Thursday, September 20, 2012

My second go-round with China Miéville

I tried and quickly abandoned China Miéville's The City and the City some time ago, but the only thing I don't like so far about the same author's Perdido Street Station is the back-cover blurb from a reviewer who says the novel "rocked my world."

"Rock my world" is just this generation's version of "blow my mind," no stupider than its predecessor. But slang in formal writing often seems forced, as if the writer is trying to prove him or herself (or the stodgy publication for which he or she writes) hip.  I gnash my teeth when middle-aged newspaper movie and music writers refer to "reboots" rather than remakes or cover versions. And  I wrote off the New Yorker years ago when a think piece about a movie star (Julia Roberts, I think), told me: "It pisses [Roberts] off that..."

So much for the blurb; back to the novel. While The City and the City seemed to be trying too hard to prove its point in its opening chapters, Perdido Street Station combines deliberately over-the-top post-apocalyptic imagery and language (Dig the cheesy similes!) with homely good humor in a mix I find highly attractive. Or maybe it's just the book's old-fashioned virtue of creating deeply sympathetic protagonists, even though some of them are not exactly people.
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P.S. After reading a few more chapters, I realize that, as entertaining as Perdido Street Station is, Miéville also offers thought-provoking views of what makes up a city. Think of Miéville's city, New Crobuzon, as an organic being whose dead parts don't necessarily get sloughed off.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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9 Comments:

Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

FWIW (he says informally) I [Brian] would argue that there is a difference between a reboot, a remake and a cover.

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In theory, yes, though not the way most reviewers use the terms. Or rather, a "reboot" is what reviewers say when they crave intellectual respect as well as hipness. You know, they can tell when a director reboots a franchise.

September 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A reboot is what those same reviewers used to call "a rethink" (yes, they used rethink as a noun, and yes, I could provide examples.)

September 20, 2012  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

Peter,

What was is about The city and the city that you did not like? I have it on my bookshelf just asking me to read it.

I think, FWIW, rocking has now conceded to bombing as in, "It's da bomb." Although I suspect I may be out of date on this. Whateves.

September 21, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lisa E., I think what bothered me about The City and the CIty is that I felt like Mieville was hitting me over the head to make his point: that each city was invisible to people in the other. That made the opening chapters excessively heavy allegorical going. But I did not get to the novel's main action, so don't acceot what I have to say as anything like a judgment of th ebook.

September 21, 2012  
Blogger lisa_emily said...

Peter,

thanks for the insight, I'll probably still read it, someday.

September 22, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wouldn't rule out returning to it myself one day, and I hope I don;t discourage you from trying it.

September 22, 2012  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I loved The City and the City and PDS. I think The City is a slightly better book because he's more in control of the material, in PDS it kind of gets away from him a bit in the middle portion. He just keeps throwing more and more stuff into the pot (his editor should have made him cut the scenes in - spoiler alert - hell, at gunpoint if necessary). Yeah I like it when authors go a bit mad and get a bit messy but Mieville needs a stern hand on the tiller. Book 2 of the Crobazon saga is almost completely unreadable and thats not Mievilles fault its the fault of yes men surrounding him who have convinced him that he shits gold bars every time.

September 22, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yes, he seems to be throwing a lot into the pot in PDS, and going over the top with the similes as he does so, but everything is done with such great zest that I've liked the results.

I probably won't finish the book for another few weeks, though, because I have work out the wazoo, including preparation for Bouchercon.

September 22, 2012  

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