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Thread: China Miéville

  1. #1

    China Miéville

    Bas-Lag series? Or New Crobuzon seres? Not sure what the official title is..Good reads has one wiki has another. Anyways, lots of high praise around here for him. I couldn't find any threads dedicated, so I thought I'd start a fresh one. What do ppl think? I'm about 5chapters in and I'm slogging through. Nothing has happened yet. Literally nothing. They've described the city for 5chapters now. Here's to hoping it gets better.

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    Would be writer? Sure. Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    Bas-Lag series? Or New Crobuzon seres? Not sure what the official title is..Good reads has one wiki has another. Anyways, lots of high praise around here for him. I couldn't find any threads dedicated, so I thought I'd start a fresh one. What do ppl think? I'm about 5chapters in and I'm slogging through. Nothing has happened yet. Literally nothing. They've described the city for 5chapters now. Here's to hoping it gets better.
    Same problem here. He's an excellent writer, known for his inventiveness and his wonderful ability to capture a scene. Perdido Street Station reminded me a lot of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast in that regard, which is a good thing. I struggled mightily with his pacing, and some find the insertion of his political agenda to be overbearing in much the same way as Terry Goodkind, although in the opposite manner since Mieville is a leftist.
    Last edited by Davis Ashura; January 2nd, 2014 at 09:35 PM.

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    Vanaeph Westsiyeed's Avatar
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    They're usually referred to as Bas-Lag series, and the books in this series are Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council.

    I'm sure there are other threads on this, but generally people either really like his books or don't. His writing style is certainly different, often described as 'baroque', very unique and I think he tries to push the boundaries and create new ways of assembling sentences for instance.

    That said, I loved Perdido Street Station and The Scar - I found them quite original in ideas and the world and characters he created showed great imagination. If you don't like these (personally I didn't like Iron Council much), some of his later novels become more "reader-friendly" - The City and the City especially. I also found Railsea, his latest, to be very good.

    I'd say stick with it, but if you give up on it you're not the first!

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    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    When those Bas-Lag novels were coming out, he was fairly popular 'round here.

    China Mieville - Where to start?
    China Mieville, reading order?
    China Mieville's Place in the World

    The Scar was a book club selection for Fantasy waaay back in April 20013

    Perdido Street Station had the same honor December 2002

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Westsiyeed View Post
    They're usually referred to as Bas-Lag series, and the books in this series are Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council.

    I'm sure there are other threads on this, but generally people either really like his books or don't. His writing style is certainly different, often described as 'baroque', very unique and I think he tries to push the boundaries and create new ways of assembling sentences for instance.

    That said, I loved Perdido Street Station and The Scar - I found them quite original in ideas and the world and characters he created showed great imagination. If you don't like these (personally I didn't like Iron Council much), some of his later novels become more "reader-friendly" - The City and the City especially. I also found Railsea, his latest, to be very good.

    I'd say stick with it, but if you give up on it you're not the first!
    Oh I'm not giving up. I never give up on a book...I may give up on the series. Depends on if after reading this first book I feel it's worth my time to read the second. But I wanted to point out what you said. Baroque style, unique sentences. I feel like he has a thesaurus on hand and just uses unique synonyms for every word he can. I have to assume definitions based on contexts pretty much every page. I find it somewhat ridiculous. To me it's segregating your audience. I feel like I have a decent vocabulary. But some of these words and sentence structures are a bit much. I'd have to go grab my book for examples, but if you've read I'm sure you know what I mean. Regardless, I will finish the first book for sure. We will see from there.

    EDIT: Quick example.

    And that great inscrutable bird face gazed down at Isaac with what looked like imperiosity. Its sharply curved beak was something between a kestrel’s and an owl’s. Sleek feathers faded subtly from ochre to dun to dappled brown.
    Bold being words I don't know what they mean. And according to the internet, "imperiosity" is not a word.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob B View Post
    When those Bas-Lag novels were coming out, he was fairly popular 'round here.

    China Mieville - Where to start?
    China Mieville, reading order?
    China Mieville's Place in the World

    The Scar was a book club selection for Fantasy waaay back in April 20013

    Perdido Street Station had the same honor December 2002
    You are much better at the site search function than myself. I searched for China Miéville, Perdido Street, Bas-Lag, and New Crobuzon. Didn't find anything. Although I didn't look past a few years/pages. Those links are(minus the first) 6years, 11years, and 12years old respectively.
    Last edited by chris777; January 3rd, 2014 at 01:47 PM.

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    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Agree, they are dated. I tagged this thread with his name, and clicked the tag, which is how I found those other threads.

    What I was sort of getting at is that he seems to have fallen down the pantheon a bit in recent years. At least in terms of being discussed here. The City and the City was received quite well received, winning the Hugo Award (in a tie).

    I loved PSS and I think The Scar is one of the best genre books in the last decade and half.

    Which book is it of his that you've begun? I'm guessing the first one, Perdido Street Station? That one does meander a bit, from what I recall (read it well over a decade ago, I'm old).

    I also thought his first YA novel, Un Lun Dun was a lot of fun.

  7. #7
    Vanaeph Westsiyeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris777 View Post
    Oh I'm not giving up. I never give up on a book...I may give up on the series. Depends on if after reading this first book I feel it's worth my time to read the second. But I wanted to point out what you said. Baroque style, unique sentences. I feel like he has a thesaurus on hand and just uses unique synonyms for every word he can. I have to assume definitions based on contexts pretty much every page. I find it somewhat ridiculous. To me it's segregating your audience. I feel like I have a decent vocabulary. But some of these words and sentence structures are a bit much. I'd have to go grab my book for examples, but if you've read I'm sure you know what I mean. Regardless, I will finish the first book for sure. We will see from there.

    EDIT: Quick example.


    Bold being words I don't know what they mean. And according to the internet, "imperiosity" is not a word.
    Try here for imperious.

    I was OK with all the words in your example but I know what you mean. Sometimes I think he does make up words, but I guess in the context of the sentence you could work out what it means, else keep reading and try not to get bogged down?

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    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    His more recent books have been YA, and more science fiction, so the Fantasy folk have been quiet. There are some threads in SF. Even the old threads however might be useful as the books themselves have not changed.

    Perdido Street Station is a thriller, Victorian style. There is a big political conspiracy, monsters, spectacular deaths, action scenes, drugs, madness, dimensional travel, underground rebels, and a robot cult. So keep reading. The city is a main character in the story; that's why you are getting five chapters about it. If you don't understand the set-up of the city and its peoples, the plot will be confusing. Keep your eye on the caterpillars.

    The Scar is a horror novel loosely bouncing off of Greco-Roman myths, with pirates, monsters, spies, and reality break-down zones. Iron Council starts with an escape, has a very political and personal issues section that will bore you and then gets into high battle/spy action.

    Imperiosity means to act/seem like an imperial, a king. A kestrel is a type of falcon, the smallest one, also sometimes known as a sparrowhawk. It looks like this:



    Ochre is a pale orangey yellow color. Dun is a pale brownish yellow color, (it also sometimes refers to a horse who is a pale brownish yellow color.) Dappled is a very common term meaning spotted, as in spots. Mieville uses much fancier words than these, but they are real ones, except for the names of specific things in his world, which are often made up. I'm not bad on vocabulary but I had to look up about five words in the dictionary from Iron Council. I think he does it to make sure you're paying attention.
    Last edited by KatG; January 4th, 2014 at 02:11 AM.

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    Registered User Werthead's Avatar
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    'Imperiosity' is old-skool, falling out of regular use apparently in the 17th Century. 'Imperious' or 'Imperiousness' are probably more common to use, but the word itself is perfectly correct. As Kat points out above, a kestrel is a type of bird, and 'dun' and 'ochre' are colours and 'dapple' is a pattern.

    Mieville certainly uses uncommon words, but rarely really bizarre ones (unlike Stephen Donaldson, who clearly does write his books with a thesaurus immediately to hand). One person I knew put down PSS because they objected to his use of 'chitinous', despite it again being a perfectly fine word. I remain fairly baffled by that.

    As for his books, Perdido Street Station is great on atmosphere and character, but the plot is wafer-thin. The Scar may be his masterpiece, brilliant characters, story and themes. Iron Council is good but a bit more unfocused. It also shows Mieville showing his political colours but, refreshingly, he acknowledges problems inherent even in his own preferred politics (Mieville is a socialist, but also fully aware of the problems of that viewpoint). He certainly isn't like Goodkind at all in how he depicts his beliefs: Goodkind shows that his beliefs are correct at all times because they are righteous, never justifies them and never complicates them.

    Un Lun Dun and Railsea, his supposedly YA novels, are very good. I say supposedly because he doesn't make concessions for the younger readers beyond the fact there's no sex or swearing. Otherwise his imagination has free reign. The City and the City is excellent, a very clever mix-up of the police procedural, SF and fantasy. Kraken is okay, but it's his most disposable novel to date. It's more of a romp with tips of the hat to Neil Gaiman. Enjoyable, but not as weighty as anything else he's done. Embassytown is pretty good, his first venture into out-and-out SF with a lot of musings on language. Looking for Jake, his short story collection, is very strong as well (and even ticks off a plot thread left dangling from PSS). I haven't read his first novel, King Rat, yet.

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    Would be writer? Sure. Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead View Post
    'Imperiosity' is old-skool, falling out of regular use apparently in the 17th Century. 'Imperious' or 'Imperiousness' are probably more common to use, but the word itself is perfectly correct.

    ...He certainly isn't like Goodkind at all in how he depicts his beliefs: Goodkind shows that his beliefs are correct at all times because they are righteous, never justifies them and never complicates them...
    1. Imperiosity: That's a pretty cool word. I like it. I'm going to have to use it somewhere.

    2. I haven't read enough of Mieville to see how well we relays an opposing political viewpoint, but if he does it well, then hats off to him since too often it's done poorly.

  11. #11
    Yes, I am reading Perdido Street.
    As far as Imperiosity, I just kind of assumed from the word Imperial and the context as to what it meant. Not really a big deal. And the color explanations are also not that big of a deal. Because honestly, if I get them wrong and make up my own version, it doesn't effect anything. I've heard it said many times don't get too hung up on not understanding how to pronounce names or interpret descriptions because it's your story. Sometimes a description does have an effect on the plot, but not usually. Anyway, I just find it a bit annoying. And if what Wert says is true, I may take The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant off my to-read list(granted it's low priority anyways). I'd rather not stumble through sentences guessing at meaning constantly. The intelligent writing that Erikson and Bakker create I love. All the philosophy and theory. Sometimes overdone, but still good. But this literary wordsmith writing I could go with out.

    I don't know if it was wrong or not, but I went in with the same feeling I had going into GGK's books. I felt like this was a highly regarded literary author and I wanted to like him. And I ended up not liking GGK. Hoping China throws me a bone here!

  12. #12
    I've not read the Iron Council yet but i did enjoy Perdido and The Scar very much. I know what you mean though, they both took a long time to pick up. After about the midway point I found them hard to put down and well worth pushing past the early sections.

  13. #13
    The only book of Mieville's I've read is PSS, and I agree that his language takes some getting used to. Some paragraphs I would re-read several times and finally just give up on, other times I'd find myself entranced by his descriptions of New Crobuzon. All in all, it's not effortless reading, but I found it worthwhile. However, I was... disappointed... by the ending of the PSS, and I have not picked up another one of his books.

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    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Werthead
    I say supposedly because he doesn't make concessions for the younger readers beyond the fact there's no sex or swearing. Otherwise his imagination has free reign.
    You know who else doesn't make concessions for younger readers in YA? All the other YA authors. In fact, it's pretty much the number one thing every author who does YA has as a mantra. Mieville's two titles are YA, they are sold in YA as well as with his other titles, he calls them YA. I'm not inclined to declare YA a ghetto and start having non-YA YA, just like people try to argue that there is non-fantasy fantasy and non-science fiction science fiction because they desperately don't want those terms for something they think is cool or weighty or complex. He wrote two books for teenagers. Embrace it!

    Chris -- I never found Donaldson's vocabulary any problem at all. His style is pretty much straightforward American author style, with the multi-dimensional secondary world framework characteristic of the 1970's and 1980's, and you'll have no trouble with it. As for Perdido, bone is coming, but whether you'll like it is anyone's guess, since you didn't like Martin's zombies and dragons. Perdido, the brushstrokes aren't as broad -- again, it's a Victorian style thriller with monsters. There's a lot of underlying symbolism -- immigration, alienation, identity, science, propaganda, etc., but you don't really have to concentrate on it. There are long action sequences coming up.

    Think your standard monster/detective movie. At first, everyone is going along their normal lives -- that's what you're in now. Some kind of strange events occur, new encounters, whispers, but people shrug off anything that disturbs them because surely they are mistaken, there's nothing to worry about. And then....bye bye your normal world, get out the red corn syrup.

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    That's why I like e-books!!!

    I actually enjoy it when an author stretches my vocabulary. I always have. Now it is even easier with e-books. I see a word I don't immediately recognize and I click on it. The embedded dictionary gives me what I need to know.... simple. A few of the words (not all) mentioned in this thread kind of shocked me though.... It just seems that a few of those words have almost always been used in fantasy.... the "dappled mare" or the "great dun stallion" or "roan" for that matter.... the D&D fans have probably heard of a monster called an Ochre Jelly........ heck erikson must have used ochre to describe color almost as many times as he used the word amphora instead of vase.... I think there were even ochre colored amphorae in his books....... I find werthead's friend putting down the book because of the word chitinous truly bizarre..... Almost every battle scene involving some kind of giant insect I can recall in both SCIFI and Fantasy has used the word chitinous to describe the outer shell/armor of the creature at some point.......anyway... I appreciate authors that help me to continue increasing my vocabulary.... and with my kindle for PC program it is a snap.

    Cheers

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