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China Mieville

China Mieville(1972- )
China Miéville earned a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics. His speculative fiction has won numerous awards including the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. Miéville says that three of his major influencers were Michael Moorcock, Mervyn Peake, and Gene Wolfe. He lives in London.


King Rat: China Mieville’s first novel

King Rat by China Mieville

An urban fantasy set in London, China Miéville’s debut novel King Rat tells the story of Saul Garamond, the Prince of Rats. Unfortunately for London’s rats, the Pied Piper of Hamelin has recently come to town.

Saul returns home from a camping trip to find his stepfather murdered. Before he knows what’s happening, Saul meets the King of Rats and is inducted into the seedy underbelly of London — an underbelly fit for a king of rats. Under King Rat’s care, Saul learns to eat garbage and climb walls. He discovers his “rat strength.”

Unfortunately, Saul’s new powers come with a few responsibilities.

It turns out that the Piper is hunting King Rat. The Piper controls the minds of his victims using his flute. When the Piper joins forces with drum & bass DJ Natasha, he finds a way to control not only an... Read More

Perdido Street Station: Outstanding urban fantasy

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station is the first of three novels set in the Miéville’s Bas-Lag universe. First released in 2000, Perdido Street Station and its sequels have made China Miéville one of the most acclaimed fantasy writers of the 21st century. Perdido Street Station is an outstanding urban fantasy full of unconventional plot twists and the most unlikely of heroes.

Yagharek is a “Garuda,” or a humanoid bird. However, for crimes he committed among his people, Yagharek’s wings have been removed and he has been exiled from his home. When we meet him, Yagharek has made his way to New Crobuzon, the greatest city in the world, where he hopes to find someone who can help him fly again. He finds Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a scientist who works on the fringes of New Crobuzon’... Read More

The Scar: Required fantasy reading of the 21st century

The Scar by China Miéville

The Scar is the second of China Miéville’s critically acclaimed Bas-Lag novels, which are sometimes called “the anti trilogy” because the books follow different characters and conflicts. Ostensibly, each of the three novels bears some relationship to New Crobuzon, the greatest city in Bas-Lag. Miéville catapulted to fame amongst fantasy readers with his first Bas-Lag book, Perdido Street Station and has done something even more amazing in its sequel, The Scar.

Miéville’s first surprise is taking the reader out of New Crobuzon, the fascinating city of Perdido Street Station. His second surprise comes in his creation of Bellis Coldwine, an emotiona... Read More

Iron Council: A step down from earlier books but still quite strong

Iron Council by China Mieville

Iron Council is Miéville's third book set in his created world. While not really a trilogy as is normally thought of, since each book can stand independent of the others, it's probably best to have at least read Perdido Street Station since that book gives the most full description of the world's background — its various races, politics, technologies, magics, economics, etc. In this book, the city of Perdido Street Station is at war both with a vague outside enemy known as the Tesh and with itself, as it is being torn apart by economic, political, and racial tensions. The impending civil war was foreshadowed years ago when the oppressed workers of the transcontinental railroad mutinied against their corporate overseers and fled to start their own free state. That semi-mythical state has served as a symbol of hope to those back in the city and now a small group ... Read More

Looking for Jake: Experimental story collection by Miéville

Looking for Jake by China Miéville

Looking for Jake is a collection of short stories by China Miéville, who has emerged as one of the most highly acclaimed fantasy authors of the 21st century. In Looking for Jake, Miéville freely explores whatever ideas take his fancy, without the burden of smoothing everything into a sensible narrative.

Not surprisingly, many of the stories in Looking for Jake therefore have a sort of experimental flavor. For example, “Reports of Certain Events in London” is an account of sentient streets that phase in and out of existence. In it, narrator China Miéville attempts to learn about the conflicts and character of these streets. As a writer, how would you approach such an idea to fit it into a conventional short story? Perhaps “not easily” would be Miéville’s answer. Although “Reports” is u... Read More

Un Lun Dun: YA urban fantasy from one our best writers

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

China Miéville has become known for his genre-defying work, but to some extent many of his novels embrace a specific genre. As much as Iron Council is a western and The City & The City is a police procedural, Un Lun Dun is a young adult urban fantasy. Of course, with Miéville, these sorts of distinctions are usually just amusing starting points before readers revel in genre twists and unusual monsters.

Zanna is not a monster. In fact, Zanna was just another schoolgirl in London until she discovered Un Lun Dun — London’s fantasy mirror world. Sadly, things aren’t going very well in Un Lun Dun: horrifying Smog threatens to destroy the entire city. Fortunately, it turns out that Zanna isn’t just a schoolgirl after all. She’s the “Shwazzy,” or chosen one. When she first battles the Smog, she ... Read More

The City & The City: Utter genius

The City & The City by China Miéville

It’s impossible to discuss China Miéville’s The City & The City without discussing its premise. I don’t consider this much of a spoiler, as the reader is pretty fully confronted with the premise about 20-30 pages in, but it is led into with hints here and there so before hitting the premise, I’ll offer a very short summation and recommendation in the next two paragraphs, followed by the full discussion which includes the premise.

Despite the title’s promise of more urban New Weird fantasy along the lines of Perdido Street Station, anyone coming to The City & The City expecting more Bas-Lag fantastical settings and inhabitants, or the wild abundance of imagination that was the city in Un-Lun-Dun will find all that stripped away. The same for those looking for Miéville... Read More

The City & The City: Dumbing down & Fridging hamper this adaptation

The City & The City (TV Adaptation)

The City & The City is one of my favorite China Miéville books. I love the conceit of the nested cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, and I love the voice of our narrator, the smart, world-weary and not-always-so-honest Tyador Borlu.

Amazon Prime offers a four-part adaptation of the book. All four episodes are directed by Tom Shankland, with Tony Grisoni, who was also credited as a writer, as one of the producers. China Miéville shared a writing credit. The series first aired on BBC2 in 2018.

The show stars David M... Read More

Kraken: Fun and exhilarating

Kraken by China Mieville

China Mieville’s Kraken is a rollicking head-spinning comic novel set in an alternate London where gods and cults and magic are so interwoven into the daily fabric that there is an entire squad in the London police to deal with those elements, and it is that squad which is called in to investigate when the eponymous Kraken is stolen from the Natural History Museum.

They’re not alone in their desire to find out what happened to the giant squid, however, which also happens to be considered a god by many. Its disappearance has its most direct impact on the employee who preserved it — Billy Harrow — who finds himself thrown into the London underworld and caught in a crossfire of warring goals, including those of the Kraken cult, the aforementioned special police squad, an underworld boss known as The Tattoo, and an ancient Egyptian spirit and labor leader in the midst of organ... Read More

Embassytown: Yes, linguistics.

Embassytown by China Miéville

, China Miéville’s latest, is a sharply honed science fiction tale of linguistics. Yes, linguistics. And skeptical as one may be, it more than works. Despite its science fiction trappings, I would place Embassytown very close to The City & The City rather than Perdido Street Station and its sequels or Kraken in terms of style. I say that because while the strange alien race, futuristic bioengineering, etc. add a genre patina, the novel really is driven by a pretty narrowly focused philosophical premise regarding language, much as The City & The City was driven by the singular concept at its core.

The eponymous Embassytown is on a rarely visited backwater planet called Areika at the edge of the “immer,” th... Read More

Railsea: A great wild and raucous romp

Railsea  by China Miéville

You just know there are lots of reasons people might give a pass to China Miéville’s newest novel, Railsea. Some will see the YA or sci-fi/fantasy labels hanging on it and dismiss it out of hand. Others will hear it features a captain obsessed with hunting a giant white moldywarpe that cost her an arm and think “I hate parody/allusion” or “I really hated Moby Dick” or “Boy, I hate books with words like ‘moldywarpe” (or all three). Some will sigh mightily at the references to “symbol,” “philosophies,” environmental deprivation, and the woes of capitalism. Finally, some will note the direct address to the readers and discussion of the novel’s own narrative choices, and shrug “Metafiction. Meh.” To which I say they get what they deserve — missing out on a great wild and raucous romp of a novel filled to the brim with al... Read More

Three Moments of an Explosion: Not all winners, but more than enough to enjoy

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville

I am, like many, a huge Miéville fan (I’ve lost track of how many of his books I’ve placed on my best-of-year lists). I’m also more of a fan of the long-form rather than the short form, especially in the genre, greatly preferring novels and novellas to short stories. So how, I wondered, would I respond to Three Moments of an Explosion? Would Miéville’s style and deep ideas win out, or would the short story form constrain him, robbing him of some of his tools? It turned out to be a bit of both, and though I was admittedly somewhat disappointed in the collection as a whole, I’d still call it well worth reading. I’m going to give my impression of some selected stories, then discuss the work in its entirety.

“Polynia” — Icebergs over London. The story, told from a young teen’s POV, is well told with some lovely imagery of the floating ic... Read More

This Census Taker: A weird novella

This Census Taker by China Miéville

This Census Taker is a short novel by China Miéville. It’s almost a novella. The story could be psychological horror, but it’s stranger than that. I just finished rereading some Gene Wolfe, so I may be forgiven for interpreting This Census Taker as “China Miéville does Gene Wolfe.” Even the front flap describes the book as a “poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.” Buckle up, people, and keep your head and arms inside the vehicle at all times. This is Miéville exploring Wolfe country, and you never know what might bite.

The book opens with a little boy fleeing down a mountain to the village below. From the opening pages, the tone of the narrative is (inten... Read More

The Last Days of New Paris: Surrealism comes for us all

The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

Putting it simply, China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris (2016) is a “China Miéville” story. For many readers, that’s sufficient information to begin reading.

But here are some additional details, just in case. The Last Days of New Paris is a novella length alternate history in which the Nazis and the resistance fight to control Paris. Something weird is going on in this timeline: surreal creatures called “manifs” wander the streets of Paris after an S-Blast took the surreal creatures out of the artworks and into the world. The “manifs” don’t like Nazis, and so the latter counter the former by making a deal with demons from Hell. Read More

The New Weird: As terrifying as Kafka on LSD

The New Weird by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

It’s easy to imagine two different readers reacting in opposite ways to The New Weird. One might find it delightfully odd; the other might find it as terrifying as Kafka on LSD. And a third might find it delightfully odd because it’s as terrifying as Kafka on LSD. Certainly, no one is likely to find it boring.

The New Weird is a well-organized anthology, with a short, useful introduction; a section entitled “Stimuli,” containing older selections (though not very old; the oldest piece, by Michael Moorcock, has an original copyright date of 1979, while the Thomas Ligotti selection was published only in 1997); “Evidence,” stories published mostly in this mill... Read More

Sympathy for the Devil: A collection of bedtime stories

Sympathy for the Devil edited by Tim Pratt

Please allow me to introduce Sympathy for the Devil, a fine new anthology filled entirely with short stories about the devil... who is, as we all know, a man of style and taste. However, you won’t just find the smooth-talking stealer of souls here. In addition to that famous version of His Grand Infernal Majesty, you’ll also find funny devils, monstrous devils, abstract devils and strangely realistic ones. Devils scary and not-so-scary, devils who are after children’s souls and others going after old men. Devils with a surprising amount of business acumen, and devils who try to get what they want, no matter the cost. There’s even one who engages in a competitive eating contest — the prize is, of course, someone’s soul.

Sympathy for the Devil, edited by Tim Pratt, offers up 35 very diverse short stories (and o... Read More

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:

A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern readers but whose weird fiction caused them to be ma... Read More

International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts 2012, Part One

The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts is an unusual conference. It is largely academic in nature, with scholarly papers offered on the literature, language, and theories of the fantastic (science fiction, fantasy, horror) in all media (television, movies, books, poetry, paintings, games, and just about anything else you can thing of). The papers have titles like “Dialectical Progression in Roman Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy” and “The Inflicted ‘Self’ in Robin McKinley’s Deerskin: Implanted Memories, Fragmented Bodies, and Re-envisioned Identities,” which might make you think that you wandered into a meeting of the Modern Language Association.

But ICFA is different from purely academic conferences in several ways.  Most importantly, this conference is populated by authors as well as academics. While it honors a scholar each year, it also h... Read More