Sunday, August 27, 2006

Perdido Street Station

A month ago, when I read this series of interesting "Fantastic" books I was all set to write long and lovingly about each of them and Fantastic Fiction in general, but now time has passed and the need is no longer there. Just in passing this is a very good book. He creates a completely new world where science and thaumaturgy run side by side, where our rules of evolution do not apply and chaos apparently runs through uninhabitable regions, possibly because of the actions of the inhabitants. Yet, like all good fiction, it is in some ways our world. The rich and powerful get richer and more powerful. The slums exist to catch the dregs. Good works give way to squalor because the inhabitants are too tired to care and the higher ups use that as an excuse not to bother. Central to the story is the partnership between big crime and politics and how a quest for power and money leads to a very dangerous creature being set free. The ideas are soaring--great bat like beings that mesmerize their victims by the Rorschact patterns on their wings. A little Lovecraftian (the author admits this) in it's belief that there are things beyond this dimension who drive us mad simply by their otherness. The punishments are particularly cruel and unusual. Thaumaturgical flesh manipulators can "Remake" the criminals into monstrosities--let the punishment fit the crime. Criminals have their crowbars replace their arms, and so on. There is also a race of bird like men who only recognize one crime--the theft of choice--in degrees and with or without respect. As it is described in the book--to steal the cloak of a loved one to hold is a theft but with respect. Rape steals not only the initial choice--to have sex or not have sex, but all others after, to have a child, to be free of fear and so on. It is an interesting way of looking at things. A long time ago I read a book that had the great line, "All commandments can be reduced to theft, what is adultery but theft of a wife, what is murder but theft of a life." I wish I could remember what it was. It might actually be a Neil Gaiman to whom the author, China Mieville has been compared. Both are writers who write best in urban landscapes.

No comments: