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Mieville is a literate, imaginative writer and creator of alternate worlds. Picture a baroque, stylized blend of fantasy, steampunk, and dystopian sci-fi, the sort of work that might result if Charles Dickens, Neal Stephenson, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, and Guillermo del Toro decided to collaborate. Mievelle's New Crobuzon is sprawling, grimy city reminiscent of London circa 1890, populated with all kinds of strange races (in addition to humans), each with its own unique physiology, culture, and way of reacting to the techno-magical "modern" world.
Mieville's universe is colorful, messy, and grotesque (if you're weirded out by the human-non-human romance described early on, stop reading), but has a seriousness that makes it engrossing. Characters struggle with relationships, careers, politics, racism, and moral dilemmas, even as they face conspiracies, extra-dimensional monsters, crime bosses, and a police state government. Thrown in are musings on scientific/magic philosophy and machine sentience (though the latter has been handled more interestingly by other authors). There's a lot going on in this book, to say the least. Fans of Neal Stephenson will appreciate all the meta-reflection.
Unfortunately, there's a little too much going on. Towards the end, the intricate plot snowballs under its own momentum, and both characters and themes get buried in the tumult. The last third races through battles and some grandiose, technobabble-heavy confrontations between higher-order beings, before arriving at an oddly deflating epilogue. I can't help but think that Mieville, with a little more editing, might have come up with a last act as involving as the first one, and completed his characters' personal journeys in a more memorable way.
Still, it's an impressive novel, and one that a lot of speculative fiction readers will enjoy for its writing, imagination, and audacious scope.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful
Rarely have I been so disgusted with a book in the first three chapters. *I wanted to stop listening and if I had it would have been a terrible mistake.* I don't want to give spoilers so I will not say why I wanted to stop. I will say that I kept with it mainly since I had spent a credit and didn't have anymore and could not cope with not having an audiobook to listen to. The book is wonderful and rich with imagery and is a very imaginitive take on society, government, criminal underworld, corruption, and how a blend of science and technology can change everything. John Lee's performance was wonderful and has led me to see what else he has read on audible. This is the first China Mieville book I have read and intend to read more. I would say, however, you truelly have to accept that this is fantasy, this world is not your world, and you can not judge it based off of our societal norms. It is absolutely worth reading.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful