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Recent Reads

So, last week I was given the opportunity to review a book before its October release. Apparently someone was doing their homework and noticed my brief review of Shelley Adina’s Magnificent Devices novels. As such, I was contacted by her lovely promo person and asked if I would be interested in reviewing the third installment: Magnificent Devices.

Normally I would re-read the first novels before delving into the newest in a series, but it hadn’t been that long since I’d read the first two and I was abnormally excited to get a sneak peek before the rest of the Steampunk world. Luckily, there was little to no difficulty in becoming reacquainted with the characters and, refreshingly, I got to know some returning characters much better. Specifically, the roguish and entertaining Mopsies. Whatever spark of inspiration brought Adina to refocus her attention on these two served her well. They are enduring characters, to be sure.

For me and the rest of you that prefer American Steampunk to its counterpart across the pond, the third novel is where the series really lifts off. Unlike the cartoonish underworld in the first two books, the criminal element in Magnificent Devices is much more edgy and threatening. The devices are far more magnificent, the characters (both primary and auxiliary) are more fully fleshed, and the story is more rife with action. As with the previous books, it is a quick read at about 200 pages, but you won’t regret the afternoon you spent on it.

Since I’m on previously read books, I also finished China Miéville’s The Scar. I’ve been keeping myself in order, reading his novels as they were produced even if there was a bit of a hiccup. His 2002 fantasy story The Tain is seemingly only available in anthologies and none of those were available on the nook. I am certainly not opposed to searching out printwork, but I’m on a budget and I’ve still got holiday gift certificate credit on the nook. So, you know.

At any rate, The Scar is a continuation of his New Crobuzon series. It has all of the weird and amazing and deliciously described details of Perdido Street Station with about 40% less fat. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Perdido Street Station with the sort of reader-passion that should be reserved for erotica. Even so, it had moments that were so convolutedly detailed that it took several read-throughs to understand what was going on. In The Scar, Miéville mastered the art of the self-edit. Still engrossing and descriptive, he manages to keep to the meat and trim the extraneous descriptions.

The character development, I think, also took a strong step forward. The protagonist, Bellis Coldwine, is my favorite sort of person. Self-absorbed, superior, and utterly disillusioned with humanity. Call me crazy, but I can relate much better with “flawed” characters than heroic caricatures. (“flawed” is stuffed into quotes because I find it disheartening that her most endearing characteristics are considered flaws in most literature.)

Either way, if you gave Perdido Street Station a chance and came out less than happy, try again with The Scar. Miéville makes it easy to read on its own and without much prior knowledge of New Crobuzon anyway, so you can start anew without any prejudices you might have developed initially.

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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Perdido Street Station

“The polymorphous four-way wooing became fraught and competitive. Stroking, touching, arousing. Each moth in turn spiralled moonward, drunk on lust. It would split the seal on a gland hidden under its tail and exude a cloud of empathic musk.” China Miéville, Perdido Street Station

The first I’d heard of China Miéville was when I’d found by accident and voraciously devoured King Rat. It was Miéville’s first novel and I was enthralled. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this was before the Nook. I tried to remind myself to read more of his work, but prior to ebooks shopping for books tended to be more chance than planned. I was a faithful used book shopper, so the titles I picked up were limited to what I found. The good thing is, I still have a good paperback copy of King Rat that I will likely re-read soon. Don’t get me wrong, I love real, truly physical books. It just wasn’t as easy to follow up when it required a trip to the bookstore as it is now that I can look it up the moment I finish one.

At any rate, the release of his latest, Railsea, put his name back out into the æther. It tickled some dusty trapdoor buried beneath the old and mildewed cardboard boxes of my memory. So, naturally, I went to Google to solve the problem of my malformed memories.

Almost the moment Google spat out its many and varied responses, the rusted hinges of my locked away memories flew wide and scattered motes of dust and cobweb elsewhere in my sadly misused brainpan. Oh yes. I remember him now.

China Miéville is this sexy, left-wing, British Socialist usually counted among the New Weird. I spent a good few moments with his image search results before getting back to whatever it was I had googled for in the first place.

Rather than go straight for his latest release, I decided to stick with his own patterns of growth and publication. I had already read his first novel, so why not move on to his second. Perdido Street Station was quickly purchased and on hand for my leisure. A leisure that I put all else aside for.

This novel is not for the casual skimmer. If you find yourself skipping paragraphs of descriptive narrative to the next bit of dialogue, this is not for you. If you require that every element of a new and fantastic world be carefully described and explained with context, you can move on. In fact, if you require that a person, beast, or amalgamation of both be described so fully as to paint a picture for you, you need not stop here. Miéville draws Bas-Lag with both fat and fine pointed brushes, but leaves the sentient bits for you to design according to your needs. Most people/creatures are given a fair enough assessment that you can place them in your brain-movie without exacerbating any existing strains or fractures. Some are so indescribably beyond reference that any image of it limited only to the artistry of your own grey matter.

The city. The city-state of New Crobuzon is where the intricate details are laid out. If you’re familiar with Ankh-Morpork or Lankhmar, you know exactly what I mean. If you aren’t, you probably don’t. I don’t even know that I can explain it without watering it down with insulting low-brow comparisons. Just know that Miéville knows grit and grime and urban sprawl and social dysfunction and architectural discord and decay like no other. I wanted to move into New Crobuzon just so that I could complain about it.

If you are a fan of fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, steampunk, or anything that skirts the mainstream, you will enjoy this book. No, enjoy isn’t even fair. You will eat this book with your fingers and face and suck the juices from its pages.

Next up for me, keeping a narrow eye on his own growth and progression, comes The Scar.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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