester? He’s just about the oddest character in the book. Locking his wife in the attic, because she’s ‘mad’ when he’s the one seems mad to me. Dressing up as a gypsy in order to elicit from Jane her true opinion of him. Pretending to be in love with someone else, a neighbouring rich girl who he gallivants around with, until suddenly he changes his mind and declares his love for Jane. Insisting he and Jane marry in secret. Not to mention the whole thing of becoming the guardian of Adele because she was the daughter of his ex-mistress and yet not caring for her at all. All these weird and crazy things seem totally nonsensically strange to me, as they do to Jane in the book, and even when they are explained at the end don’t really make sense. And I think that’s what gives the thing its fantastical feverish quality, makes its seem ever so slightly adrift from reality.

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