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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