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149 of 167 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey through hell
Fantasy can to be said to examine human nature by way of myth and archetype, while science fiction does the same with technological possibilities; and horror explores human nature by route of our deepest fears. Perhaps what is most unique about "Perdido Street Station" is that it does all three, being at once of all those genres and at the same time refusing to be so...
Published on September 23, 2002 by Ilana Teitelbaum

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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it a story or a picture?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. China Mieville spends endless thousands of words painting pictures in this novel. Detailed and elaborate descriptive prose is weaved throughout the book, describing in great detail every aspect of New Crobuzon, the city in which the story takes place. And while I admire the great effort Mieville goes to in order to bring...
Published on June 24, 2003 by Amazon Customer


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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it a story or a picture?, June 24, 2003
By 
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. China Mieville spends endless thousands of words painting pictures in this novel. Detailed and elaborate descriptive prose is weaved throughout the book, describing in great detail every aspect of New Crobuzon, the city in which the story takes place. And while I admire the great effort Mieville goes to in order to bring the city to vivid life, in the end I felt that Perdido Street Station suffered for it.
Momentum built in the story is repeatedly lost when a long descriptive passage is encountered. The focus on the characters and events is often lost, and I found myself feeling as if the prose was an intermission to the story, rather than a part of it. Ultimately, the story and the prose compete with each other so much that I couldn't really gauge whether the story was very good at all.
Would I recommend Perdido Street Station? Well, that depends on what kind of writing you like. If you enjoy lots of adjective-laden phrases painting verbal pictures, you'll probably like the way Mieville portrays the environs of his gritty, surreal, bizarre city. If you're looking for a good, entertaining story, you might be disappointed as I was. Perdido Street Station isn't bad - it's just not for everyone.
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135 of 150 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Dazzling Milieu, November 19, 2001
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
If you are looking for the unusual, the bizarre, for unforgettable images, this is the book to get. Mieville's city of New Crobuzon is a phantasmagorical tapestry of weirdly modified humans, from cactus to bird to frog to ant-men, a technology that is an equally crazy quilt of steam power, magic, electric-powered clockwork for heightened psi-powers, a political structure that could come straight from Stalin's Russia complete with deals with an all-too-real Satan and a world-thread artist spider known simply as the Weaver, a trash-heap conscious computer, and intimations of a history and wider world that is even more fantastic.

Beyond the incredible scenery is an almost Victorian moralistic plot, where the protagonist is forced to deal with the consequences of his innocent-seeming research into methods of restoring flight to a criminal garuda bird-man. His fight against the slake-moths that were inadvertently freed as a result of one of his investigations forms the main story line, and slowly builds to an (almost) exciting story line. However...

Mieville's style is very densely descriptive. In the beginning of the book, this is excellent, as it paints a very dark, depressive, intimate picture of the city and its inhabitants. As the plot unfolds and becomes more pressing, though, this same style and repeated images become an obstacle to getting the story told. At the very moments when tension has been raised to high levels, we step out for two to three pages at a time for more descriptions, effectively destroying the pacing of the story. I think this book could have been considerably improved by some heavy cutting of this material in the latter stages of the book.

There are places where the plot could have been tightened. At multiple points, the Weaver saves our hero from impossible situations, an effective deus-ex-machina device as the Weaver can apparently do almost anything (except defeat the slake-moths single-handed). Although this is consistent with Victorian-era plotting, it really doesn't belong in a modern novel. Thematically the book also falls somewhat flat, with overly simplistic value/action/consequence matings, almost reminiscent of something out of Dickens.

A brilliant, off-beat, dazzling setting; an exciting adventure tale; but marred by too many words and too little depth.
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149 of 167 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A journey through hell, September 23, 2002
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
Fantasy can to be said to examine human nature by way of myth and archetype, while science fiction does the same with technological possibilities; and horror explores human nature by route of our deepest fears. Perhaps what is most unique about "Perdido Street Station" is that it does all three, being at once of all those genres and at the same time refusing to be so neatly pigeonholed. For the fantastic elements blur into science, and the horror is present throughout.
The palpable atmosphere of the bloated and decadent New Crobuzon is one of the book's major strengths; and it reflects an irony that soon becomes apparent in Mieville's writing. Using the most beautifully wrought language, he creates a vision of hell to curdle the imagination. One is tempted to look away, but is inevitably sucked in by the seductive melody of his prose--melody that is paradoxically used to create dissonance.
The characters are introduced by degrees, so that they have time to sink into the reader's awareness before disaster strikes. This is a rare accomplishment, given that Mieville chose to make his main characters so potentially incomprehensible to us. Isaac is in love with a woman whose head is an insect--an idea that could have backfired terribly had Lin been any less vivid a personality than she was. As it is, that concept in itself is difficult to accept, as it defies reproductive logic that a race of women with insectile heads should exist; nevertheless, Lin is someone the reader comes to care about, and Isaac is a colorful and wholly original spin on the mad scientist stereotype.
It is difficult to tell if Isaac is in fact the main character, or if it is Yagharek's story after all. Through Yagharek's eyes the world is different than it is through Isaac's; more personal since his story is told in the first person; and the lyrical quality of his narrative, together with his desperate quest, binds the story in the form of a sad, twisted parody of an epic. In the end the story circles back to Yagharek, transcending political concerns to explore the universal problem of identity.
Those who are very sensitive to horrific imagery and even horrific concepts might do well to avoid this book. While Mieville writes without emotion, the events that occur do the work for him. The catastrophe that eventually overwhelms New Crobuzon provides no means of escape, not even death. The surreal quality of this book and the way in which it pierces to the deepest and most instinctive of human fears--the utter loss of identity--makes it less of a story than a lush, fantastic nightmare. And like a nightmare, very likely to stay with you long after you've awakened.
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77 of 93 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Perdido Street: Terminal, May 13, 2002
By 
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
I'm often surprised at how often I find myself on the other side of popular opinion. If I hear enough good things about a book or a movie or a CD, I will try to experience it with positive expectation. I hope to like it. I want to like it. But too often, it seems, I am the only person who walks away feeling cheated, like the artist has simply played a colossal joke on me and used public opinion to lure me into a trap.
Or maybe I'm just paranoid.
Whichever it is, I have fallen prey to the lure of China Mieville's "Perdido Street Station". I even helped trap myself, having read the author's "King Rat" and loved it. But Perdido Street is an exploration without discovery, hype without a product, a whack-arsed fantasy for non-linear thinkers.
Neither of the main characters' stories intrigued me in the slightest, not that of Isaac, who is tasked with returning flight to an angelic birdman whose wings have been torn from his body, not Lin's story, of an insect-headed artist pressed into sculpting the likeness of a crime-boss.
As much as Mieville tries to instill the story with meaning and depth, I was still left wondering what it was all about and why I should care. And to add insult, the author has abandoned the beautiful language of "King Rat" and taken a contemporary tone.
This book is too long, too much weirdness for weirdness' sake, too forced.
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62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative, but seriously flawed., January 28, 2002
By 
Steve Graham (Raleigh, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
China Mieville's style here is impressive, invoking Dickens, Lovecraft and the 19th century in general. That and the brilliant creation that is New Crobuzon must've been what wowed the critics.
That said, I can't believe the fatal flaws in storytelling and characterization generally slipped under their radar.
I felt there were too many characters in play. One significant figure doesn't arrive until the last 20 pages! And I lost track of the villains; Vermishank, Motley, the slake moths, the mayor, etc. Some players meet abrupt ends, and some disappear for literally dozens of pages. My favorite character is given a major subplot early on, only to vanish for half the book!
The basic mechanics of the story suffer a similar fate. As Mieville bounces from character to character, plot threads are introduced, dropped, and mostly resolved (if at all) in a very unsatisfying way, especially after 710 pages of waiting to see how things turn out. In the end (spoiler alert), the remaining villains vanish from the stage, Isaac's apparent main goal is suddenly abandoned, and the heroes limp off into the sunset after horrible losses. I wasn't expecting "happily ever after," but the ending seemed half-baked indeed.
A final note: Mieville is fond of the words "stink," "stench," "greasy," "filth," and scatalogical terms I won't type here. Halfway through the book, I found myself thinking, "Okay, New Crobuzon stinks. I get it."
Overall, there's a lot of potential here, and genre crossover appeal, but I prefer tidier storytelling.
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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A mess, July 30, 2010
By 
Darjeeling (New York State) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Mass Market Paperback)
The book had so much promise--a big, sprawling, complicated city as the backdrop; interesting characters; wicked evil monsters. But, god, the meandering storyline; the endless descriptions of spit, snot, mucous, vomit, feces; the excruciatingly detailed passages on fear and pain and torture; the way the point of view shifts... A perfect example is the 3 pages wasted describing an extremely minor character's every move as she swims away from the city, never to be seen again. I was incredulous that this scene made it into the final version of the novel...why? Who cares? It contributed nothing to the plot. Was Mieville's editor on vacation? Maybe the point was that the character gets away from the city, something readers are sure to want to do by then, too.

I loved Mieville's The City & The City for its soaring language, wildly inventive setting, and convoluted plot. But this novel was a wet mess. Considering Mieville's scornful dismissal of Tolkien and his ilk, I think he came pretty close to a dark version of Tolkien's extraordinarily boring Silmarillion--complete with pointless descriptions and backstories, exhaustingly complete geography, and impossibly long names. The novel is an empty, pompous bore (just what a reviewer said of The Silmarillion!) Mievielle's world is like a sick, twisted Dickensian London or evil-twin Ankh-Morpork; his Remade characters are a poor reflection of Farmer's brilliant Riverworld. There are so many more rewarding fictional worlds I could have spent 6 hours in, and I wasted them on New Crobuzon. Arrrgh! I want my time back! I want my money back!

A savvy reader could start making predictions based solely on what could happen next that would be most awful. Remember the badly-written action shows of the 90's, where any poor bastard introduced by the writers who was two days from retirement, or whose wife was expecting a baby, was sure to be dead two scenes later? Perdido Street Station is EXACTLY like that. If you land a great job, it's sure to be the devil who's your boss; any comrade you meet is controlled by your enemies; any choice you must make will be between two equally horrific evils. If anything good happens, you're going to pay, pay, pay. Every character is in hell.

There was no redemption, no love, no honor, no respect, no "joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain." There was not the slightest glimmer of humor or humanity. Anything beautiful was sure to be destroyed, every promise broken, every friendship ended in betrayal and death or dwindled into queasy duty. The Washington Post Book World review of the novel said, "There are scenes here that...are impossible to expunge from memory." This is, sadly, completely true.

If this is where Mieville's mind lives, I want nothing more to do with it. This is the last novel of his I will read.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Actually three and a half, July 5, 2005
By 
Gae A. Weber "ornitholestes" (Jacksonville, FL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Mass Market Paperback)
Previous reviewers have made salient commnets on the story and the style, but I'll throw in a couple of cents of my own.

New Crobuzon is not a happy place. It is not a clean place. It smells bad in many, many ways. Everyone is dirty. Lots of people are malformed, maimed, diseased, corrupt, stupid, venal and miscellaneously repulsive. No one has ever considered creating a working sewer system or a municipal trash pick-up. Every neighborhood is on the wrong side of the tracks form the Black Hole of Calcutta. This may put you off.

Here's my advice: After about the fourth time or so that Mr. Mieville gets completely carried away with a rapturous description of his pustulant creatiion, just skip ahead a paragraph or two until he gets back to the story. After about page 100 or so these odiferous digressions start to taper off and you can just enjoy his abundant creativity.

Did I like the book? Yes, but it wasn't easy. Mieville seems to believe that he cannot impress upon the reader too much how utterly degraded and thoroughly repellant his New Crobuzon is. He is wrong. This reader, at least, got the picture PDQ and just found this incessant rhapsodizing about filth tedious and annoying. If I want to know this much about sewage I can go look in my septic tank.

OK, having said all that, I must line up with other readers who have pointed to the sheer natural force of imagination at work here, the tumble of language, the just-right mix of humor and tragedy. Suffice it to say that I have The Scar and The Iron Council on deck and waiting. I just hope Mieville gives me credit for being able to remember the sanitation situation.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's bad...but ok if it's the last book on the planet, January 8, 2008
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Mass Market Paperback)
Where to start, where to start?? This book starts out as something big. The first few pages are beautifully written descriptions of the world that everything is to take place in. I found myself intrigued by the deep prose of the writer and his ability to create such a detailed world. I read diligently waiting for the story to take off and I was very disappointed. The problem is that really, it's very very slow. It's not that this book wasn't well written. The author's creative writing is spectacular (hence the second star) it is choice of plot and characters that are too mild or boring that ruins the book.

Other reviewers who marked down this book have very solid points. 1 it's not really horror as described in other descriptions of the book. 2 it's just down right boring. There is nothing exciting about the characters and there really isn't much in the way to care about.

I don't really care at the end if the Garuda was saved..or not. I don't care if the bugs end up eating mankind. That's just the problem. There is nothing to care about and several times you need to reread things because there is too much description.

Final Rating: Skip unless on plane flight
Suggestion: The Golden Compass (sadly, WAY more entertaining)
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86 of 108 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Overwrought, under-thought, and unfinished, January 11, 2008
By 
Buzzmo (Naperville, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Mass Market Paperback)
If I had a dime for every time Mieville used the words "exudations," "palimpsest," and "femtoscopic"... every mention of bodily excretions... and every time his similes and metaphors made use of bodily excretions and wounds... I would be a rich man indeed. The plot is all over the place, the characters sketchy, and the (never-ending) details of Mieville's world so overwhelmingly nauseating that reading this book was a test of fortitude. He also seems to basically give up about eighty or so pages towards the end. Nonsensical details and new characters pop up out of nowhere, and Mieville side-tracks the narrative into tiresome tangential details. This book really seems to serve as an excuse for Mieville to show off New Crobuzon, constantly reminding us that he's named every street and come up with an endless array of bizarre, unlikable species to inhabit the place. On top of this, looking beyond the over-used steampunk trappings, his creations are sometimes just plain ridiculous. The handlinger sequence, when you really picture it, is just plain silly, e.g., a blindfolded guy flying around upright and shooting fire from his outstretched tongue with a dog strapped to his back. Come on!

I honestly don't understand the acclaim that this book has received. It's a mess. After finishing the last page, I wanted to fling the book across the room.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Both amazing and disappointing., October 14, 2003
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This review is from: Perdido Street Station (Paperback)
An increadibly detailed world, and the description of it is captivating. However, at times, this detailed world described with such rich language gets jarred by something being added for the sake of conveniene. It would be more forgivable if it wasn't also saddled with a plodding plot that doesn't start to really start until about 150 pages in, then goes down many dead ends while throwing out red herrings here and there with truely interesting potential.
The product of a staggering imagination and a gift for language. But even in the end, I wished it had lost 100 pages or so before getting to me, and I honestly couldn't see me recommending to anyone who hadn't expressed an interest in it already.
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Perdido Street Station
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville (Mass Market Paperback - July 29, 2003)
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