Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. ★★1/2
I really do not know what rating to give Perdido Street Station. It started out oh, so well. The descriptions were lovely, the setting vibrant, the characters intriguing, but the farther I read, the more the cracks started to show.
However, first I should describe what this book is actually about. I would roughly place it in urban fantasy, but it’s not the normal sort. The entire story takes place in an other world, fantasy city named New Crobuzon. The city is fantastic and so breathtakingly imaginative, if dark. I love how non-human races were woven into the city. Really, the setting is the strength of this book.
The plot described on the back cover is misleading. Yes, the story starts with Yagharek, who’s part bird part man, coming to Isaac, a renegade scientist and the main character (who’s black – yay, diversity!), and asking him to give him back flight.
This sounds like a really lyrical and meaningful story line, but don’t be fooled. That’s not the plot. The plot’s actually something more like the movie Alien – because of Isaac’s research, a group of vicious and practically indestructible monsters are released upon the city. Isaac and his friends must hunt them down to save the city.
Problem? The first monster doesn’t show up until over two hundred pages in. Until then, you’re left twiddling your thumbs, reading pages upon pages of setting description, and wondering when the plot’s going to arrive. Also, when the monsters are finally unleashed upon the city, the lengthy descriptions don’t stop. Instead, you’ll have a page and a half describing the scene before anything can happen. Yes, they were well written pages, but at that point it was a bit much and through off the pacing.
In addition the ending was really unsatisfying, and I was really angered by the treatment of Lin, who at the beginning of the book is presumably the female lead. Lin’s an artist and Isaac’s lover. I’d assumed that she’d take on some plot significance. She didn’t. In fact, she disappeared for roughly two-thirds of the book. The Damsel in Distress trope gets old quick. With Lin out of the picture, Derkhan was the female lead. Only, Derkhan was never as well fleshed out and rarely was a noticeable presence.
The rest of the review will be full of spoilers regarding the last hundred pages, so be warned. Also, I’m getting into some trigger warning stuff here.I really loved Lin in the beginning of the book, which makes her fate that much more terrible. She’s kidnapped, tortured, raped, and brain damaged. In the end, she couldn’t string together a sentence or eat on her own. In the end, I’m left wondering why she or the terrible things that happened to her were included at all. She played no part in the plot, which sadly leads me to believe that all the terrible things that happened to her existed just to provide misery to the male protagonist.
This leads me to my next point. One of the things I was happy with in the beginning of the book was that while it had sort of a “grimdark” feel, there wasn’t any rape. At least, not until the last sixth of the book came around. At the very end (in addition to what happened to Lin), Yagharek is revealed to be a rapist, which is why he got his wings cut off in the first place.
Oh, and if this weren’t all enough, the sympathetic characters are all left homeless, damaged, or dead with their lives completely destroyed, where as the villains live happily ever after.