Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon Series #1)

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon Series #1)

4.1 150
by China Mieville

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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from China Mieville’s Embassytown. Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents

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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from China Mieville’s Embassytown. Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none—not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory. Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger—and more consuming—by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon—and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes . . . A magnificent fantasy rife with scientific splendor, magical intrigue, and wonderfully realized characters, told in a storytelling style in which Charles Dickens meets Neal Stephenson, Perdido Street Station offers an eerie, voluptuously crafted world that will plumb the depths of every reader's imagination.

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Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
British author China Miéville’s highly praised first novel, King Rat, was a lively debut and one of the most adventurous urban dark fantasy tales in memory. In his follow-up book, Perdido Street Station, Miéville offers a vibrant and vivid setting for an innovative, complex, and fascinating tale of a land that exists in the gray realm between sorcery and science.

All manner of aliens and humans coexist in the strange, world-spanning city of New Crobuzon. Here, dark magic and advanced science flourish amid an atmosphere of mysticism and madness, under a government that uses cruel military repression to enforce its laws. Independent cultures and civilizations exist side by side, occasionally overlapping and breeding increasingly grotesque oddities. Mutants and hybrids of every order can be found: those with extra limbs grafted to their bodies or with their heads joined to arcane machinery.

Scientist Isaac der Grimnebulin seeks to verify his unified theory that will link alchemy, biology, and mechanics into what he calls “crisis energy.” He is visited by the wealthy Yagharek, who belongs to the Garuda, a race capable of flight. Yagharek, though, has had his wings cut from him as punishment for an obscure crime, and he seeks assistance from Isaac to recapture his ability to fly. Isaac engages in wild experimentation as he tries to help, growing more and more obsessive in his lab while he delves deeper into magic and fantastic technology. He gathers together numerous flying creatures and imprisons a mysterious giant caterpillar that feeds on a hallucinogen, giving it the ability to induce nightmares in others and steal their dreams. When the caterpillar metamorphoses and escapes the lab, it terrorizes the denizens of New Crobuzon, leaving its victims mindless zombies and bringing the full wrath of Parliament down on Isaac’s head.

Miéville crosses genres and delves deeply into his imaginative resources dealing with the nature of beauty, hell, science, and, love. The author’s strengths as a storyteller lie in his ability to take the reader smoothly from fantastical elements and social ideology to abhorrent science fantasy in an inviting manner. The landscape here is incredibly brutal and strange, but we are immediately drawn into the eerie and unearthly details of life in New Crobuzon. The dark splendor of the city itself is a brilliant and convincing contrivance. Miéville's bizarre and imaginative characters are as pleasantly puzzling as they are engaging, making each a significant part of the greater fabric of this weird and enticing world. Wildly inventive, droll, and at times farcical, Perdido Street Station is a fine addition to a body of work that is already filled with captivating, daring, and evocative novels. (Tom Piccirilli)

Tom Piccirilli is the author of eight novels, including Hexes and Shards, and his Felicity Grove mystery series, consisting of The Dead Past and Sorrow's Crown. He has sold more than 100 stories to the anthologies Future Crimes, Bad News, The Conspiracy Files, and Best of the American West II. An omnibus collection of 40 stories titled Deep into That Darkness Peering is also available. Tom divides his time between New York City and Estes Park, Colorado.>

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
New Crobuzon Series , #1
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Random House
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1 MB

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Chapter One

A window burst open high above the market. A basket flew from it and arced towards the oblivious crowd. It spasmed in mid-air, then spun and continued earthwards at a slower, uneven pace. Dancing precariously as it descended, its wire-mesh caught and skittered on the building’s rough hide. It scrabbled at the wall, sending paint and concrete dust plummeting before it.

The sun shone through uneven cloud-cover with a bright grey light. Below the basket the stalls and barrows lay like untidy spillage. The city reeked. But today was market day down in Aspic Hole, and the pungent slick of dung-smell and rot that rolled over New Crobuzon was, in these streets,
for these hours, improved with paprika and fresh tomato, hot oil and fish and cinnamon, cured meat, banana and onion.

The food stalls stretched the noisy length of Shadrach Street. Books and manuscripts and pictures filled up Selchit Pass, an avenue of desultory banyans and crumbling concrete a little way to the east. There were earthenware products spilling down the road to Barrackham in the south;
engine parts to the west; toys down one side street; clothes between two more; and countless other goods filling all the alleys. The rows of merchandise converged crookedly on Aspic Hole like spokes on a broken wheel.

In the Hole itself all distinctions broke down. In the shadow of old walls and unsafe towers were a pile of gears, a ramshackle table of broken crockery and crude clay ornaments, a case of mouldering textbooks. Antiques, sex, flea-powder. Between the stalls stomped hissing constructs. Beggars argued in the bowels of deserted buildings. Members of strange races bought peculiar things. Aspic Bazaar, a blaring mess of goods, grease and tallymen. Mercantile law ruled: let the buyer beware.

The costermonger below the descending basket looked up into flat sunlight and a shower of brick particles. He wiped his eye. He plucked the frayed thing from the air above his head, pulling at the cord which bore it until it went slack in his hand. Inside the basket was a brass shekel and a note in careful, ornamented italics. The food-vendor scratched his nose as he scanned the paper. He rummaged in the piles of produce before him, placed eggs and fruit and root vegetables into the container, checking against the list. He stopped and read one item again, then smiled lasciviously and cut a slice of pork. When he was done he put the shekel in his pocket and felt for change, hesitating as he calculated his delivery cost, eventually depositing four stivers in with the food.

He wiped his hands against his trousers and thought for a minute, then scribbled something on the list with a stub of charcoal and tossed it after the coins.

He tugged three times at the rope and the basket began a bobbing journey into the air. It rose above the lower roofs of surrounding buildings,
buoyed upwards by noise. It startled the roosting jackdaws in the deserted storey and inscribed the wall with another scrawled trail among many,
before it disappeared again into the window from which it had emerged.

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin had just realized that he was dreaming. He had been aghast to find himself employed once again at the university,
parading in front of a huge blackboard covered in vague representations of levers and forces and stress. Introductory Material Science. Isaac had been staring anxiously at the class when that unctuous bastard Vermishank had looked in.

“I can’t teach this class,” whispered Isaac loudly. “The market’s too loud.” He gestured at the window.

“It’s all right.” Vermishank was soothing and loathsome. “It’s time for breakfast,” he said. “That’ll take your mind off the noise.” And hearing that absurdity Isaac shed sleep with immense relief. The raucous profanity of the bazaar and the smell of cooking came with him into the day.

He lay hugely in the bed without opening his eyes. He heard Lin walk across the room and felt the slight listing of the floorboards. The garret was filled with pungent smoke. Isaac salivated.

Lin clapped twice. She knew when Isaac woke. Probably because he closed his mouth, he thought, and sniggered without opening his eyes.

“Still sleeping, shush, poor little Isaac ever so tired,” he whimpered,
and snuggled down like a child. Lin clapped again, once, derisory, and walked away.

He groaned and rolled over.

“Termagant!” he moaned after her. “Shrew! Harridan! All right, all right,
you win, you, you . . . uh . . . virago, you spit-fire . . .” He rubbed his head and sat up, grinned sheepishly. Lin made an obscene gesture at him without turning around.

She stood with her back to him, nude at the stove, dancing back as hot drops of oil leapt from the pan. The covers slipped from the slope of
Isaac’s belly. He was a dirigible, huge and taut and strong. Grey hair burst from him abundantly.

Lin was hairless. Her muscles were tight under her red skin, each distinct. She was like an anatomical atlas. Isaac studied her in cheerful lust.

His arse itched. He scratched under the blanket, rooting as shameless as a dog. Something burst under his nail, and he withdrew his hand to examine it. A tiny half-crushed grub waved helplessly on the end of his finger. It was a refflick, a harmless little khepri parasite. The thing must have been rather bewildered by my juices, Isaac thought, and flicked his finger clean.

“Refflick, Lin,” he said. “Bath time.”

Lin stamped in irritation.

New Crobuzon was a huge plague pit, a morbific city. Parasites, infection and rumour were uncontainable. A monthly chymical dip was a necessary prophylactic for the khepri, if they wanted to avoid itches and sores.

Lin slid the contents of the pan onto a plate and set it down, across from her own breakfast. She sat and gestured for Isaac to join her. He rose from the bed and stumbled across the room. He eased himself onto the small chair, wary of splinters.

Isaac and Lin sat naked on either side of the bare wooden table. Isaac was conscious of their pose, seeing them as a third person might. It would make a beautiful, strange print, he thought. An attic room, dust-motes in the light from the small window, books and paper and paints neatly stacked by cheap wooden furniture. A dark-skinned man, big and nude and detumescing, gripping a knife and fork, unnaturally still, sitting opposite a khepri, her slight woman’s body in shadow, her chitinous head in silhouette.

They ignored their food and stared at each other for a moment. Lin signed at him: Good morning, lover. Then she began to eat, still looking at him.

It was when she ate that Lin was most alien, and their shared meals were a challenge and an affirmation. As he watched her, Isaac felt the familiar trill of emotion: disgust immediately stamped out, pride at the stamping out, guilty desire.

Light glinted in Lin’s compound eyes. Her headlegs quivered. She picked up half a tomato and gripped it with her mandibles. She lowered her hands while her inner mouthparts picked at the food her outer jaw held steady.

Isaac watched the huge iridescent scarab that was his lover’s head devour her breakfast.

He watched her swallow, saw her throat bob where the pale insectile underbelly segued smoothly into her human neck . . . not that she would have accepted that description. Humans have khepri bodies, legs, hands;
and the heads of shaved gibbons, she had once told him.

He smiled and dangled his fried pork in front of him, curled his tongue around it, wiped his greasy fingers on the table. He smiled at her. She undulated her headlegs at him and signed, My monster.

I am a pervert, thought Isaac, and so is she.

Breakfast conversation was generally one-sided: Lin could sign with her hands while she ate, but Isaac’s attempts to talk and eat simultaneously made for incomprehensible noises and food debris on the table. Instead they read; Lin an artists’ newsletter, Isaac whatever came to hand. He reached out between mouthfuls and grabbed books and papers, and found himself reading Lin’s shopping list. The item a handful of pork slices was ringed and underneath her exquisite calligraphy was a scrawled question in much cruder script: Got company??? Nice bit of pork goes down a treat!!!

Isaac waved the paper at Lin. “What’s this filthy arse on about?” he yelled, spraying food. His outrage was amused but genuine.

Lin read it and shrugged.

Knows I don’t eat meat. Knows I’ve got a guest for breakfast. Wordplay on

“Yes, thanks, lover, I got that bit. How does he know you’re a vegetarian?
Do you two often engage in this witty banter?”

Lin stared at him for a moment without responding.

Knows because I don’t buy meat. She shook her head at the stupid question.
Don’t worry: only ever banter on paper. Doesn’t know I’m bug.

Her deliberate use of the slur annoyed Isaac.

“Dammit, I wasn’t insinuating anything . . .” Lin’s hand waggled, the equivalent of a raised eyebrow. Isaac howled in irritation. “Godshit, Lin!
Not everything I say is about fear of discovery!”

Isaac and Lin had been lovers nearly two years. They had always tried not to think too hard about the rules of their relationship, but the longer they were together the more this strategy of avoidance became impossible. Questions as yet unasked demanded attention. Innocent remarks and askance looks from others, a moment of contact too long in public—a note from a grocer—everything was a reminder that they were, in some contexts, living a secret. Everything was made fraught.

They had never said, We are lovers, so they had never had to say, We will not disclose our relationship to all, we will hide from some. But it had been clear for months and months that this was the case.

Lin had begun to hint, with snide and acid remarks, that Isaac’s refusal to declare himself her lover was at best cowardly, at worst bigoted. This insensitivity annoyed him. He had, after all, made the nature of his relationship clear with his close friends, as Lin had with hers. And it was all far, far easier for her.

She was an artist. Her circle were the libertines, the patrons and the hangers-on, bohemians and parasites, poets and pamphleteers and fashionable junkies. They delighted in the scandalous and the outré. In the tea-houses and bars of Salacus Fields, Lin’s escapades—broadly hinted at, never denied, never made explicit—would be the subject of louche discussion and innuendo. Her love-life was an avant-garde transgression,
an art-happening, like Concrete Music had been last season, or ’Snot Art!
the year before that.

And yes, Isaac could play that game. He was known in that world, from long before his days with Lin. He was, after all, the scientist-outcast, the disreputable thinker who walked out of a lucrative teaching post to engage in experiments too outrageous and brilliant for the tiny minds who ran the university. What did he care for convention? He would sleep with whomever and whatever he liked, surely!

That was his persona in Salacus Fields, where his relationship with Lin was an open secret, where he enjoyed being more or less open, where he would put his arm around her in the bars and whisper to her as she sucked sugar-coffee from a sponge. That was his story, and it was at least half true.

He had walked out of the university ten years ago. But only because he realized to his misery that he was a terrible teacher.

He had looked out at the quizzical faces, listened to the frantic scrawling of the panicking students, and realized that with a mind that ran and tripped and hurled itself down the corridors of theory in anarchic fashion, he could learn himself, in haphazard lurches, but he could not impart the understanding he so loved. He had hung his head in shame and fled.

In another twist to the myth, his Head of Department, the ageless and loathsome Vermishank, was not a plodding epigone but an exceptional bio-thaumaturge, who had nixed Isaac’s research less because it was unorthodox than because it was going nowhere. Isaac could be brilliant,
but he was undisciplined. Vermishank had played him like a fish, making him beg for work as a freelance researcher on terrible pay, but with limited access to the university laboratories.

And it was this, his work, which kept Isaac circumspect about his lover.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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What People are saying about this

John Clute
It is the best steampunk novel since Gibson and Sterling's.
—(John Clute, editor of Encyclopedia of Science Fiction)
Peter Hamilton
China Mieville's cool style has conjured up a triumphantly macabre technoslip metropolis with a unique atmosphere of horror and fascination.
—(New York Times best-selling author Peter Hamilton)

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Perdido Street Station 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 147 reviews.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is a scientist that lives on the fringes of society. He is known for his research in things that aren't quite accepted by the rest of the scientific community. His most recent project is for a garuda, a bird-like creature, that has lost his wings. His job is to find a way for him to fly again. Isaac's girlfriend, Lin, is a bug person that has been recently hired by a notorious underworld drug lord to create a sculpture. Now, these two incidents have in common. Well, not too much as first, but as we read further into the story strange and unrelated events turn into a nightmare. Nearly invincible creatures are released into the city and are killing in ways no one can quite figure out and Isaac, Lin, and their friends find themselves the center of it all. I really enjoyed reading this. There was sooooooo much going on that I was a bit overwhelmed when I first finished, but after sitting on my thoughts for a few days I realized how detailed the whole story was. Everything that was mentioned had a purpose. That purpose may not come into play for hundreds of pages, but the set up was perfect. The characters bothered me at first because they were very extreme in their personalities. But, again, as the story went along their quirks and extreme behavior all played a part. They also grew into completely new people as the events around them forced them to change their opinions and beliefs. This is a great book for any fan of SteamPunk, science fiction, or fantasy. I wish I could remember how it got on my wishlist so I could thank the person who recommended it. 5/5
Lelang More than 1 year ago
I've heard about China Mieville for a long time, so I picked this book as a starting point and dove into it. I finished it wholly unsatisfied, but still interested in him as an author. The prose is spectacular and vivid. I have seen many complaints that you need a dictionary to get through some of his descriptive pieces, but to that I say "read more; expand your vocabulary." These pieces are his strong suit and the most pleasurable part of reading this book. He has constructed a vivid world, though I was a bit disappointed that I didn't learn more about it. There was some wasted potential there. If there is a flaw in the writing, it's that he really beat to death the descriptions of New Crobuzon as a polluted industrial city - grime, filth, slime, etc etc. Anyway, the real disappointment is the story. I never cared. The protagonists were caricatures of people, and the monsters, while fascinating, failed to be good antagonists. The plot itself meandered aimlessly through a series of mostly related events that did not cohere into a fully realized plot. The tragedy, again, is that some of the scenes were superb (really!), but they felt like small scenes from a diorama or things that Mieville imagined and thought "Oh yeah, that has GOT to go in my next book," but without the necessary hooks to the rest of the book. The handlingers vs slake moths scene is perhaps the best example of this. TL;DR: I'll probably read King Rat, because it's supposed to be great, but you can safely skip this one.
TheIcemanCometh More than 1 year ago
A rollercoaster of a fantasy novel. Mieville in this novel explores and explodes the boundaries of contemporary fantasy, giving us an immersive "other" world full of well-constructed semi-human characters who are each expressions of that world, and then introduces us to what Farah Mendlesohn might term "intrusion fantasy"--the element of the horrific with which these characters must contend. A dynamic, wonderful read.
RCLewis More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I was 100% engrossed with this book and really had a hard time putting it down. Character development and plot were absolutely amazing. My only caveat (and the reason for 4 stars rather than 5) is that the ending of the book felt very rushed. I'll try to leave this vague (as not to be a spoiler): there are 2 characters added super late to the story, and it really felt like loose ties of our other main characters were not successfully tied up. That being said, I still really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone else who is looking for a new dark fantasy -ish book.
dalnewt More than 1 year ago
This fantasy is wonderfully complex and vivid. The descriptions of the metropolis of New Crobuzon are macabre and fascinating. The prose is elegant and inventive. The primary characters are appealing and convincing. The plot initially ensnares the reader in a scientist's quest to restore flight to a sentient creature who has been de- winged in punishment for an obscure crime. It transforms into a heart-thumping race to find and kill monstrous predator moths which have escaped because of the scientist's inadvertence. This is not a five star fantasy. It's a ten star fantasy which provides mesmerizing days of reading enjoyment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mieville has created a world rich in detail, evocative of our own, without glossing it over into unbelievable utopia. The characters are well-drawn, and the his use of language is rich, playful, and masterful. (I reached more than once for my OED.) I've recommended it to friends because I want there to be someone with whom I can discuss it. If I could, I would visit New Crobuzon on my next vacation.
SabsDkPrncs More than 1 year ago
The dystopian city that is the setting of this book is a character of it's own and the dark story is engrossing and detailed. Recommended for a sci-fi fan who is looking for a deeper, darker story than the traditional heroic tale.
LoganK More than 1 year ago
You cannot regret reading this fantastic tale of discovery, adventure, and love. It is steampunk without a Victorian setting. Fantasy with barely a hint of magic. I put off reading this book for years because of its length, but having read it I see that removing anything would have been an injustice to this amazing book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A phantasmagoric speculative novel set in a squalid, semi industrial city that follows a scientist and the deadly creatures he unwittingly looses on the city. Perdido Street Station crosses genres frequently and makes effective combined use of traditional fantasy, SF, and horror elements. The novel is well written and proceeds at a steady pace. Definitely recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read a few other Mieville works before this, and I will certainly read more. I enjoy the complexity of his writing, in terms of plot, environment and character. This is the best Steampunk fiction that I have read to date. It's some of the best contemporary fiction around. That said, it's truly Steampunk: a sort of fiction noire that will not be best loved by readers in search of high action space fare or comic relief.
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No elves, no dragons, none of the usual trappings of fantasy - New Crobuzon is a grubby world with its own story, its own technology, a little bit steampunk, a little bit fantastic, but like nothing else I've encountered in my reading. I generally avoid fantasy, but read and enjoyed this after John Scalzi recommended it on his Whatever blog. It's far too long to read in one sitting, but it completely disrupted my schedule until I finally finished it. Excellent stuff.
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My first China novel, I thought and liked that it was very uniquely imagined.  It just has a little too much town/world description for my taste, it felt repetitive and I'm almost scared to Begin #2  because I'm still not sure if the ending was brutal in a good way or bad, well good I guess because  I definitely do have to read the sequel.
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