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Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag) Paperback – Deckle Edge, February 27, 2001
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When Mae West said, "Too much of a good thing can be wonderful," she could have been talking about China Miéville's Perdido Street Station. The novel's publication met with a burst of extravagant praise from Big Name Authors and was almost instantly a multiaward finalist. You expect hyperbole in blurbs; and sometimes unworthy books win awards, so nominations don't necessarily mean much. But Perdido Street Station deserves the acclaim. It's ambitious and brilliant and--rarity of rarities--sui generis. Its clearest influences are Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy and M. John Harrison's Viriconium books, but it isn't much like them. It's Dickensian in scope, but fast-paced and modern. It's a love song for cities, and it packs a world into its strange, sprawling, steam-punky city of New Crobuzon. It can be read with equal validity as fantasy, science fiction, horror, or slipstream. It's got love, loss, crime, sex, riots, mad scientists, drugs, art, corruption, demons, dreams, obsession, magic, aliens, subversion, torture, dirigibles, romantic outlaws, artificial intelligence, and dangerous cults.
Generous, gaudy, grand, grotesque, gigantic, grim, grimy, and glorious, Perdito Street Station is a bloody fascinating book. It's also so massive that you may begin to feel you're getting too much of a good thing; just slow down and enjoy.
Yes, but what is Perdido Street Station about? To oversimplify: the eccentric scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is hired to restore the power of flight to a cruelly de-winged birdman. Isaac's secret lover is Lin, an artist of the khepri, a humano-insectoid race; theirs is a forbidden relationship. Lin is hired (rather against her will) by a mysterious crime boss to capture his horrifying likeness in the unique khepri art form. Isaac's quest for flying things to study leads to verification of his controversial unified theory of the strange sciences of his world. It also brings him an odd, unknown grub stolen from a secret government experiment so perilous it is sold to a ruthless drug lord--the same crime boss who hired Lin. The grub emerges from its cocoon, becomes an extraordinarily dangerous monster, and escapes Isaac's lab to ravage New Crobuzon, even as his discovery becomes known to a hidden, powerful, and sinister intelligence. Lin disappears and Isaac finds himself pursued by the monster, the drug lord, the government and armies of New Crobuzon, and other, more bizarre factions, not all confined to his world. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
King Rat (1999), Miville's much-praised first novel of urban fantasy/horror, was just a palate-teaser for this appetizing, if extravagant, stew of genre themes. Its setting, New Crobuzon, is an audaciously imagined milieu: a city with the dimensions of a world, home to a polyglot civilization of wildly varied species and overlapping and interpenetrating cultures. Seeking to prove his unified energy theory as it relates to organic and mechanical forms, rogue scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin tries to restore the power of flight to Yagharek, a member of the garuda race cruelly shorn of its wings. Isaac's lover, Lin, unconsciously mimics his scientific pursuits when she takes on the seemingly impossible commission of sculpting a patron whose body is a riot of grotesquely mutated and spliced appendages. Their social life is one huge, postgraduate bull session with friends and associates--until a nightmare-inducing grub escapes from Isaac's lab and transforms into a flying monster that imperils the city. This accident precipitates a political crisis, initiates an action-packed manhunt for Isaac and introduces hordes of vividly imagined beings who inhabit the twilight zone between science and sorcery. Miville's canvas is so breathtakingly broad that the details of individual subplots and characters sometime lose their definition. But it is also generous enough to accommodate large dollops of aesthetics, scientific discussion and quest fantasy in an impressive and ultimately pleasing epic.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The story begins with our hero, one Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, embarking on a strange quest. Taking a break from his insect-headed, svelte, human-bodied 'khepri' lover, the artist Lin, he tries to help a bird-man 'garuda' with a sack of gold regain his wings. To study flight, Isaac sends a seedy criminal friend to bring him all manner of small birds and insects, including a peculiar caterpillar, to his warehouse laboratory. The vividly colored creature, he discovers, can only grow on a strange new drug called Dreamshit. And grow the caterpillar does--to preposterous size. It forms a chrysalis and metamorphosizes into one of the scariest monsters in all literature: the mind-sucking, brain devouring, slake moth.
Mieville's gift, though, is not only to spin this wondrous, convoluted, and bizarre story, but to wield florid and heated language that propels and projects a reader headlong through that tale. There are subtle but plentiful political insights to recall Orwell's 1984, insights that made this reader sense deep allegorical layers lying beneath the work, palimpsest-like. This seems to be a Mieville trademark. Unlike The City and The City, though, the finale is appropriately climactic, cinematic, and satisfying. Not everyone gets what they want or deserve: there are immense tragedies. When the wild ride comes to a halt, though, one can only stagger away, shaking one's head, looking for more.
It’s an enjoyable enough thriller with occasionally great description, and some of the ideas – particularly the ending musings on justice – are downright stimulating. But while his characters can sometimes pop off the page (the first several interactions with the Weaver are particularly fascinating), others go nowhere (Motley, in particular) or turn out to be irritatingly shoehorned into his worldview (one tires of the mayor and his lackeys in particular). Some scenes, like the bribing of the hospital workers, are ludicrous in their moral insinuations. But overall, the worst thing about this book is that New Crobuzon, the city in which it’s set, is an awful place full of awful people in which awful things happen to everyone, especially the main characters, the end. It’s the novel version of a heavy-metal album cover: darkness, chaos, angst, and not much point.
Mieville explores a lot of ideas and creates a whole host of strange and intriguing creatures. This is definitely not your average fantasy book - no knights in shining armor, no powerful wizards saving the day. Instead, you have cactus people, strange spider gods, winged bird people from the desert who have a very non-human set of morals and cultural norms. The setting is almost a character in itself.
The prose does get _too_ dense at points, and it feels like Mieville's very, very fond of his thesaurus. Still, his word choices are solid, if obscure, and all around I really enjoyed this book, miserable as the setting and characters often are. It's worth a try. (If you don't like the prologue, feel free to skip ahead - it's pretty different from the rest of the book. But if you're still not into it after a few chapters, it might not really be for you.)