Saturday, August 6, 2011

More good sci-fi/fantasy

It's a good year in reading science fiction and fantasy novels for KyusiReader. And one of these is China Miéville's outstanding steampunk novel, Perdido Street Station, which managed to grab a string of awards including the British Fantasy Society's August Derleth Award in 2000 and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2001. Naturally, my expectations were quite high; thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.

The first part of Perdido Street Station innocuous enough. Miéville sets up the city of New Crobuzon in wonderful detail. It's a city unlike any other. The industrial metropolis is populated by individuals whose traits can only be described as otherworldly. Frog-like individuals called vodyanoi can manipulate water into different shapes. Kephri, those with the head of an insect and the body of a human female, make sculptures using their spit. There are cactacae whose bodies are half human and half cacti. Animal and mechanical parts have been painfully grafted into the bodies of some humans, thus labelling them as the remade.

In the first few chapters, we meet one Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a scientist with a lowly reputation. One day, Isaac is visited by a garuda, an esoteric individual that is half man and half bird. The garuda has informed Isaac that his wings had been cut off, and that he is looking to Isaac to help him take flight again. Isaac accepts and immerses himself into research. He studies the mechanics of flight, finds out more about the garuda community, and acquires winged organisms. One of these is a beautiful caterpillar who only survives by taking a hallucinogenic drug called dreamshit.

The second part of the novel is where things get more interesting. The novel effortlessly becomes a work of horror, suspense, and adventure. The caterpillar has morphed into a pupa, which in turn emerges as a slake-moth. It then manages to find four of its siblings, wreaking havoc on the citizens of New Crobuzon. It turns out that slake-moths can suck the dreams and consciousness of a person; what's left after the "psychic carnage" is a living body devoid of thought -- a husk. The existence of the slake-moths has also brought a plague of nightmares to the city. Isaac, after learning all these, takes it upon himself to hunt for these slake-moths. Of course, he enlists the help of some of his friends, the garuda, and his kephri girlfriend.

If the first part of the novel is brilliantly mesmerizing, with the descriptions of New Crobuzon and its inhabitants, the second part is thrilling and propels the reader to finish Miéville's 700-page doorstop of a novel. Trust me, you would wish for another 700 pages after reading the last page. Perdido Street Station is that satisfying. Good thing that this novel is just the first of Miéville's Bas-Lag novels; it's followed by The Scar and The Iron Council.

After reading Perdido Street Station, China Miéville immediately became one of my favorite authors. I'm currently reading The Scar and I'm happy to report that it's just as good as Perdido Street Station. And that's why I'm on a frenzy collecting Miéville's fiction.

I just have a few more novels to go before everything's complete. I think I'm missing his short story collection and his young adult novel. I'm looking forward to the hunt. (No massmarket paperbacks for me.) I've also managed to buy a signed first edition at a secondhand bookstore, which I got for a steal thanks to a book club friend. (Thanks, Fredda!)

Read Perdido Street Station if:
  1. You like steampunk.
  2. You're prepared to experience a hallucinogenic reading high.
  3. You want to know how dreamshit works.


Mrs. B. said...

I wonder if this is something for me. I did like The City and the City by Mieville. It was so original and it was so easy to suspend disbelief but Perdido Street Station sounds more fantastic and unbelievable. It's also such a thick book!

Peter S. said...

Why not give it a try, Mrs. B! It's thick, yes, but quite rewarding!