You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Perdido Street Station

Every once in a while, as I read books from different authors, I come across an author who blows me away. China Mieville has just such a work in Perdido Street Station.

The story is a dark fantasy set in the decadent and decaying city of New Crobuzon, an ancient city surrounded by the ribs of a dead leviathan. New Crobuzon is run by a corrupt mayor and legislature, policed by a brutal militia, and filled with drug lords and other cartels. The population is human and cactus people, insect-like khepri and various other intelligent species, all living together in a tenuous peace.

Isaac is a human scientist studying arcane scientific and magical subjects. His lover is Lin, a khepri woman with a human body and insect head. Lin is an artist who builds sculptures with the secretions from her insect glands. She is introduced to Mr. Motley, a drug lord whose body has been remade into a multifaceted chimeric form to make a sculpture of him. Isaac is approached by a man in his laboratory with a special request. Yagharek is a garuda, a humanoid race with large wings that enable them to fly. Yagharek has been shorn of his wings and desires to fly again. Having learned of Isaac's expertise, he offers a bag of gold if Isaac can return him to the sky.

Both Isaac's and Lin's decisions to accept these requests turn out to be disastrous. Isaac's research accidentally unleashes a force that terrorizes the city. As nightmares spread across the city, different factions try to fight the terror. The government and criminals forge a tentative alliance to rid the city of the nightmares. Lin becomes a prisoner.

A fascinating variety of characters come forth in the chaos: creatures who live in pairs and control human or other hosts; remade creatures who have had their bodies altered; water creatures who can shape water; a spider like Weaver who travels between dimensions. Mieville shows an amazing imagination in these characters. Each species is well thought out and the characters themselves are fascinating individuals.

Isaac is the central character and driving force of the plot. He maintains a steadfast determination to make right his mistakes. He remains dedicated to Yagharek, who in turn becomes a steady friend and dependable ally. Together with Isaac and Lin's mutual friend Derkhan they come up with plans and resources to defeat the nightmares. I believe that choices are what define a good character, and Isaac's choices show him to be a solid character up until the end.

The plot starts off strange and gets even stranger. There's no predicting what will happen next in this story. The plot is logical yet surprising, and the author seems to have a neverending bag of surprises. There is always a good deal of suspense. The writing is solid and inventive, often just as intriguing as the plot and characters. The book is a complete joy to read. A


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