Tuesday, March 31, 2015

This started out as a book review



I just finished "Perdido Street Station", a 2001 steampunk novel by China Mieville.  Overall, it was good enough that it captured my interest, although it doesn't rise to the title of "favorite".  The story follows Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a scientist who is commissioned by a crippled human-bird hybrid to invent an anti-gravity field so that he can fly again.  This is all ancillary, though.  The central conflict is the looming catastrophe threatened by a quintet of gargantuan multidimensional psychic monsters which are unleashed by Dan der Grimnebulin accidentally during his investigations into flight.  The world is populated by numerous non-human creatures, of which birdmen are one.  Also, science is magic.  The major consequence of this manifests in the time it takes Dan der Grimnebulin to accomplish something:  He can't ignore physics at an instant with a wave of a wand, but he can if given about 6 weeks and a trip to the apothecary.  This is refreshing when compared to classic sorcery, but a bit maddening when compared to the pace of actual science.

This should give you some idea of whether "Perdido Street Station" is up your ally:  the story is inventive.  It isn't lazy fantasy populated with three humanoid races that differ only in their size and skin color, but it's not grounded and it's very proud of its weird inventions.

Characters: forgettable

Plot: yep, it has one

Style: florid but not poetic; sesquipedalian

World-building: at least 80% responsible for getting this book published.  It's its major strength.

It was easy to pick up/ hard to put down.   Mieville's city of New Crobuzon is a world which my mind is liable to wander to when not reading.  I'll certainly check out Mieville's other books -- which are set in the same world -- eventually.  To me, this is good enough reason to recommend it.

While I'm on this topic, I'd like to recommend another work set in an alternate world populated by entertaining fantasy creatures: "Ugly Americans".

The DVD cover art wears the show's inspiration on it's sleeve

"Ugly Americans" was an animated sitcom which aired on Comedy Central for two seasons from 2010 to 2012.  It was clearly the vision of artist Devon Clark, who's work is definitely worth a click.  It was an obvious spiritual successor to Futurama:  It replaced Futurama's cast of horny, drunk, idiot coworkers with a different group of horny, drunk, idiot coworkers and substituted 50's scifi pulp comics with 50's horror pulp comics.  Its art style was a perfect compliment to the material and its blend of dry humor and wet, sticky violence worked very well.  Although it only lasted two seasons, it's clear that I'm not the only fan, based on the legacy it leaves behind in fan art and cosplay (most of the former, admittedly, may simply be rule 34 material).

I'll go so far to say that while I recommend "Perdido's Street Station", I recommend "Ugly Americans"  very strongly.  Yeah, you heard that right.  Strongly.


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