Fantasy Book Review
I’ve never read any Mieville before but damn this dude can write! The book starts off pretty basic, almost like a pulpy Dan Brown novel with our lead character working in the Darwin museum in London. He gets into some of the intricacies of the life of the curator but just enough to keep you interested. You start enjoying the main character a bit and what he is into then one of his charges, a giant dead squid, gets stolen. Then everything goes off the fucking rails.
Once on the crazy train, you get thrown into an alternate London that reminded me a bit of Gaiman’s book, Neverwhere. Nothing is as it seems but it is delightfully insane. Half the time I was reading the book, I had no idea what was going on. I’m sure there were quite a few allegories going on that went right over my head but it didn’t matter. The plot was a complete mess but that didn’t matter either because it was so fun to read.
Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Mieville is an artist when it comes to the English language. I consider myself to be pretty well read with a not half bad vocabulary, but as I was reading the book on my kindle I found myself looking up words every page. The funny thing was that half of these words didn’t have a definition. That’s where the breaking of rules comes from. Mieville has such a handle on the language that he simply makes words up when an appropriate one can’t be found to describe the batshit crazy that is happening in his story. Words like hereseopoly, which I took to mean as the organized gathering of heretical groups. These things just flow naturally off the page to the point that you stop looking stuff up and just roll with it. Here’s one other example of the brilliance of his writing, “They had sent their alarums in parachemicals, waves of pathogen anxiety. They stimulated immune response in the factory grounds. Birthing of brick angles; emerging from hollows in boscage; unwinding from the ruined car; London’s leucocytes came on in attack.” There are passages like this on every page.
Two of the best characters in the book were Goss and Subby, the demonic duo that chases young Billy Harrow throughout the streets of London. These guys were very similar villains to Gaiman’s Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar in that they were effortlessly evil and seem to revel in their insidiousness. It’s that joy of evil that seems to make the best villains almost comedic, kind of the Dr. Evils of alternate London but not quite so on-the-nose.
It was very obvious to me in reading the book that Mieville was having a blast writing it. That joy comes across in waves. Grab your board and let yourself be taken by them into the deeps. Kraken is worth the ride.