Perdido Street Station (China Miéville)

Perdido Street Station is the first novel in the Bas-Lag series by China Miéville.

Isaac is a scientist who doesn’t really conform to the scientific community, most of all because of his girlfriend Lin, who happens to be a khepri – an instect-woman. It’s a relationship that would be frowned upon if it were known. Lin is an artist and she’s approached for an unusual comission, while Isaac himself is also hired by Yagharek, a garuda – a bird-man. Yagharek’s wings were taken from him as a punishment and he hopes that Isaac can give him back his flight. But Isaac’s research takes him somewhere else entirely.

Perdido Street Station is a dense book, literally and figuratively. It took me way longer to read it than its length suggested, but I absolutely loved every page and minute of it. Great character, great plot and the usual beauty of Miéville’s prose.


When I say the book is dense, here is what I mean: first of all, it’s printed on pretty thin paper and without a lot of space on each page. Second, the prose is heavy, with a lot of layers and unusual words and phrasings. Third, the plot is layered as well and twists its way around in pretty narrow turns to make for arather swooping narrative. So in the end, it took me almost a month to finish those 600 pages, which is rather slow, even for me, despite the fact that I really wanted to know what would happen next – and that I really didn’t know most of the time.

But I didn’t really mind that it took me this long because the world Miéville created is fascinating. Steam-punky, industrial fantasy that frames magic in scientific language? A world where mad dancing spidergods can appear just as easily as AI? YES PLEASE!

And the characters were great. Isaac and his ruthless research methods. Derkhan and her idealistic politics. Yagharek and his search for salvation. Lin and her love for art. And of course the Weaver where Miéville proves again that he manages with apparent ease to create utterly alien minds. [I just wish we had gotten more of Jack Half-a-Prayer.]

And holy fuck, the moths. Scary buggers. Though I think that the Construct Council might have been a little creepier.

The resolution of the story was … to say it was good is a little weird because it is one of the darkest freaking endings ever, but I thought it very fitting. And, L., because you asked: I loved how Isaac handled himself when he found out what Yag was punished for. [I generally really loved the garuda societal concept and their concept of crime.] Though I was sorry, too, but there really was no other way he could have handled it, I thought.

There are two things that I have to criticize: One was the pacing, which was a little uneven. And two was the ending for Lin which I thought was too hard and seemed more done to punish Isaac than because of her as a character.

Summarizing: definite recommendation, just like everything else Miéville has written.

3 thoughts on “Perdido Street Station (China Miéville)

  1. I also really really loved Derkam. <3
    And the Weaver, omg. The scene when he just picks/slizes everyone's ear because it improves the world-web – so totally weird and gory and comical.
    Or when the mayor and his staff have to decide what to do about the emerging danger. Or the inter-racial watercraft strike (my favorite scene of the book).
    I think Mièville's books have so many important singular scenes, if that makes sense. Things you remember as classics.
    (I don't know how to express this either in English or in German.)

    I agree with what you've written about Lin. I even think Lin was an unimportant character. I mean, there's the story about her search for individuality and being un-khepri… but it wasn't enough to really make her an important character. If it wasn't CM I'd say she was a female to advance a male's storyline. But it's CM. He has great female main characters in other books (omg, Avice! And Bellis! <3).

    PS: I think Isaac really kept his integrity, which certainly was hard given the fact that Yag was both his friend and his project. I liked that.

    • I know what you mean about the singular scenes that stand out. I loved the scene with the representative from hell particularly, for example. And I love that CM always carries his politics with him.

      About Lin, let’s not forget that we all grew up in societies where seeing the women as extensions of the men’s story is quite normal and that we have to consciously battle these tropes. So it’s rather logical that even a generally feminist writer like CM sometimes falls back on these things.

  2. Pingback: The Scar (China Miéville) | kalafudra's Stuff

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