A special kind of person with special weird things they go to...
April 30, 2010 6:31 PM   Subscribe

China Miéville has won his third Arthur C Clarke award for his crime/weird fiction novel The City and The City - making him the first person to win the prize three times. Somewhat emotional video of him accepting the prize, where he thanks one special crime reader in particular, his mum, who passed away before it's publication. 10 Questions about China Miéville. An A-Z of China Miéville - 1, 2. An extract from his next novel, Kraken. A Bas Lag Wiki. A discussion of the best genre crossovers. An out of season Christmas tale.
posted by Artw (71 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I've read a few of Miéville's books, and he's a very, very powerful writer. I don't think I've ever felt I could smell a city before, but I swear, if there was Eau de New Crobuzon, I'd instantly recognize it. When he finishes describing a scene, I feel like he's limned it on the inside of my skull with fluorescent ink.

But what he chooses to write is just so damn disturbing. I don't think I'm going to read any more of his books, because I feel a bit wounded afterward. I don't know what's up with that guy. I'm not sure how healthy he is, and I really don't want to expose myself to any more of it. There's a lot of Perdido Street Station that, years later, I wish I could unread.
posted by Malor at 6:49 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's a lot of Perdido Street Station that, years later, I wish I could unread.

Me too, like all the sentences in it. The map at the beginning I liked.
posted by escabeche at 6:52 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of Perdido Street Station that, years later, I wish I could unread.

I picked up Perdido Street Station when I was maybe... 14 or 15? I could handle George RR Martin but something about that book sort of repulsed me and I couldn't get into it. I bet I'd like it a lot now, I should give it another go.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:57 PM on April 30, 2010

This I like.
posted by Mister_A at 6:58 PM on April 30, 2010

Agree on Perdido Street. It is an amazingly original novel but it is the most horrific, terrifying book I think I've ever read. Mieville's horror has a bleakness to it, a nihilism, that you cannot get out of your head.
posted by loosemouth at 7:01 PM on April 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

Thanks to Perdido Street Station I will never again read the word "juddering" without physically recoiling. That was the worst book I ever heard a zillion people rave about.
posted by rusty at 7:03 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

He reminds me of Kafka, in that with both writers I tend to walk away from their works with the feeling that part of my soul has been burned out. Although I do have to say that The City and the City was a good deal better in that regard than any of his previous works that I'd read.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:06 PM on April 30, 2010

I loved Perdido Street Station, to my surprise. It really, really got under my skin, and not even in a terrible way.

The City and The City had a more interesting premise than execution, though. The concept fascinated me endlessly, but I had trouble sticking with the story itself.
posted by something something at 7:14 PM on April 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I read PSS years ago (2001?) and found it very memorable, but ultimately unsatisfying. What for some is wonderfully descriptive language was--to me-- a sign of trying too hard. It's possible for writing to be too rich, like eating rich chocolate cake every day for a week--fun at first, then gradually a bad idea.
posted by zardoz at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

I loves me some China. It was actually a discussion about "alternative" sci-fi / fiction here on the blue that got me turned on to him, and I've had no regrets yet. The Bas-Lag novels (PSS, The Scar and Iron Council) are my favorites, but I also enjoyed King Rat and his collection of short stories. I have not read The City and the City yet, but I hope to soon.
posted by starvingartist at 7:31 PM on April 30, 2010

The Scar is, if not upbeat, at least not entirely horrific and depressing all the way through. I also think it's even better plotted and written than Perdido Street Station, and the world-building he does is even cooler.

The City and The City had a more interesting premise than execution, though. The concept fascinated me endlessly, but I had trouble sticking with the story itself.

I agree with you totally here. For me, at least, I went with a speculative sci-fi attitude: I wanted him to explore all the social and personal ramifications of two cities being on top of each other. There was some of that, but mostly Mieville wanted to write a crime novel with the two cities as the background, and if I had gone into the book expecting a crime novel I think I would have enjoyed the plot more.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:32 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've never read him, but you folks sure have me curious about Perdido Street Station.
posted by marxchivist at 7:35 PM on April 30, 2010

If you disliked Perdido Street Station for its nihilism, I recommend you read The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 7:37 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I must confess puzzlement at the charges of nihilism. It may well be that what I read didn't stick or something. I thought Perdido Street Station was... okay. I liked Iron Council much more, but found it somewhat didactic. I have read The Scar, but again, I couldn't tell you what it was about unless I looked it up (whereupon I would no doubt talk your ear off).

I've read everything Michael Moorcock has ever published, give or take a paperback adaptation of The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, everything Gene Wolfe has ever published, and most recently, everything by Iain M. Banks. I would hazard a grotesque oversimplification and say these writers, including Mieville, are thematically and stylistically related.

Yet in practice it appears I like the idea of Mieville better than the practice. I'm perfectly willing to reread the material. Tell me specifially about the nihilism. Explain why the material might be sliding off my brain. School me up, brethren!
posted by mwhybark at 7:50 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you like his writing but not the deep-darkness, I'd suggest checking out Un Lun Dun. As far as I know it's his only YA book, and it's a lot of fun. Still the slightly twisted imagination, but employed more in the cause of silliness.

I've enjoyed the Bas Lag books, but I can also totally get why some wouldn't. I adored King Rat as well. Haven't had the chance to check out The City and The City yet, but I hope to soon.
posted by polymath at 7:52 PM on April 30, 2010

Perdido Street Station is pretty good, but Between Equal Rights: A Marxist Theory of International Law is even better.

Mieville on Kick-Ass, Hegel, and the C-Word.
posted by stammer at 7:56 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised to see all the hate for Perdido Street Station. Folks I know really didn't rate Iron Council, but Perdido Street Station and moreover The Scar, I (and they) thought were superb novels. Some of the most interesting fantasy I've come across in a long time.

I need to pick up some of his more recent stuff, but if it's even a quarter as good as The Scar I should be happy.
posted by opsin at 8:11 PM on April 30, 2010

If you disliked Perdido Street Station for its nihilism, I recommend you read The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.

Um, I don't think that's even out yet? I show it as a preorder on Amazon?
posted by Malor at 8:21 PM on April 30, 2010

I didn't hate it, opsin, I thought it was an excellent book, but it's one I wish I could unread. I don't like carrying some of the scenes and images from it, and the overall worldview, as others have noted, is dreary and depressing.
posted by Malor at 8:22 PM on April 30, 2010

Have we been reading the same Perdido Street Station? It has some weird stuff, but I sure didn't think it was anything as bad as what I see here. It is, however, the only Mieville I've read...
posted by lhauser at 8:25 PM on April 30, 2010

I read Un Lun Dun to my daughter and we both thought it was fantastic.
posted by putzface_dickman at 8:55 PM on April 30, 2010

Um, I don't think that's even out yet?

It's from 1993 so it's out. Maybe its not in print or something.
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on April 30, 2010

I sure didn't think it was anything as bad as what I see here

I suspect people react differently and have different thresholds for the serious dark you get in Bas Lag et al. By all means, if that's your cup of tea, read Mieville, because you won't find anyone who does it better or with more panache (I've not read Swanwick's book, so I can't compare).

I would hazard a grotesque oversimplification and say these writers, including Mieville, are thematically and stylistically related

I don't have anywhere near your familiarity with the writers you mention, but I'd say that Moorcock's influence on Mieville is certain and acknowledged by the latter (right down to their common dislike for Tolkien). Mieville's certainly darker than Moorcock, or Banks (at least the bits I've read). Gene Wolfe...hard to say.

Tell me specifially about the nihilism.

I didn't use the word, but I'll describe why the books seem so dark. Governing tropes center around the unrelenting horror and misery of existence, whether under an authoritarian dictatorship or a (supposedly idealistic) anarchist pirate-island,* of protagonists caught in baroque and monsterous systems of oppression or environment. This is illustrated by the fate of most if not all of the characters you've come to know and like (which are few enough anyway), who all tend to wind up brutalized in one way or another, exposed as monsters/traitors (Yagharek and Tanner Sack, the traitor from Iron Council whose name I'm misplacing), butchered (Shekel, Tearfly), or worse (Lin).
Authorities range from the merely sadistic and corrupt (Rudgutter, Motley) to the insane and horrific (the vampires of The Scar, handlingers). Any potentially friendly entities (Construct Council, for example) are soon shown to be really hideous abominations with their own plans for world domination. The protagonists are lucky to hobble away with whatever shreds of life and hope they retain at the end. The Scar isn't so dark at its end as PSS, as I recall - but again, the protagonist gets away with her life and is lucky at that.

The protagonist is always defeated. The bad guys always win (Uther Daul, I suppose, is ambiguous that he may break this trope - but it works for the other two Bas Lag novels), anyone who tries to change things gets chewed up and maybe, if they're lucky, spat out.

Is this nihilistic? Dunno. Generally, when discussions come up on the Blue they tend to break down into a face-off between those who see this as a raw, unfiltered look at "reality" (in a fantastic setting, true, but expressing our-world realities of oppression and systemic violence nonetheless) and therefore valuable, and those who see it as depressing (or "nihilistic") and ultimately a subset of violence porn. I think Mieville strives for the former, occasionally lapses into the latter because the line between is damned hard to walk.

I tend to buck at describing his writing as "realistic," because it really isn't - Lin's fate at the end of the first book is too damn pat, too damn "thought they'd escape, eh? GOTCHA!", sort of an inversion (perhaps intentional) of the traditional "you thought the hero was dead but he walks out of the burning building at the end as the music plays" shtick we get in Hollywood action films. Whether adding that particular layer of cruelty to the end of the novel actually illustrated an important point beyond "realism" is something that I honestly don't feel qualified to speak to - I think it depends as much on the reader as on the words on the page. There are a fair number of moments like this, where it's kind of obvious that something bad happened for shock value, and where what the shock was intended to make us look is hard to see.

I've always seen him as trying to cross Lovecraft with Marxist social concerns, and I think the darkness in his vision comes not only from the former but from the fact that the latter have, in the light of the last century, come to seem no longer as pure or as trustworthy as they once were. Or as effective. Defeatism may be too strong a word, but a sense of defeat is unsurprising in the works of an outspokenly Trotskyist writer. He's writing against naivity, in a way, but the difficulty is determining what is naive and what is the possibility of real hope for change. There's no hope in Bas Lag. In The City and the City, there's some. But only for those who join the system.

Again, if this is your thing - read Mieville. He's the living master of it, and deserves the awards he's been given for his craft. But whether you get anything out of his corpus is highly dependent on your personal mentality, the way you look at the world.

* Haven't read Iron Council through, but from having the ending spoiled by a friend it seems that at least the defeatism angle exists there as well. The rebels lose, and all we're left with is the idea that the frozen statue to their ally's treachery will (may?) inspire future resistance.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:04 PM on April 30, 2010 [17 favorites]

Mieville deserves every award that can be thrown his way. I've never managed to be simultaneously riveted, horrified, enlightened, turned on, intrigued, disgusted, and pleased by one person's artwork before Mieville came along. And besides, he draws one mean giraffe.
posted by Mizu at 9:10 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am also surprised at the reactions to PSS. My first Mieville book; I devoured it in a couple of days and was completely blown away. It felt like the opposite of nihilistic -- a compassionate story about broken characters.
posted by nikitabot at 9:10 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

AdamCSnider, that's just about the perfect writeup of the Bas Lag books.

One of my favorite aspects of Mieville's writing is that the main character, the protagonist, is the city itself, whether you're reading Un Lun Dun or The Iron Council. The people are just the blood, bone and sinew.
posted by lekvar at 9:41 PM on April 30, 2010

I've described Mieville to friends as being like Tolkien, in that he's an obsessive sub-sub-sub-creator, but without the racism, fear of cities, or Christianity. Surprised that people are so down on PSS -- like nikitabot, I devoured it, was blown away, and immediately ran out and picked up The Scar. The City and the City was fun, I thought, but not a patch on his Bas-Lag novels; ditto his first novel, King Rat.
posted by bokane at 10:02 PM on April 30, 2010

I was actually pretty blown away by City--it was a masterful, elegant job of world building, and if the cop story plot was lackluster, it nevertheless served its purpose of allowing you to tour the world.

No character arc for those Cities, though, not like you see, in full-fledged fashion, in the Bas Lag books.
posted by theDTs at 10:12 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

The City and The City had a more interesting premise than execution, though. The concept fascinated me endlessly, but I had trouble sticking with the story itself.

Yep, that was my experience. I tried to read it, but the writing just didn't do it for me and I put it down after a couple of chapters.

Good for him on winning the prize, though -- just because I don't like the book doesn't mean I begrudge him his success.
posted by Forktine at 10:55 PM on April 30, 2010

Snotgullet Fatbelly of Shitheel Lane, the Belches, New Crobuzon rolled over in bed and looked at the flesheating brainslug, called Mary-Beth Un'g'loob 13, he'd brought home from the Slime Club the night before. He loved her infinitely and composed a quick mental poem on her (his? its?) beauty before discarding it as unworthy.

Just then the door burst open and there were the unthinking tools of the patriarchal capitalist boss class! They took away his love and shot him in the belly, which was his fattest part. 'That will teach you for trying to improve the lot of the proletariat', they sneered as they dragged her away to inevitable horrible death.

This was the point I got to before giving up on Perdido St Station and throwing it in the bin, though not before mutilating it thoroughly with a pair of pinking shears I had lying around.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:28 PM on April 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Perdido Street Station is one of those books that I liked all the parts of (the ambassador of Hell, the party of RPG-character mercenaries...), but that didn't come together into a cohesive whole. Furthermore, I maintain that if you flip it open to any random page, you won't read more than two pages before something moist and disgusting is described.

Here, let's try:

Random page: 287
"The Weaver's complicated mouthparts unhinged, its inner jaw flexing, something between a mandible and a black ivory trap. Its wet gullet flexed and vibrated deep within."

Random page: 339 (quote from 340)
"Isaac bellowed in rage. He hurled another vast pot of unstable thaumaturgic compound at the militia. It fell short, but burst with such violence that it splashed onto and over the shields, mixing with the distillate and sending two officers screaming to the floor as their skin became parchment and their blood ink."

Random page: 49 (quote from 50)
"...these dangerous brutalized amoral little creatures with pinched faces and ragged trousers, spattered with snot and rheum and urban dirt..."

Random page: 143
[one character describing ways he could help another character fly]
"A subcutaneous self-inflating mini-dirigible; a transplant of mutant wind-polyp glands; integrating you with a flying golem..."

Random page: 482 (quote from 483)
"It opened its mouth and unrolled its obscene, intrusive tongue. It licked the end of the pipe once, then plunged its tongue into it, eagerly seeking the source of this tempting flow."

And so on. After a while I became numb to the gross-out writing and started to notice that the story just kind of meandered around the map. PSS is great if you like descriptions of fantastic places (often spattered in blood, brains, and mucous), but I didn't find the story very engaging.
posted by The Tensor at 11:43 PM on April 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

PSS was a bit too verbose in terms of descriptive prose, and the excessively long italicized passages irked me, but still a great read.

For cross genre work, Alex Bledsoe is worth a try.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:15 AM on May 1, 2010

I'm really happy for Miéville as I love his books, and The City and the City would have been the best book by far I read last year if I hadn't also read Finch.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:35 AM on May 1, 2010

I found the Brucoluc, (vampire mayor exact spelling escapes me) in The Scar pretty sympathetic.
Yeah he has a specific reason to keep Armada safe, but he is actually trying to make it a place where people can live lives of basic freedom. Which makes it better than every other city in Bas-Lag. We've got Tesh, city of madness, New Crobuzon, city of totalitarianism, and Mirragio, (M something anyway) city of luck. By comparison the gore tax seems really mild. I found the Brucoluc way more sympathetic than Bellis.
posted by Peztopiary at 1:53 AM on May 1, 2010

I like Miéville's books. I wouldn't call them nihilistic, necessarily. The characters all carry the makings of their own destruction, and one of the pleasures of reading his books is seeing how these elements unfold and finally engulf the characters.

If there is an overarching theme, it is corruption, and how people will corrupt anything they touch, given enough time, even with the best intentions. Iron Council escape the corruption of Bas-Lag and seem to create a kind of idyll by jettisoning all the old assumptions and rebuilding a new society from scratch, but in the end it becomes plain that they harbor what amounts to a death wish. Judah Low's desperate need to protect that which he loves leads him to entomb it for eternity.

But nihilism? Not really. If anything, Bas-Lag is what happens when people allow emotion to get the better of them. The Remade: if our society were capable of inflicting such a horrible punishment, how long do you think it would be before it became institutionalized? We already send many non-violent offenders to jail where we know they will probably be raped or assaulted, will become exposed to diseases like AIDS. We take away their rights as citizens. We'd definitely Remake people if we could.

If there is nihilism in these books, it is the nihilism that rejects authority because it is authority without reason. It rejects belief-for-belief's-sake. It rejects ideology because ideology is easily corrupted. But it is not a nihilism that rejects love, or loyalty, or compassion, or shame.
posted by Ritchie at 3:09 AM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

Bas-Lag is a fantastic (pun intended) setting for a role-playing game; archetypically D&D-ish, but building something new and extraordinary from old and ordinary stereotypes. It's the subtle details that really make it: throwaway lines ("colour bomb") that imply centuries of history and and tomes of explanation. If you like that sort of thing, I also recommend The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings).

The Remade and biothaumaturgy never sat well with me, though. Here is a process that effectively is not only near-perfect surgery, but actually gives people superpowers, and they use it to inflict baroquely sadistic and stupidly bathetic punishments. It's as if real-world prosthetic arms and legs were only ever attached to the heads of criminals to waggle in the breeze. For fuck's sake, China, what were you thinking?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:45 AM on May 1, 2010

aeschenkarnos: It's stated pretty clearly that this is very much a cultural choice, the culture of Bas Lag views any deviation from human as inferior, hence why remaking is a punishment. As soon as a group breaks away from the human hegemony in New Crobuzon, the remade tend to be held in much higher regard. In "The Scar" one of the main characters undergoes a remaking procedure to give him gills, oily sweat and a pair of tentacles, in order to make him a better worker because he can spend all his time underwater.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:38 AM on May 1, 2010

The City and The City had a more interesting premise than execution, though. The concept fascinated me endlessly, but I had trouble sticking with the story itself.

Agreed, but the concept of the two cities intertwined stayed in my head long after I've finished reading the city & the city. In a way it reminded me of (a darker) Asimov too - you could read the robots as crime/detective stories; but imagining what else could happen in such a world is what appealed to me.

I believe orsiny exists
posted by motdiem2 at 5:05 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I like his books, but "The City and The City" seemed like one of the weakest to me. Nice concept, but the mystery elements seemed a bit stale.

Don't see how he can possibly be called a nihilist. He's a Parliamentary candidate for the Socialist Workers Party and is resolutely an old-school Trot as far as I can tell.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:16 AM on May 1, 2010

...at least he has an ethos!
posted by Artw at 6:40 AM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by Artw at 7:37 AM on May 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I really liked Perdido Street Station because the texture of the writing was different than much else I'd read. The story seemed a little too thin and abrupt for the space it was set in, but I liked it anyway.

The Scar completely flattened PSS. I feel that books set aboard ships tend to feel a little oppressive to me, but it was good for all that.

I loved Iron Council so much that the previous two Bas-Lag books just feel like the run-up to it. Even though I really wanted the title to refer in some way to the Construct Council, and I was disappointed when it didn't, I still love the hell out of that thing.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:35 AM on May 1, 2010

The City and the City would have been the best book by far I read last year if I hadn't also read Finch.

Oh man, there's a new Ambergris novel that I missed? Thank you for alerting me!
posted by painquale at 9:46 AM on May 1, 2010

AdamCSnider, Ritchie, thanks very much. I wasn't missing something, I don't think; my definition of nihilism and those employed upthread apparently deviate from one another. Mieville's relentless negativity toward structures of authority appears to be the culprit.

Picking up relating Wolfe et al (and taking Moorcock as a given): Wolfe's masterwork is set in an unimaginably old world and city and the layered cultural detritus of the setting is the source of much of the sense of strangeness and wonder which is a key pleasure in fiction of the fantastic. Likewise Mieville. Banks' work, like Mieville's, emanates from an explicitly leftist worldview and many of both authors' worldbuilding elements reflect this quite clearly.

I would guess that Mieville also looks to one of Moorcock's masters, Mervyn Peake, specifically the Gormenghast books. Peake was also directly inspired by Dickens, and Dickens' city narratives and picaresques can fairly be seen as the antecedent of New Crobuzon and Wolfe's Nessus.
posted by mwhybark at 10:13 AM on May 1, 2010

You know, I unfairly left Samuel Delany out of that vaguely-related grouping. Cities, body-modification, radical experience, rich use of language... Consider him retconned in.
posted by mwhybark at 10:15 AM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I didn't finish PSS but that was mostly because the story wasn't going anywhere and I didn't particularly care about the characters. Amazing writing and world building, though.

I didn't find the descriptions particularly shocking, but I was reading Clive barker's books of blood when I was 12, so I have a pretty high tolerance for that kind of thing.
posted by empath at 11:29 AM on May 1, 2010

Remember liking these posts when China guested on Omnivoracious last year
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:14 PM on May 1, 2010

Much as I do love his books (and PSS was the one that got me hooked), Iron Council was the first of the Bas Lag series with main characters* I really cared about, and is his best as storyteller IN ADDITION to world-builder. Each book is entirely self-contained, though (at most only alluding to the others), so you can cherry pick or read them out of order without too much worry.

* Not counting, of course, the wonderful, fleshed-out-and-breathing character of New Crobuzon itself. :)
posted by theDTs at 5:55 PM on May 1, 2010

If you disliked Perdido Street Station for its nihilism, I recommend you read The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.

I agree.

I've read both Perdido Street Station and Iron Dragon's Daughter, and if I had to pick the most depressing, it would be Iron Dragon's Daughter. I put that book down at the end and thought that it was the most unsatisfying ending ever--but this wasn't because it was badly written and should have been done differently, it was because the author followed the road he'd laid out to the very end. He didn't cop out.

Mieville doesn't really cop out either, but I never felt as disturbed by his work.

When I wrote down my thoughts about Perdido Street Station after finishing it, I wrote something about how a faucet could never simply drip in his universe; it would have to drip in some depressing, disgusting way, and because people sucked too much to fix it. After a while the impact sort of wears off--or at least it did for me. I still think it was a fantastic book, though. I should read it again.

(Preorder? Really? It's not a new book. It must be a reissue or special edition or something like that.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:53 PM on May 1, 2010

I'm surprised this far we've got this far without anyone mentioned The Magic Plot-Solving Spider I thought it was obligatory for all China Miéville-related threads...

The 'dark' aspects of China's stuff and his continual insistence of not confirming to cliched fantasy plot (in fact The Scar is basically an exercise in defying all your expectations) are the main reason I like his stuff - but then I am British and we have a tradition of fairly bleak and depressing genre stuff... (Though I couldn't finish Iron Council but that was more for other reasons than the grim)

And if all steampunk was like Iron Dragon's Daughter then I'd read a lot more of it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:07 AM on May 2, 2010

And if all steampunk was like Iron Dragon's Daughter then I'd read a lot more of it.

Actually IDD is probably more Urban Fantasy than steampunk and the point counts for that too.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:09 AM on May 2, 2010

I thought Urban Fantasy was when someone snogs a vampire/ werewolf and a lazy author makes millions of dollars?
posted by Artw at 7:54 AM on May 2, 2010

I thought Urban Fantasy was when someone snogs a vampire/ werewolf and a lazy author makes millions of dollars?

Possibly, though I thought that was more 'Dark Romance' - i.e. what the Horror section in Waterstones has been renamed to...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:22 AM on May 2, 2010

Vampire horse erotic poetry, that's where it's at.
posted by Artw at 9:25 AM on May 2, 2010

That's a weird list (no Philip K. Dick? Wha?!) but it's best I don't dwell on it too long or I'll end up writing my standard-issue thousand-word rant about The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

I'm reading The City & the City right now. I'm enjoying it. I read Iron Council a while ago and enjoyed it immensely. I liked the first half of Perdito Street Station but not the latter half, while I remember really enjoying The Scar.

Iron Council is probably his most interesting book. It's a pretty much a treatise on the feasibility of revolution. It's not devoid of hope at all, not nihilist at all.

As an aside, I've med Miéville a couple of times and he's an exceptionally nice guy... so besides the whole him being a good novelist thing, I'm happy that he won this award.
posted by Kattullus at 8:03 PM on May 2, 2010

Un Lun Dun is the only Miéville I've read, and it was pretty awesome. Ordered The City and the City to add to my looming tower of "stuff to read should I ever actually finish reading the Baroque Cycle." Given that I keep interrupting said enterprise with other books, this might happen in oh... 2012. Just in time for the apocalypse.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:56 AM on May 3, 2010

I certainly found PSS to be a bit one-note.. when every single scene takes place in completely squalid surroundings, it loses its impact. Plus the book definitely suffered from the common science-fiction disease of too-much-stuff-itis. So instead of a city with a couple of alien races (which would have been plenty for the purposes of exploring the interesting interactions) we get dozens. We get bio-engineering and magic/thaumaturgy and steampunk technology and sentient computers and supernatural beings. It felt like a lot of the stuff in the novel was there just because it seemed like a cool idea and it would be a shame to leave it out. And as mentioned above, the Magic Plot-solving Spider nearly prevented me from finishing the book.

I thought that The City and The City was a much stronger novel - based on just one interesting idea, which nevertheless is enough to build a story around.
posted by primer_dimer at 6:38 AM on May 3, 2010

Count me as a big Mieville fan. King Rat was a bit pedestrian, but a pretty decent first work by an author. The Bas-Lag stuff is fantastic, and I'd love to see some more of that. Loved the City and the City, but no one I have spoken to about it seems to have my concept of the novel, which is....


There isn't really two cities per se, but one city that is divided only by the agreement of its citizens. A folie à deux of a sorts. I might be terribly wrong though.
posted by X-Himy at 7:44 AM on May 3, 2010

That's unificationist talk, and possibly Breach.
posted by Artw at 8:21 AM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's only Breach if I make a mistake. But if I walk perfectly between the Cities, I am not Breach.
posted by X-Himy at 9:34 AM on May 3, 2010

X-Himy, that's exactly how I read it too, then I went online and saw people writing about the book as if there were two cities literally occupying the same space via magic or quantum entanglement. I thought it was fascinating how some people came to that conclusion, because the whole way through the I assumed the division was purely sociological.
posted by primer_dimer at 1:12 PM on May 3, 2010

I went online and saw people writing about the book as if there were two cities literally occupying the same space via magic or quantum entanglement.

Eh? Have they really read the book? Or just sort of skimmed a description of it or something? Weird.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on May 3, 2010

I saw Miéville talk about that and he said something along the lines that people just assumed he'd write science fiction or fantasy and so read it through that lens.
posted by Kattullus at 1:26 PM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I could see someone managing to stay under that impression for a few chapters or so... but the whole book? I mean, it's pretty explicit in how it works.
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on May 3, 2010

I like his short stories. The Ball Room, Detail, and particularly Reports of Certain Events in London have stuck in my head.
posted by paulg at 11:32 AM on May 10, 2010

Looked out he missed out on a Nebula - The Windup Girl picked it up (previously) - I suspect the Hugo will go the same way. Not to say The City and the City isn't a strong book - it is, but The Windup Girl is a stronbger one - it's a very competitive year this year.

Kraken review in the Guardian
posted by Artw at 7:41 AM on May 16, 2010

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