China Mieville is a stunning wordsmith. He builds word constructions like a steampunk inventor gone mad: bits of flywheels and gears cemented to cables, motherboards and articulated tubing, bouncing and jostling errant balloons and discarded coffee mugs all careening down a road with three-legged abandon.
It is just that chaotic and, in many cases, you are just reeling with the slippery conglomeration on which you have just tried to get your mental footing.
I have to admit, like a dull-witted student, I really didn’t understand or get a great many of the stories in this collection. They are part word paintings and word travels---we get thrown into the middle and are led discombobulated through a few scenes and then hey! Presto! We are done, staring at the final piece of punctuation and wondering just where we were in those last several pages populated by a selection of bizarre images and occurrences with driven characters.
Do you recommend such writing to everyone? Fantasy, horror, science fiction, terror and…oddness. Well, I can try---but a lot of people will probably be confused by the journey through this kaleidoscopic containment of short bits. Honest: I read a lot and China Mieville stands alone, at least in my experience as a reader. I simply haven’t read anything like him. Try the “The Dusty Hat” a story of sinkholes, leftist thinking and dust…and I have no idea what it was about.
There are a few stories that actually go somewhere in a traditional manner, like “Sacken” or “The Bastard Prompt”---but even so, at the end I still had a lot of questions.
Mieville’s imagination must give him a headache sometimesthere is so much jostling (or perhaps, better yet, clawing and ripping) to see the light of day. So many words desperate for connection.
This collection will provide one great clarity to the speculative fiction reader at large: a presentation of the unbound, untrammeled imagination of China Mieville in all its pock-marked, slimed and eccentric glory. ~~ Sue Martin