Review: Perdido Street Station by China Miéville


Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1) Photobucket

Well then. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that weak, unfulfilling ending. Why, the entire book was pretty weak and unfulfilling, so why did I hope for otherwise? Simple. I needed hope. Hope that there was a purpose behind all the awards and praise heaping I’ve seen given to this book. Surely there would be a payoff for enduring 600 pages of pretentious nonsense. But alas, I was wrong.

Story wasn’t the goal here, I suppose. More like trying to impress the literary establishment. Well, it did that. I guess if enough people with ties and plates that cost in the hundreds of dollars (or pounds) say that you’re a genius, it must be true.

That said, China Miéville does have a wicked imagination. I loved the world of Bas Lag and the city of New Crobuzon. It’s very imaginative in concept and detail. This made me so excited to read the book, just by the blurb and reviews and summaries. The introduction/prologue had me intrigued.

Unfortunately, it didn’t hold up. While Miéville does have some nice flowing prose (when it’s not overcoated with adverbs and adjectives), his style meanders from the story too much. It wasn’t long before I wasn’t even sure what the story was, or if there even was one.

I was often lost in the science. By the time the story did take off, I didn’t care anymore. I pushed through, switching to audio halfway through. Thank God for John Lee’s narration. He did a great job bringing the story to life. Well, enough to get me through it in just a few days, at least. With Lee reading, if I zoned out for periods of infodump-description Hell, the audio would at least continue to play. When I’d wake up, I’d see that I’d made actual progress rather than simply face-planted myself on my paperback copy.

I think that a big part of my disappointment in Perdido Street Station comes from the fact that last year I read Un Lun Dun, and very much enjoyed it. There was a story there, without all the fancypants literary filler. Maybe because Miéville was writing for kids, he didn’t feel the need to impress his audience. He just told the damn story, and it worked.

I’ll break down the review as follows:

Worldbuilding – 5 stars (excellent potential)
Characters – 3 stars (On the surface they seemed interesting, until digging in)
Plot – 2 stars (when recognizable)
Style – 4 stars (when on track)
Execution – 1 star (often wasn’t on track)
Descriptions – 5-stars when describing something relevant. 1-star when I considered gouging out my eyeballs.
Science – 4-stars for the fictional science itself, as it was very detailed. 1-star as I was forced to read all of the detail.
Cheese – 1 star. Why was cheese mistreated? That was so wrong.
Audio reading – 5-stars. John Lee does a very lively reading.
Overall rating – 1.5 stars.

I could probably go to a full 2-stars, but I figure the book’s too overrated as it is. I’m not contributing to that. I feel duped, that I’d been tricked into reading something I thought would be groundbreaking, original, and totally absorbing. Well, it was original in concept, so I’ll grant the ½ star above a “hated it” rating. It’s better than the worst book out there. I just feel let down from very high expectations.


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