Oct. 14th, 2010

I picked up a book by China Mieville, even though I had been underwhelmed by his young adult attempt, Un Lun Dun; people told me that his books for adults were much better.

I had originally wanted King Rat or Perdido Street Station, or ideally The City & The City, which got rave reviews practically everywhere; however, when I got to the local library, all they had on the shelves was Iron Council. So I went with that. It took a bit of time to get properly involved with the characters' quests and motivations, but the book really began to pick up about a third of the way through.

I gotta say, Mieville's much better when writing for an older age group. He doesn't feel the need to dumb things down or make things cute, or give everything happy, solid resolutions at the end of the day -- and that makes the writing so much stronger. When dealing with adult themes and complex longings, even the most fantastical of his creatures (and Mieville's imagination is crazy wild) are sympathetic and understandable.

There's quite a lot in this book, actually. On the grand scale, there's war, terrorism, industrialization vs. untouched environment, labor rights, political dissent, racism, and the difference between legend and reality; on the personal scale, the characters deal with conflicting ambitions, loyalties, and loves.

The writing is almost too ornate, but still manages to be understandable; the descriptions are beautiful, each word used with purpose, and the range of Mieville's vocabulary is staggering. I learned several new words, some of which I share here:

bits and pieces of IC )

In summary: good stuff. Fortunately Mieville's writing is such that not knowing a word doesn't stop you in your tracks, unlike some authors (Dorothy Dunnett, I'm looking at you (though she got much better after the first Lymond novel)). Also, despite the sometimes overly-grandiose diction, the characters and plot are still compelling. Off to the library for more.


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