Book Review - Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

 by Rowan Reddy

Recently, I’ve been finding much of the science fiction I read to be formulaic and dull. Many books simply copy Star Wars or The Hunger Games, and though some have new elements introduced, the characters begin to blur together. 

I began reading earlier science fiction and horror authors like HG Wells and HP Lovecraft, and while looking for Lovecraft books to buy online I found a genre called the ‘New Weird’. It was described as being similar to early pulp horror (also known as ‘weird fiction’), mixing inspiration from many different categories of fiction.

Immediately, I was interested - it sounded like exactly what I had been missing. Armed with a list of ‘New Weird’ authors, I went to the library and found my first China Miéville book: Embassytown. China Miéville is a science-fiction author who is allied with the ‘new weird’ movement, and one of its pioneers. For the first few pages of Embassytown, I was bewildered, but by the end of the chapter I was so invested that I finished the book without taking a break. I then read my way through as many of Miéville’s books as I could find: The Last Days of New Paris, The City and The City, and - my favourite - Perdido Street Station. Set in the city of New Crobuzon, it is populated by an eccentric cast of characters - humanoid cacti, people with beetle heads, and a gigantic spider who collects scissors. The worldbuilding is just as unique, with a wealth of detail to things as small as clothing habits or as big as the huge, fossilised ribcage enclosing part of the city. 

The book begins with Isaac, a scientist living in New Crobuzon, being approached by a garuda (a human-bird hybrid) called Yagharek, whose wings have been amputated as a punishment for his crimes. Yagharek asks Isaac if he can help him regain his ability to fly, and he agrees after being given a large sum of money. Isaac purchases as many winged creatures as he can so that he can study their methods of flight. One, however, is different from the rest: a large, lethargic caterpillar that refuses to eat. Isaac becomes attached to it, and takes care of the caterpillar, until one day when it metamorphoses...

Overall, I really enjoyed Perdido Street Station, and would recommend it - it’s the best science fiction book I’ve read in a long time.