Thursday, July 1, 2010

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (2000)

China Mieville's Perdido Street Station (2000) is the first novel set on the fictional world of Bas-Lag, in the city-state of New Crobuzon. It's Steampunk, but of a fantasy bent rather than purely scientific as in alternate history Steampunk stories.

In an interview with 3am Magazine, Mieville himself summed up the novel like so: "It's basically a secondary world fantasy with Victorian era technology. So rather than being a feudal world, it's an early industrial capitalist world of a fairly grubby, police statey kind!"

This is a prime example of effective Second-World Steampunk; upon reading the story, you get a sense of the dystopic vision that is New Crobuzon -- from the hideous Remade, to the buglike Khepri and even more distinct arcane races that live alongside humanity. And of course there's the ruthless Parliament and their militia. After all, what dystopian society would be complete without a corrupt government?

The story of Perdido Street Station follows Isaac, a scientist, and Linn, his Khepri girlfriend. A Garuda, a creature from the deserts far away, comes to Isaac with a request to reattach the Garuda's wings. Apparently the wings were ripped off for a crime so terrible that the Garuda, Yagharek, claims it has no human equivalent.

Isaac of course accepts the challenge, and meanwhile Linn is running afoul of the vast crime syndicate operating in the city. The plotlines converge after Isaac begins study of a multicolored, unidentified larva that he gains though illegal channels. This caterpillar eats only a hallucinogenic drug called "dreamshit." Isaac of courses feeds the caterpillar copious amounts, and eventually births a slake-moth -- a creature that feeds off the dreams of sentient beings and leaves them in a catatonic state.

Perdido Street Station won a whole mess of awards: It won the British Fantasy Society's August Derleth Award in 2000, the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2001,the Premio Ignotus Award in 2002, and the Kurd LaƟwitz Award in 2003. It also won the Editors' Choice Award in Fantasy in 2001.

Suffice to say -- China Mieville can weave a darn good yarn. This is a prototype for Second-World Steampunk stories, and its dark fantasy tones have served me well in my own writing.

NOTE: The cover is from the original UK printing of the novel.

1 comment:

scribeswindow said...

I love China Mieville's work. For me his best so far has been The city and the city. I haven't read everything of his yet, still making my way through his titles.