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View Full Version : China Miéville - Sci Fi/Fantasy.


Funkodrom
20-07-2004, 09:25:10
Not sure if anyone's read these. (Maybe The Shaker has because I think the first book I read was one of his he left in Reading). He's a relatively new British writer writing very good and bizarre sci-fi/fantasy.

Anyway, he's well worth a look for those of you who are into that kind of thing and those who aren't.

In his own words:

"Two untrue things are commonly claimed about fantasy. The first is that fantasy and science fiction are fundamentally different genres. The second is that fantasy is crap.

It's usually those who claim the first who also claim the second. The idea is that where SF is radical, exploratory and intellectually adventurous, fantasy is badly written, clichéd and obsessed with backwards-looking dreams of the past - feudal daydreams of Good Kings and Fair Maidens.

It's easy enough to distinguish the writers at the far edges of the spectrum - Asimov versus Eddings, for example. But the problem with the 'sharp divide' argument is the number of writers - often very brilliant ones - who fall in the middle, who blur the lines. David Lindsay, William Hope Hodgson, Jane Gaskell, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Gene Wolfe: the list could go on. These are writers for whom the 'fantastic' is not ethereal and wispy but tough and real, where 'magic' operates like science or science magic, and where the sense of subversion, of alienation, of sheer strangeness that saturates their work defies easy categorisation as SF or fantasy.

That's the tradition that I'm interested in - I see myself as writing Weird Fiction. And as soon as you see that as your foundations, then the idea that fantasy is crap disappears.

(continues in link)

http://www.panmacmillan.com/features/china/debate.htm

Angelhorns
20-07-2004, 21:56:03
what does he write about if not kings and maidens then? Can you give us a synopsis of the book you read?

DaShi
21-07-2004, 02:01:53
His name is China?

Funkodrom
21-07-2004, 08:05:19
Originally posted by Angelhorns
what does he write about if not kings and maidens then? Can you give us a synopsis of the book you read?

I always find writing synopsis of books this complicated very difficult because I don't want to give the end away.

The first one I read was Perdido St. Station. It's set in a grimy dark metropolis called New Crobuzon. The place is mainly human but filled with a mixture of the other intelligent races on the planet. For instance the Khepris (a race of sentient women with scarab beetles for heads and slug like unsentient males). The main protagonist of the book, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, is secretly having a relationship with one of these Khepris women. Secretly because the very traditional people he occasionally works for as a science researcher at the university wouldn't approve. Anyway, der Grimnebulin is visited by a Garuda (a kind humanoid sentient eagle) who has had his wings sawn off as a punishment by his tribe. He has heard der Grimnebulin is someone who can help. So der Grimnebulin sets to work trying to work out how to get the Garuda back in the air and in the process unleashes something so nightmarish on the city that even the Ambassador of Hell refuses to help the mayor deal with it...

Hmm. That probably makes it sound a little ridiculous, which it doesn't when you read it in the book. One of the things that makes it so good.

Here's the Amazon synopsis, and some good reader reviews there too:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0330392891/qid=1090396551/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl/026-2084306-8917213

Kory
21-07-2004, 16:38:08
I haven't read any of his books, but I've read some short stories.

There's a lot of interesting debate about what genre he writes in. A lot of people consider him a premier slipstream author, and that's as good a term as any, as it covers all of the genres he visits, but I tend to see Perdido referred to as urban fantasy. I think "Weird fiction" is a good term, too. :)

Anyhow. The short stories are keen. I'll likely pick up the books at some point.

-- Kory (Gotta read my competition.)

Funkodrom
21-07-2004, 16:38:56
Yeah, doesn't really matter what the genre is called. :D

The Shaker
21-07-2004, 17:45:55
I call it emo.

I never actually finished perdido street station...
must have got very close to the end but somehow never summoned up the will to finish it.
I liked the start and middle..but the end just...lost me.



And I assumed he was a girl too

Funkodrom
21-07-2004, 18:31:13
Ah well I enjoyed it anyway. Am now reading The Scar which is not really a sequel but a book chronologically after Perdido St Station featuring different people.

JM^3
21-07-2004, 20:20:05
I have not read the scar, but read and enjoyed Perdido street station several years ago

JM

Funko
30-09-2005, 09:19:05
And now I'm reading Iron Council which has started just as good as the rest.

Trying to think how to describe his style, I guess if you crossed Mervin Peake with William Gibson you'd be thinking in the right ballpark.

Nills Lagerbaak
30-09-2005, 09:41:43
Well, have you read what is (in my opinion) the pincale of intelligent fantasy, Gormenghast? How does it compare?

Fergus & The Brazen Car
30-09-2005, 09:54:10
Originally posted by Nills Lagerbaak
Well, have you read what is (in my opinion) the pincale of intelligent fantasy, Gormenghast? How does it compare?


It's less dilatory than the Gormenghast books- things happen more quickly, and there are fewer digressions and 'lists'.


Imagine, say, Charles Dickens crossed with Mary Shelley and modern science fiction trends (there is an obvious socio-economic awareness in the books) and you have it.

Nills Lagerbaak
30-09-2005, 09:57:49
Sounds good! I liked the socio-political analagies in Gormenghast...

Funko
30-09-2005, 10:01:02
Yes, you kindly leant me it. :)

His New Cobruzon books (Perdido St. Station, The Scar and Iron Council) books aren't parts of a complete work in themselves like Gormenghast, which has a bit more of an epic feel about it... but each novel does pick up where the last one left off in terms of timeline.

I think it compares pretty well in terms of imagination and quality of writing though. (His three New Cobruzon books have won two Arthur C Clarke awards and two British Fantasy Awards between them, and all three of them have been nominated for science fiction's top award the Hugo).

It's the dark world of epic machinery and general wierdness that reminds me of Peake but it's got a very up to date cool (dare I use the word hip?) side to it as well. He's young (32ish) and looks cool which is odd in itself in a writer...

Obviously his stuff hasn't, yet, had to stand the test of time like Gormenghast. That is (I agree) a classic and it'll be interesting to see how Miéville's stuff ages.

Interestingly in this page (which I might have linked before?) one of his recommendations is Gormenghast.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/authors/China_Mieville.htm

And this sort of interview was interesting:

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/sciencefiction/story/0,6000,1362833,00.html

Funko
30-09-2005, 10:04:22
Just seen F&tBC's comment... yes

So Mervin Peake crossed with William Gibson, Mary Shelley and Dickens...

That's almost there.

Also he's an amazingly cinematic writer. His scenes are played out in widescreen, technicolor with surround sound.

Nills Lagerbaak
30-09-2005, 10:06:40
Double groovy, maybe you could "Kindly" lend them to me when you've finished?

(Although I do have the rest of the DA vinci code, all of "A brief history of everything" and "The secret history" to finish...:-( )

fp
30-09-2005, 10:11:39
Originally posted by Nills Lagerbaak
the pincale of intelligent fantasy, Gormenghast

:lol:

Oh wait, perhaps you're not joking... :D

Funko
30-09-2005, 10:13:33
Yeah... no worries. I'll have to pick up the first two from my parents but I'll try and get them and bring them up in November.

If it wasn't already too late I'd say don't believe the hype about the Da Vinci Code.

fp
30-09-2005, 10:13:46
I think I should try and read Gormenghast again. I started reading it when I was a wee lad and hated it. Probably worth another try now my tastes have changed.

Funko
30-09-2005, 10:16:23
Yes. It's wouldn't have been easy going if you were a nipper. And the third book is basically the ramblings of a semi-insane dying man.

fp
30-09-2005, 10:16:35
Originally posted by Funko

If it wasn't already too late I'd say don't believe the hype about the Da Vinci Code.

That was a weird one. I was gripped while reading it, but almost as soon as I finished I looked back on it and though "What a load of toss that was". It's like a nasty drink or something that tastes really good while you're pissed, but as soon as you wake up you're throwing up for days.

Funko
30-09-2005, 10:18:10
Exactly.

Nills Lagerbaak
30-09-2005, 10:22:22
I liken it to speed. Gets the heart pumping but then you feel exhausted and have severe muscle cramps afterwards.

And there's no way you could have appreciated gormenghast as a child. Hell even lord of the rings cannot be fully appreciated till you've grown up.

Funko
30-09-2005, 10:24:30
It's a moderately good thriller with a clever (cynical?) device to distract from the fact it uses every cliched trick in the book to keep up the tension. When you finish it you think, that religious stuff has basically worked as a smokescreen to disguise the limitations of the writing/plot.

Nills Lagerbaak
30-09-2005, 10:28:40
Yeah, it's no Name of the Rose, that's fir sure. A far superior religious / scientific thriller.

Dan Brown hang your head!

Fergus & The Brazen Car
30-09-2005, 10:53:18
Originally posted by Funko
It's a moderately good thriller with a clever (cynical?) device to distract from the fact it uses every cliched trick in the book to keep up the tension. When you finish it you think, that religious stuff has basically worked as a smokescreen to disguise the limitations of the writing/plot.


The author advertising it with outright lies kinda gives the game away as far as I'm concerned.

Funko
30-09-2005, 10:57:01
I read it before all the hype so I hadn't heard anything about it beforehand.

Fergus & The Brazen Car
30-09-2005, 11:07:51
I admire his commercial acumen in a way- people (as Erich von Daniken proved) will believe in any old woolly minded unscientific shite, usually in preference to hard facts.

The nonsense written about the Holy Grail and the Rosicrucians and the Knights Templars in various books also shows this tendency- and the authors of the tomes about the Prieure de Sion for instance, couldn't read mediaeval French or Latin (as I recall) and fell for the work of a notorious French practical joker/hoaxer.

That's a great factual basis for a bestseller...