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Looking for Jake: Stories Paperback – August 30, 2005

4.0 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

London is a dangerous and demon-haunted place, at least for the characters in the dark, finely crafted tales presented in Miéville's first story collection. Miéville, who has won Arthur C. Clarke, British Science Fiction and British Fantasy awards, writes of a city besieged by exotic forms of urban decay, monsters, sadistic and ghostly children, as well as, on a lighter note, the Gay Men's Radical Singing Caucus. In the novella "The Tain," the city has been conquered by vengeful creatures who have erupted from every mirror and reflective surface. In "Details," a story with subtle connections to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, a young boy meets an elderly woman who has looked too deeply into the patterns that underlie the universe. In "Foundation," perhaps the most powerful story in the book, a veteran must come to terms with the horrors he helped perpetrate during the first Gulf War. Though lacking the baroque complexity and extravagance of Miéville's novels (Iron Council, etc.), these 14 stories, including one in graphic-novel form, serve as a powerful introduction to the work of one of the most important new fantasy writers of the past decade.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Miévilles novels mix Dickensian settings, Lovecraftian terrors, and political theory, showcasing a style uniquely his own. This collection, which brings together a number of pieces previously unavailable in the U.S., displays an even broader range of styles and interests. The weakest offerings are those based solely on the authors political ideas. Tis the Season, for example, is set in a futuristic London at Christmastime, and absolutely everything related to the holiday requires a license of some sort to participate. Although the story is a fun satirical read, it is not likely to be revisited. The author shows his true skill and imagination in the horror-oriented pieces. He has that rare gift of identifying those fears that flicker and lurk within the deepest recesses of our minds and dropping them down right in front of us. The Ball Room turns an everyday playroom in a furniture store into a haunted space of accidents, death, and mystery. The Tain, the longest and probably strongest story, features creatures living in a parallel world who are forced to mimic us as our reflections–until they burst free of their reflective prisons and start a violent war that threatens to destroy humanity. These tales all make wonderful use of elegantly described yet terrifying scenes, lifting them a notch above the standard horror fare. Fans may grumble that only one story is set in New Crobuzon, the fantasyland featured in the novels. Despite some of its flaws, Jake is well worth seeking out.–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (August 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345476077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345476074
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Schtinky VINE VOICE on September 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
China Mieville at last releases more pieces of his talent in this collection of fourteen stories. Some have been previously released, and if you are a die-hard fan like myself you may already have them.

'Reports of Certain Events In London' was in McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, 'Entry From A Medical Encyclopedia' was published as 'Buscard's Murrain' in The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide To Eccentric And Discredited Diseases, and 'The Tain' is from Cities.

'Looking For Jake' did leave me slightly disappointed in some areas, namely the political undertones of 'Tis The Season' (originally published in The Socialist Review) and 'An End To Hunger', neither of which contained any real fantasy or horror, and the oddly vapid 'On The Way To The Front', an amateurish graphic piece.

There are, however, other stories in this collection that make the price worthwhile just for them.
'Familiar' is a gruesomely enchanting story of one male witch's creation run amok, 'Different Skies' takes a simple window replacement and shows us the kind of horror that can be reflected in oddness, and 'Foundation' will take you beneath the structures of everyday life and into a man's horrific ability to see the dead below them.

'Jack' is a nice addition to Mieville's 'Perdido Street Station', giving us a bit of background on his character Jack Half-A-Prayer, and 'The Tain' is a twisted tale of mirrors and what lies beyond.

If you are a rabid Mieville fan, you simply must have this book. If you are introducing yourself to Mieville, I actually recommend starting with 'Perdido Street Station' to allow yourself to fully savor this talented writer's rich offerings. Reading Mieville is like eating chocolate cheesecake, rich and satisfying and fulfilling. Enjoy!
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Short fiction usually comes down to either "loved it" or "hated it" because unlike a novel, the short story can't throw much at a reader beyond a single plot and a character or two. The individual stories in this collection will either work for you or they won't. If you're a fan of Mieville's Bas=Lag novels, then "The Tain" and "Jack" will grab you. If you're a fan of his politics, then "'Tis the Season" and "An End to Hunger" will strike you as some of the best satire since Max Barry's "Jennifer Government." If you like his brooding good looks--which aren't my cup of tea--then I guess you'll like the moody "Looking for Jake"--which wasn't my cup of tea either and in my opinion the weakest piece in the book.

If you're a fan, buy this book. You'll surely find something in it for you. If you are looking for an introduction to Mieville's work, I'd recommend jumping right into "Perdido Street Station," or buying LFJ, reading nothing other than "The Tain," then reading "Perdido" and the rest of Mieville's fine novels.
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Format: Paperback
Lately, China Mieville has been compared to none other than William Gibson with regards to the quality of his prose and storytelling. So I was looking forward to reading "Looking for Jake", hoping it would be as fine a collection of short stories as Gibson's "Burning Chrome". Alas "Looking for Jake" isn't the literary gem that "Burning Chrome" most definitely is, but there is enough here to demonstrate why China Mieville may be the finest British fantasy writer working today, using a poetic literary style which owes much to the likes of William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. If nothing else, "Looking for Jake" demonstrates Mieville's eclectic literary, political and sociological interests, ranging from a horror tale set in the aftermath of the first Gulf War (1990-1991) in the memorable "Foundation" to a giddy celebration of the Christmas season in "'Tis The Season". Fans of his Bas-Long (or New Crobuzon) novel series will find "Looking for Jake" and "Jack" replete with more of the same descriptive, poetic prose that are an important part of these novels. Without question, the best short story is "The Tain", winner of the Locus Prize for Best Novella, describing a near future London overrun by vampires and monsters. Fans of China Mieville's work will truly enjoy this fine collection of short stories.
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The categories I had to click through to get to this review are irrelevant, as these are short stories, each one being different, with different characters. I love Mieville's work & this is an excellent example of his creativity & brilliance. Each story is vastly different from the others, each intriguing in their uniqueness.
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China Miéville is a novelist, that's where he really shines. The novel form gives him the room he needs to develop his ideas and evoke the sort of bizarre, surreal, often grotesque milieu (often just a sideways step or a blink of the eye away from reality) at which he so excels.

The short story form doesn't really give him the room he needs to work his magic. Oh, this book does have its moments, definitely. One story in it is even in the New Crobuzon universe of some of his most successful novels and gives a bit of backstory to one of the legendary characters in those books. However, on the whole the short stories are not quite up to the quality of his novels. They're just a bit lacking in depth.

On the other hand, if you've already read all his novels or are looking for a book of short weird fiction, by all means pick this one up.
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