Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Audiobook Review: Perdido Street Station

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

The Setup

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.

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