Book reviews / Fantasy

Book review: Perdido Street Station

So, after a bit of a break, here we are. Another book, another slightly ranty blog post about said book.

Beware: spoilers.

I want to say I enjoyed this book as it had some lovely ideas and was all imaginative and shit but on balance, I only liked about 45% of it.

Like Neal Stephenson, it seems to take basically an entire book worth of set dressing to get to the actual plot. It took me more than a week to push myself through it because it was dull. There was just description and more description and more characters and then more description. NOTHING HAPPENED.

Then the plot kicks in which is essentially about defeating mind-eating vampire moth things. Which was fine. That was the bit I liked because things moved along (I read about 300 pages on the weekend), there was shit happening. There was some pointless diversions like:

  • the Hanglingers which just appeared for about 15 pages and then all get killed
  • the bit about summoning demons which was just to say they were shit scared of the vampire moths
  • the 5-10 pages of LAYING FUCKING CABLES
  • the 5-10 pages of the trip to see the Cymek to just be told off
  • the 5-10 pages of Lin going to see the Kinken to just chat about it
  • the seemingly endless descriptions of non-sensical, quasi magical science
  • the whole bit about David and why he betrayed Isaac
  • the huge saga going to the Green House
  • the endless faffing about

I can get behind havin some back stories for characters but not every fucking character. Some of the can be window dressing, that’s how stories work.

But you know what, all that could be forgiven except for what I am now calling the laziest fucking trope in literature: rape.

So a major plot point is Isaac meeting Yag and agreeing to help him out. Isaac is a human, Yag is a bird-man thingy, a Cymek who had his wings cut off as punishment for a crime.

So Yag’s second-degree choice crime was that he seemed to have raped someone. Which happens before the book happens but it’s the focal point for Isaac working on the crisis engine and that defeating the mind-sucking vampire months. Isaac doesn’t find about this until the last few pages of the book. Then Isaac decides not to help Yag get his wings back.

Fine, perhaps there was something clever with the way it was framed about choice-theft and all that. Maybe. BUT IT’S SO LAZY. Why is this always the thing in sci-fi and fantasty? I’M SO FUCKING BORED OF THIS TROPE.

Isaac really didn’t have any fucking moral superiority anyway as to defeat the slake-moths, they essentially kidnapped some dude (he was dying anyway) and seemingly tortured him to death with the crisis engine. That’s on top of killing a lot of militia and stealing loads of shit. WHATEVER.

Also, the ending is demoralising as all hell. Not only is Lin basically half-alive (half her conciousness was sucked out by a slake-moth), Isaac abandons Yag, Yag plucks out all his feathers and gives up on flying, they’re wanted by the city government AND a sentient construct (robot) AND a mobster, loads of their friends are killed horribly and basically their lives are ruined.

Moral of the story: don’t help anyone, don’t follow your dreams and certainly don’t try to be a hero. You get fucked over.

Does it pass the test? It does have at least 2 female characters, 2 of them are main characters, they both have interesting profession and skills equivalent to the main characters. So I suppose it does. I think there’s still more male characters than female characters though.

It’s not all ranty though. There are genuinely cool ideas though, the Remade for one. So if you’re a criminal, your punishment can involve being ‘remade’ usually in some ghastley conjunction with your crime. I loved the idea. The profusion of different sentient species took some getting used to but that was fine in the end. The Weaver. I loved the Weaver. Some pan-dimensional weird spider thing, speaking in sing-song and loving scissors.

But the mind that came up with thes ideas also used the laziest fucking trope of all time for the ending, he should have spent some more time on that. SUCH A WASTE.

I give it a 3/5 for 700 pages of eventual disappointment.

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