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Green Gogol

Mieville made me feel empty

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For years now I’ve had Perdido Street Station on my shelf. I started reading the book and stopped multiple times.

Then I decided to push through. It took me a while, I put the book down for months at a time, but I finally reached the end. And I felt empty. Not satisfied, not happy, not disappointed or angry. Just empty. The story just kind of ended on a whimper, but I was glad it was finally over.

Some parts were really interesting, some others were just plain boring, some chapters were page turners while others were a slog to get through. At first I was delighted by his style. But by the end, I was fed up with the endless descriptions. The book is 75% description and 25% plot. Now I love a good atmosphere in a book, but there is such a thing as too much atmosphere and not enough plot.

It’s as if I was preparing a spaghetti sauce, and i kept adding more oregano, more basilic, more laurel, and adding some more, and more, and a bit again, and again, until it was a mess of dried leaves with a little bit of tomato sauce hidden somewhere in there. 

And now I sit with The Scar in my hands, wondering if I should read it now, or in a few years, or just forget about Mieville altogether.

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The Scar is much better than Perdido Street Station, and suffers far less from the plot/setting balance. PSS was basically a travelogue in places.

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The Scar is more focused. However, if you don't enjoy the author's style then maybe it's not for you. Plenty of other books to read instead.

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Then maybe I should go ahead and read The Scar. I did enjoy his style, but I felt it was excessive in it’s use of description. He’s got talent, but needed a little more balance in his novel between plot and description.

it’s as if he fell in love with his world and couldn’t stop talking about it.

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Mieville isn’t the strongest on plot.  The Scar is better than PSS in that respect and I would say it ups the ante in terms of cool stuff.  But you’re going to have the same problems with drag, I would’ve thought.  Don’t read the Census Taker whatever you do.

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FWIW, the same things bother me about Mieville as the OP, and The Scar was my favorite of his books. 

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I thought PSS was an A+ book but yeah the ending kind of made me feel shitty.  

The Scar is amazing too but again, don't expect the ending to put a smile on your face.  It is more plot focused than PSS which a lot of people like.

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Honestly, read UnLunDun. It is probably his best book and it is by far the most reasonable as far as characters and plot and whatnot. City and the City is another good one, though it may not leave you much happier - but UnLunDun should spark joy. 

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1 hour ago, Kalbear said:

Honestly, read UnLunDun. It is probably his best book and it is by far the most reasonable as far as characters and plot and whatnot. City and the City is another good one, though it may not leave you much happier - but UnLunDun should spark joy. 

I forgot he wrote that book. Agree with your characterization. 

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UnLunDun is a good book, it is a children’s book though (and proper children’s book, closer to Phantom Tollbooth than Hunger Games) so if that’s not your bag I wouldn’t rush to get it.  Railsea (which is a bit more YA) has a pretty straightforward structure too, although, yeah, it’s not as good as UnLunDun.

10 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Mieville's major influences include Mervyn Peake, who is all about the atmosphere, with minimal plot. It was a deliberate thing.

Sort of.  The Gormenghast books have a very loose plot in the first place.  PSS has a very clear premise - government creates psychic vampire moths which terrorise city - Mieville just doesn’t commit to it, rather than representing the idea of oppressive government it just becomes incidental in a meandering tale about government and citizens.

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My favorite book of his is City and the City, mostly because of his excellent depiction of Eastern Europe / Balkans setting. One thing I really liked is that the reader can have a completely different reading experience, depending on whether he/she believes there is anything supernatural going on in the book and the setting. I personally don't, but I don't want to go into spoiler territory.

On the other hand, I'm ambivalent about his Bas-Lag books. Even The Scar was a bit meh for me, mostly because I didn't find the setting believable and couldn't suspend my disbelief. One way to tell you're growing old is when your reaction to a concept of floating pirate city isn't "awesome!" but instead "where does the fresh water and food come from?"

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5 hours ago, Gorn said:

One thing I really liked is that the reader can have a completely different reading experience, depending on whether he/she believes there is anything supernatural going on in the book and the setting.

Spoiler

I thought it was pretty clear by the end that there wasn't anything supernatural, though it was quite ambiguous for a large portion of the book.

 

5 hours ago, Gorn said:

One way to tell you're growing old is when your reaction to a concept of floating pirate city isn't "awesome!" but instead "where does the fresh water and food come from?"

Magic desalination plants (seems plausible for a society capable of creating the Remade), eating a lot of fish, and piracy!

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I always recommend people start with The City and the City when they read Mieville. It puts his style on display, has tighter plotting and is shorter. 

FWIW, I found The Scar to be more of a slog than PSS.

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The Scar is awesome, I thought PSS was the weakest of the Bas-Lag books.  Really liked Iron Council too

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I'm in the middle of The City and the City right now and....eh, it's okay.  It's certainly not blowing me away like PSS and The Scar did.  King Rat was pretty good too but not a standout.

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17 hours ago, The Great Unwashed said:

I always recommend people start with The City and the City when they read Mieville. It puts his style on display, has tighter plotting and is shorter.  


I like The City and the City but I don't think this is necessarily true, it's very unlike most of his other books in both plot and prose, much more minimalistic.


Un-Lun-Dun just read like a slightly inferior Neverwhere to me. I enjoyed it, but its depiction of the other London just didn't have either the same magic or the feeling of any real connection to London Above as Neverwhere did.

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If you were looking for something short to try out Mieville, he’s written plenty of short stories most of which have his style firmly on display.  The Tain might be a good starting point, it even has a decent plot.

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On 1/31/2019 at 6:46 PM, polishgenius said:


Un-Lun-Dun just read like a slightly inferior Neverwhere to me. I enjoyed it, but its depiction of the other London just didn't have either the same magic or the feeling of any real connection to London Above as Neverwhere did.

Neverwhere is hugely overrated.

I'd definitely second john's rec for CM's short stories though.

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About halfway through Embassytown and really enjoying it.  Feels very Wolfe-ian so far.  

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