Perdido Street Station
Cover of first UK edition
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Followed by||The Scar|
Perdido Street Station is a weird fantasy novel by British writer China Miéville, the first of three independent works set in the fictional world of Bas-Lag, a place where both magic (referred to as 'thaumaturgy') and steampunk technology exist. The novel has won several literary awards.
In an interview, Miéville described this book as "basically a secondary world fantasy with Victorian era technology. So rather than being a feudal world, it's an early industrial capitalist world of a fairly grubby, police statey kind!"
Perdido Street Station is set in Bas-Lag's large city-state of New Crobuzon: the title refers to a railway station at the heart of the city.
Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is a scientist living in the city of New Crobuzon. He is approached by Yagharek, a member of a birdlike species known as garuda, who has had his wings removed as a punishment in his native land. He asks Isaac to allow him to fly again. Isaac agrees and starts collecting samples of flying creatures for his research with the aid of Lemuel Pigeon, a fence with links to the criminal underworld. One sample he receives is a large and unusual caterpillar, stolen from a government research lab. The caterpillar sickens until Isaac realises that it can feed on a popular hallucinogenic drug. It grows and starts to pupate. After reaching maturity, it emerges as a monstrous flying beast known as a slakemoth with the power to paralyse its victims using its wings. It escapes after eating the mind of one of Isaac's colleagues, leaving him catatonic. Isaac, Yagharek and Lemuel resolve to re-capture or destroy it.
Isaac's girlfriend Lin is a khepri, an insect-like humanoid and an artist. She is commissioned by Mr Motley, a mob boss, to make a sculpture of him. Mr. Motley has four more of the slakemoths in captivity and harvests their milk to sell as drugs. When Isaac's slakemoth frees its siblings, Mr Motley discovers Isaac's connection to the slakemoths. He imprisons Lin, demanding that Isaac return his creatures. The slakemoths start to terrorise New Crobuzon, feeding on its inhabitants.
With the aid of Derkhan, a journalist and friend of Lin, Isaac discovers that Mr. Motley purchased his slakemoths from the government. The security forces become aware of the activities of the slakemoths and begin to suppress the various rebellious elements within the city. To re-capture the slakemoths, they attempt to enlist the help of demons and the Weaver, a spider-like creature who moves through dimensions, obsessed with patterns and its own peculiar view of beauty. The demons refuse to assist and the Weaver soon ends up aiding Isaac.
Isaac and his friends kill one of the slakemoths with the aid of a sentient machine known as the Construct Council. They then destroy the eggs that the slakemoths have laid before laying a trap for the remainder of the creatures. The trap is mostly successful, but the last slakemoth escapes and returns 'home' to Mr. Motley's facility. The Weaver transports Isaac to the warehouse where they find Lin, who has been tortured but is still working on the sculpture. A confrontation occurs, during which Lin's mind is half eaten and the last slakemoth is killed by Mr. Motley's men. Isaac escapes with Lin and Yagharek and prepares to leave the city. Isaac learns of Yagharek's crime, a rape of one of his own species, and refuses to help him fly again. Lin never fully recovers and Yagharek is left alone in the city, pulling out his feathers and having to accept his new flightless identity.
- Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a human scientist, dabbling in all fields but obsessed with his pet theory of "crisis energy". Lover to Lin, and close friends with Derkhan Blueday.
- Yagharek, an exiled and de-winged garuda from the Cymek Desert, far south of New Crobuzon. He comes to Isaac to have his flight restored, willing to accept any method or price.
- Lin, Isaac's khepri lover, an artist who is commissioned by the gangster Mr. Motley to create a sculpture of his form.
- Derkhan Blueday, a middle-aged journalist and seditionist, co-editor of the underground newspaper Runagate Rampant.
- Lemuel Pigeon, Isaac's contact with New Crobuzon's criminal underworld.
- Mr. Motley, New Crobuzon's most feared ganglord, who runs a dreamshit harvesting operation, among many other nefarious activities. He has altered his body many times through remaking, into an amorphous collection of body parts and appendages.
- Mayor Bentham Rudgutter, the corrupt mayor of New Crobuzon who bargains with crime syndicates and demons alike.
- MontJohn Rescue, an ambassador of the feared handlingers (powerful parasites who take over other species as hosts), working for the mayor.
- Lublamai Dadscatt, a researcher who shares lab space with David Serachin and Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, first victim of the slakemoth.
- David Serachin, shares lab space with Isaac and Lublamai.
- Teafortwo, a dim-witted and friendly wyrman who runs small favours for Isaac.
- Construct Council, a hive-mind artificial intelligence formed in the city's rubbish dump. It controls many constructs (simplistic robots originally engineered for janitorial and other purposes) in New Crobuzon.
- The Weaver, a multi-dimensional being in the form of a giant spider, who speaks in a never-ending torrent of free-verse poetry.
The novel was nominated for the 2002 Nebula Award for Best Novel and Hugo Award for Best Novel. It won the British Fantasy Society's August Derleth Award in 2000, the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2001, the Premio Ignotus Award in 2002, and the Kurd Laßwitz Award in 2003. It also won the Amazon.com Editors' Choice Award in Fantasy in 2001. In May 2009, it was made available as an audiobook from Random House.
Michael Moorcock reviewed the book and said "Perdido Street Station, a massive and gorgeously detailed parallel-world fantasy, offers us a range of rather more exotic creatures, all of whom are wonderfully drawn and reveal a writer with a rare descriptive gift, an unusually observant eye for physical detail, for the sensuality and beauty of the ordinarily human as well as the thoroughly alien." However, he suggests "Mieville's determination to deliver value for money, a great page-turner, leads him to add genre borrowings which set up a misleading expectation of the kind of plot you're going to get and make individuals start behaving out of character, forcing the author into rationalisations at odds with the creative, intellectual and imaginative substance of the book." He concludes, "That aside, Mieville's catholic contemporary sensibility, delivering generous Victorian value and a well-placed moral point or two, makes Perdido Street Station utterly absorbing and you won't get a better deal, pound for pound, for your holiday reading!"
- Burling, William J. (2009), Vint, Sherryl (ed.), "Periodizing the Postmodern: China Mieville's Perdido Street Station and the Dynamics of Radical Fantasy", Extrapolation, 50 (2): 326–345, doi:10.3828/extr.2009.50.2.11.
- Gordon, Joan (2003), "Hybridity, Heterotopia, and Mateship in China Miéville's Perdido Street Station", Science Fiction Studies, 30 (3): 456–476.
- Rankin, Sandy (2009), Vint, Sherryl (ed.), "AGASH AGASP AGAPE: The Weaver as Immanent Utopian Impulse in China Mieville's Perdido Street Station and Iron Council", Extrapolation, 50 (2): 239–258, doi:10.3828/extr.2009.50.2.6.
- Marshall, Richard (February 2003), "The Road to Perdido: An Interview with China Miéville", 3:AM Magazine, retrieved 20 April 2008
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, 2002 SFWA Final Nebula Awards Ballot, archived from the original on 11 May 2008, retrieved 20 April 2008
- World Science Fiction Society, The 2002 Hugo Award & Campbell Award Winners, retrieved 20 April 2008
- "2000 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- "2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror, (List of Premio Ignotus award winners, in Spanish), archived from the original on 13 February 2008, retrieved 20 April 2008
- The Locus Index to SF Awards: Kurd Lasswitz Preis Winners by Year, Locus, archived from the original on 8 July 2008, retrieved 20 April 2008
- Amazon.com, 2001 Editors' Choice: Fantasy, Amazon.com, retrieved 20 April 2008
- Random House, Inc., Perdido Street Station by China Miéville – Unabridged Audiobook Download, Random House, retrieved 13 October 2008
- Moorcock, Michael. "Perdido Street Station Review". The Spectator. Retrieved 5 November 2010.