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Review: Perdido Street Station


Perdido Street Station
Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 to 3.5 stars. How I wish Goodreads let me choose half stars. I quite struggled with this book. For one, the author loves the use of big words. English is not my native language and so for the first time ever I had to make heavy use of the Kindle-provided dictionary. I probably forgot most of those big words again.

Describing the plot of PSS is tricky, because it’s such a lengthy story, and even now that I am done, I am not 100% sure what the main story was. Was it Yagharek’s struggle? The slake-moths? The crisis engine? I don’t know. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Perdido Street Station is the name of the central railway station of New Crobuzon, a large city in the world of Bas-Lag. The world itself is a mix of magic and steampunk elements. To me, New Crobuzon felt like a second London, with a grimy layer of industrialization, poverty and oppression above it all. Technology was strange. You have steampowered constructs on the brink of achieving AI. You have a strange technology called Remaking that creates men with mantis arms, hookers that are all legs or whatever fetish is desired, or creatures like Mr. Motley, the crime boss of New Crobuzon.

Set in this world we have Isaac, who has a secret relationship with his khepri lover Lin. She’s insectoid, and their relationship is taboo. He works as a scientist, she is an artist. Everything changes when Yagharek arrives at Isaac’s door. He is a garuda, an avian race, and he committed a crime amongst his people that saw his wings removed. He now comes to Isaac to have him develop a way to fly again for the desperate garuda. In his thirst to accomplish this feat, Isaac unknowingly unleashes a threat upon the city that threatens to destroy all of New Crobuzon and more, the deadly slake-moths.

Really, when I summarize this, I marvel at the unique setting and the races, and everything that makes this novel special. I also despair that this is wasted when the author chose to make this novel at least 30% longer than it should have been. The cast of characters is too large, and some elements seemed pointless. Why introduce us to Derkhan’s editor? Only to show us that New Crobuzon’s government is ruthless? The exposure is too much, the hunt for the slake-moths takes too long, and even the end drags on after the grand finale. The book goes out with a whimper, not a bang. I am really quite torn if I should continue with the next book set in this world.

It’s not light reading, and it drags, but it’s also not what I would consider completely terrible. For the adventurous steampunk fan, I suppose.

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