I’ve come to China Mieville well after he’s established himself as a big hitter in the "weird fantasy" genre. I picked up Perdido Street Station on the recommendation of my best friend, Edmund, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Weird fantasy hardly begins to describe the world Mieville weaves – mad scientists, corrupt city states, non-humans in mind-numbing variety (including, no less, insect-men, cactus-people, bird-men, flying goblin-people, water-dwellers, automata to name just a few), flying horrors, drug lords and their especially unpleasant drugs and bizarre physical remakings haunt the polluted steampunk day and night of New Crobuzon in a baroque imagining of a world very much not our own.
The eponymous station itself inhabits a crossroads at the heart of New Crobuzon, much as the story inhabits a twisted crossroads of fantasy, science fiction and horror. The story threads its way about, introducing us to a number of lead players who must cooperate to defeat the creeping horror that is destroying the city. Yet, the horror to be fought is perhaps only one of many horrors in the city; we are confronted by a mad drug lord who is progressively reimagining himself by means of magic-tinged surgery, an equally mad (or just incomprehensible) spider-god. There is also more than one morally questionable character, including the two protagonists – Isaac the rogue scientist, willing to do pretty much anything to achieve his fevered scientific goals, and Yagharek, a member of the Garuda race and an exile from his own people for a crime he cannot adequately describe (the Garuda moral architechture is unique, and perhaps one of the smartest imaginings of the whole book).
The palette offered by China Mieville is so rich and broad that at times it’s very nearly impossible to keep track of everything and everyone. That said, this book does not disappont in any way. If you are at all a fan of steampunk, cyberpunk or weird fantasy you would do much worse than to read Perdido Street Station.