Perdido Street Station, China Miéville's second novel, is probably his most famous, and it is the one that introduces the fantastic world of Bas-Lag, where humans are just one of many sapient species and where magic---called thaumaturgy---and steampunk technology exist side-by-side. Bas-Lag is also the setting for The Scar and Iron Council. Perdido Street is set specifically in the city-state of New Crobuzon, which is ruled by a corrupt government and inhabited by a mostly miserable populace.
I don't want to say too much about the plot, but I will say that numerous seemingly unrelated threads are followed throughout the novel, and they all come together in the end. On the whole, I'd describe the story as a horror thriller.
What I Liked
- One of the hallmarks of good science fiction or fantasy is rich worldbuilding, and this book has that in spades. The world of Bas-Lag and the city of New Crobuzon are excellently realized, with awe-inspiring variety and equally impressive detail.
- Miéville's writing style is almost poetic in its imagery.
- The plot is exciting, and the characters are varied and interesting.
- The audiobook's narrator, John Lee, does a spectacular job bringing the setting, story, and characters to life. He uses a distinct voice and accent for essentially every speaking part in the book. There are a handful of one-scene characters who all have essentially the same working-class British accent, but the twenty or more recurring characters are all very distinct. Amazing.
What I Disliked
- The plot takes a little while to really take off. Once it does, though, it doesn't slow down until the end.
- This book is grim. The story starts out depressing and just goes downhill from there. That feature is not a deal-breaker for me, but if you are in the mood for a light-hearted romp, look elsewhere.
The Bottom Line
I'd give this audiobook a 9.5 out of 10. Miéville's worldbuilding and imagery are unassailable, and Lee's voice-acting only enhances the experience. I can't believe I waited this long, after Nick's and Alison's recommendations, to "read" this novel.