Monday, August 8, 2011
Perdido Street Station. China Miville
Where I can understand people being off put by Perdido Street Station, it never did that for me it was pretty much reading crack for me and I lived only to read it when I first discovered it. It felt like reliving my childhood in a new light as it was so entwined with my first literary loves of Moorcock, Wells, Poe, and Lovecraft and also with my adult faves like Angela Carter, W.S. Burroughs, and Borges.
The Scar is a wonderful evocation of the macabre adventure stories of Verne and Wells, philosophical treatise on dystopias/utopias, dark steampunk fantasia in the Moorcock vein, grisly spy story, mad quest worthy of Melville, and a language showcase. I think once the shock of the new wore off that caused people to fawn over Perdido Street Station(which for the most part deserved the praise) critics and readers dimissed the other two subsequent books of Mieville’s anti-trilogy. Well, they missed out because I think he got better. Not much in fiction is more intense than the last third of this book where it gets pretty messy.
Enough imagination for eighty books..my favorite of Mieville's anti-trilogy for some reason...seems like you walked into a Bosch painting for most of the book.The most dismissed of Mieville’s books maybe because the first hundred pages are a little confusing and the structure strains a little bit more than usual. While all his books have flaws his enormous imagination and stunning vocabulary (rivaling Wolfe and McCarthy) pave over any hesitations I have. This one focuses on a tragic and costly civil war and the idea of heroes and roles people decide to play. Of course it’s also a fun and yet disturbing adventure that is part gothic western a la McCarthy and features a surreal war that evokes Bosch and Lovecraft . A love for folklore, language, politics, and real history infuse this one with some heft.
Mieville in his Bas Lag books took the gothic secondary world fantasy of Peake and M. John Harrison added complexity worthy of Thomas Pynchon, a vocabulary matching Gene Wolfe and Cormac McCarthy, and grotesque imagery of Bosch and Ernst; and created a series that may have the cultural impact of Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy. This book features not even a hint of that. He must have lost his favorite thesaurus with all the sticky notes in the right place. If this was handed to me without a cover Mieville wouldn’t even be a consideration for me when guessing the author. That said I enjoyed this for the most part. He obviously intended to follow the police procedural formula to tell his story but most of the characters were pretty hard to distinguish so a lot of the plot revelations fell flat for me. This book also is intended as a tribute to Bruno Shultz and other Eastern European authors(impeccable taste as always) but a few references aside it didn’t do much for me there as nothing resembled Shultz’s night music laced world. The setting provided many memorable and thoughtful metaphors that will linger once the characters and plot fade. Glad he is trying different stuff but I won’t rush back and reread this one while I struggle to keep from rereading his other books.