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Slow Sculpture
March 3, 2011 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Unsolving the city: BLDG BLOG interviews China Miéville
posted by Artw (30 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
One of these days I really need to read something by Miéville.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2011


If gritty dystopia came as a breakfast spread, he'd be the Marmite.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:17 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just finished The Scar. Thought it was a lot better (pacing and plotting were tighter) than Perdido Street Station, which usually gets mentioned as his best.
posted by bardic at 2:33 PM on March 3, 2011


Thank you for that post, I'll have to save it for later...

Usually I like everything Miéville writes, but i'm really struggling with Kraken at the moment. Somehow I really can't get into that one.
posted by ts;dr at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2011


The Scar was my first, and still my favourite. As you say it's tighter than Perdito, but still has the same density of crazy ideas and baroque prose.
posted by Artw at 2:41 PM on March 3, 2011


Perdido Street was my first and I loved it. But The Scar. The Scar. The Scar. That book is his masterpiece. Unfortunately, nothing he's written since then has clicked with me.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:45 PM on March 3, 2011


I've really enjoyed some of his recent peices where he's proved he can be just as interesting without hitting you over the head with the prose.
posted by Artw at 2:54 PM on March 3, 2011


Usually I like everything Miéville writes, but i'm really struggling with Kraken at the moment. Somehow I really can't get into that one.

Glad to hear I'm not the only one. Kraken just seems to be missing...something...that his other works have. Can't put my finger on it.
posted by never used baby shoes at 3:08 PM on March 3, 2011


Glad to hear I'm not the only one. Kraken just seems to be missing...something...that his other works have. Can't put my finger on it.

The thing I found to be somewhat disappointing about Kraken was that it's essentially a Bas-Lag novel. Which wouldn't be a bad thing (I love Perdido Street Station and its sequels) but after The City and the City and some of his other recent work he seemed to be moving from the baroque world of Bas Lag into fresh territory. Kraken just seemed to me like...returning to stories that had already been told.

Honestly, he should have just written a book about Wati. That little guy was more interesting than pretty much all the other characters, including the ostensible protagonist.
posted by AdamCSnider at 3:37 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love Mieville for doing something different and his blatantly commie roots. I own all of his books bar LunDun. But... I always have this strange experience: thinking about his books is often a more satisfying endeavour than the actual act of reading them for me.
He populates his novels with the most fantastic ideas, creatures, societies, milieus etc, and then using that incredibly febrile base to propel fairly pedestrian and, if not cliched at least very stock, plots.

I remember my first read of Perdido St being puzzled that a guy with such a fecund imagination was using it largely to power a plot that wouldn't seem to strange coming from the desk of Jerry Bruckheimer. But it's pretty much his modus operandi. Iron Council - for all its commie joie de vivre - had long sections in the middle where pretty much nothing was happening, and Mieville's characterisation - Mieville's characters - never seem to rise above stock "everyman"-type cliches no matter how much time he spends on them. Which makes said time really drag at points.

And yet I keep buying, and reading, all this books. Because after the reading, the weakness of the plot fades, the long stretches with little development kind of just disappear, and all I remember are the fabulous ideas, fascinating creatures and cities, and endlessly interesting worlds.
posted by smoke at 3:51 PM on March 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


I wonder if it's because it's a comedey? A suprisingly tricky thing to balance and pull off, that.
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on March 3, 2011


Adam, I think you might be right about Kraken.

And a large part of the joy of the Bas-Lag novels (for me) are the incredible number of explosive ideas that get dropped on the table and then never mentioned again...things that make you go "Oh, holy shit!" and you get a glimpse of a whole world that developed with a very different set of rules. With Kraken, its our world with a Bas-Lag overlay, and the wonderful throw-away ideas are lessened by that fact.

Wati, though, was awesome. As was the idea of the Tattoo.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:06 PM on March 3, 2011


Between this and their interview with Mike Mignola BLDGBLOG might be one of my new favorite things.
posted by cirrostratus at 4:20 PM on March 3, 2011


Agree with many about The Scar. Perdido is still very good, but everything came together just right in The Scar. Bas-Lag is some of the best world-building fiction since Frank Herbert. Only Anathem edges it out for me.

I just happen to have finished reading Kraken. Good, imo, but more of an escapist fantasy than some others.

Still, I'm glad the dude is writing. We need more stuff like his.
posted by malaprohibita at 4:28 PM on March 3, 2011


Oh, you people. The City & the City was my favourite book of last year. Man, could I go into detail about that statement.
posted by joeclark at 4:56 PM on March 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Kraken is insufferably boring until about 3/4s in and then it gets AMAZING. Opinions are split 50/50 on the ending though. I found it to be a bit cheap but I enjoyed the ride enough to let it slide. Furthermore, my enjoyment of the whole book increased tenfold once I gave up fighting myself and started picturing Collingswood as Amy from Doctor Who in her sexy policewoman's uniform, plus a blond wig and a cigarette.

I can't talk though, my favorite Mieville book is Un Lun Dun.
posted by Mizu at 4:56 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have not read Mieville, but after nearly had some kind of intellectual pleasure spasm reading this, I might have to:
In "Reports Of Certain Events In London," from the collection Looking for Jake, Miéville describes how constellations of temporary roads flash in and out through nighttime London, a shifting vascular geography of trap streets, only cataloged by the most fantastical maps.
posted by jokeefe at 5:10 PM on March 3, 2011


Oy. ^^^ "nearly having"

I shouldn't post when I'm dead tired. Argh.
posted by jokeefe at 5:10 PM on March 3, 2011


Haven't read any Mieville, but was planning to start Perdido St Station as soon as I finish the last of the Book of th eNew Sun, whose end draws steadily closer...
posted by kaibutsu at 6:15 PM on March 3, 2011


Haven't read any Mieville, but was planning to start Perdido St Station as soon as I finish the last of the Book of th eNew Sun, whose end draws steadily closer...

Perdido St Station filled me with so much vituperative loathing that I finished it in a raging fog of spite then mutilated it with a pair of pinking shears and fastballed it into the rubbish bin.

But, YMMV.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:57 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with smoke about Perdido Street Station. For all the awesome worldbuilding, the story itself moved along rather too slowly and conventionally. Which is a shame because there so many elements and ideas in that novel that could have made it really interesting that were introduced and then dropped.

The City & The City, though is one of the best books that I've read in years. I recommend it whole-heartedly.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:04 PM on March 3, 2011


I've really liked Miéville's Bas-Lag books but I fucking loved The City and The City.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:13 PM on March 3, 2011


I count myself a Mieville fan, but I'll agree that Kraken lacked something. I'm not sure if it's a Bas-Lag novel, a Bas-Lag novel has a point of view that is inherently cynical and Kraken wasn't really cynical. Kraken was a romp, and I thought it fairly funny, but it definitely felt like most of the ideas in Kraken were ones we had seen before. I guess I have come to expect that a Mieville novel is going to wow me with an idea or a piece of a world that I haven't seen before.
posted by X-Himy at 7:22 PM on March 3, 2011


I loved The City & The City -- it reminded me a lot of living in Montreal in the 90s, when tensions were higher and there felt like a little bit less integration between francophones and anglophones, like we shared the physical geography of Montreal, we each specialised in different halves of the city, and when we did overlap, there were odd, formal rules about how to do it. I am very glad it doesn't feel like that anymore, but it was fascinating to read about.

Kraken was fun, and the wordplay was amazing, but it didn't wow me like many of his other books. I lovedUn Lun Dun because of how efficiently it dealt with fantasy tropes -- plot coupons? what a waste of time! let's skip that! -- and also because Binjas are cool.
posted by jeather at 5:40 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was I the only one who LOVED Kraken? I love the crazy cults, the horrifying Tattoo, the Angels of Memory, and Wati...oh, I really enjoyed that book. More so because it didn't end with the main character becoming a completely broken and twisted version of his prior self. You know, the way all of China's other books end.
posted by domo at 7:54 AM on March 4, 2011


I can't believe I left out Goss and Subby...so creepy...
posted by domo at 8:33 AM on March 4, 2011


You aren't alone domo. I loved Kraken too. It & Iron Council are my favourite Mieville.

The City & The City was fascinating, but I never loved it.
posted by Fence at 12:24 PM on March 4, 2011


Jokeefe, if that particular passage made you nearly have some kind of intellectual pleasure spasm reading it, then don't read The City and The City when there's people around to overhear you.

It's that sentence in novel form.
posted by reynir at 12:37 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I finished City & The City a few weeks ago, and was stunned at the work that went into the first 3/4's of it, and how strangely disappointed I felt about the last quarter. Maybe I need to reread it, because it felt like it lacked so much of the originality of the the rest of the novel.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 2:03 PM on March 4, 2011


Iron Council fucked me up for weeks. It is one of the few books where when I was finished, I had to go have a cry. I lamented the end as I have grieved for very few imaginary characters. And while normally, I finish one book and pick up the next...after IC, I just wandered around in a fugue for days, trying to tease the threads together. The book infected me as very little other prose ever has. Even now, thinking of the end, I get teary eyed and angry.

But The Scar? I would rather try to take pain killers away from Rush Limbaugh than read that again.
posted by dejah420 at 9:00 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


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