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Perdido Street Station Paperback – Deckle Edge, February 27, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 563 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the New Crobuzon Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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), Mi‚ville'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. Mi‚ville'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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 710 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey (February 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345443020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345443021
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (563 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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.
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Format: 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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Format: 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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