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Author Topic: China Miéville's New Crobuzon novels
Babbler # 888

posted 19 November 2005 02:26 PM      Profile for Mandos   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Anyone here read any of China Miéville's New Crobuzon Trotskyist fantasy novels? I haven't read them in the canonical order: I've read THE SCAR and Iron Council but not the first novel, Perdido Street Station. Fortunately, they are mostly independent plot lines.

I do enjoy his panoply of imaginative nonhuman races, particularly the creepy mosquito people and the cactus folk. I'm spoiling nothing to say that both THE SCAR and Iron Council unrelentingly grim, particularly the latter, and that may turn off some people---Miéville is ambivalent about writing the successful revolution. The Remade are particularly pathetic and horrible; humans literally turned into industrial machines, and sometimes grotesque parodies of haute couture, full of self-loathing.

Nevertheless, in THE SCAR we do get a glimpse of a partially emancipated society (the Armada) WITHOUT revolution, but that's enabled because all of its inhabitants have been stolen from their ships and integrated into its society piece by piece from scratch. In Iron Council we get a glimpse of utopia in the Iron Council itself, but whole metaphor of the Feral Train leads itself to a certain sense of futility.

The City of New Crobuzon is presented in a terrible light in Iron Council, but since it itself is mostly absent from THE SCAR, the author is willing to admit that it has its merits, by creating a main character who cannot let her privileged upper-class Crobuzoner past behind when she's press-ganged into the Armada---even to the point where she's willing to risk the re-enslavement of most of her fellow Armadans to save it.

Both books have a very imaginative central idea: in the THE SCAR, it is the Armada, a collection of stolen ships so large it is a major city drifting on the water, to the rest of the world, existing only in myth, like a mobile Bermuda Triangle. And it has an ambition---to challenge reality itself.

In Iron Council, it is the Perpetual Train gone feral, the exploited magical railway workers simply pulling up the tracks behind their railway-building train and letting it wander for decades, building track and pulling it up behind them. At the same time, their story inspires the dwellers of New Crobuzon's slums as the ones who got away...while the city fights a bizarre war with the mysterious Tesh, the City of the Crawling Liquid.

Anyway, I look forward to reading the first one, Perdido Street Station, when next I actually see it in the library. There's also a fantasy set in London called King Rat by Miéville, as well as a collection of short stores called (IIRC) Looking for Jake, some of which are New Crobuzon-related.

From: There, there. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Babbler # 8238

posted 23 November 2005 07:48 PM      Profile for obscurantist     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
This series sounds interesting. I agree with Sturgeon's axiom that ninety per cent of science fiction is crap (as is ninety per cent of anything), but it makes finding that other ten per cent that much more of a delight. I like speculative fiction that can successfully imagine a complex social / political / economic structure, whether it's an alternate timeline of our history, or extrapolating into the future from the present.

I saw Miéville's novels for the first time in a bookstore the other week -- didn't take a look at them then, but might go back and do that, or look in the library.

[ 23 November 2005: Message edited by: obscurantist ]

From: an unweeded garden | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged

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