Perdido Street Station

Posted by : atcampbell | On : November 6, 2001

Perdido Street Station by China MiƩville

Six people attended this meeting, and one submitted comments by email. Perdido Street Station is an ambitious novel about a large, decadent city filled with strange and horrible creatures. The book starts with an eccentric but brilliant human scientist being approached by a bird-creature whose wings were removed as punishment for an unspeakable crime, and who wants the scientist to restore his flight. There are several other plot threads including one about the scientist’s lover, a sexy insect creature who’s commissioned to sculpt a statue of a hideously mutated recluse. The author was a British graduate student when he wrote the book, and now he is a Member of Parliament. Four people at the meeting had finished the book, and another person had read about 20% of it.

Two people said they loved this book, and the rest of us found things to admire about it. The detailed worldbuilding and complex plot showed a vivid and detailed imagination. One person described the setting and the author’s vivid descriptions of it as masterful. The worldview was interesting and original. We enjoyed the weird physics in the book, where attempts to create a unified field theory cause cheese to explode.

Those of us who didn’t love the book had a lot of problems with it. The complexity of the story was exhausting. The author kept introducing new plot threads and characters throughout the book, and most of them were irrelevant and had little payoff. The city seemed full of trillions of races, all of which are nasty, brutish, and short. The awful slake moths made one member of our group want to throw up. We found none of the characters were likable. The author’s worldview reminded us of George Orwell or Hieronymous Bosch, only more depressing. We got tired of the book’s limitless wallowing in filth, ugliness, cruelty, mutation, and disfigurement. And the word ‘fart’ was used far too often. The professional horror writer in our group said that she had to ‘floss her brain’ after finishing this book.

Obviously we came to no consensus about this book, but we had a lively discussion. One of the people who loved the book wondered what kind of lifestyle choices the author had made to get to the point to write such a book. After the meeting we had a nice dinner at Garcia’s.

–A. T. Campbell, III