The city state of New Crobuzon is a heaving cesspool of different species, beliefs, magic and science, but it is about to become home to a creature that even the melting pot of cactus men and insect women can’t tolerate.
The story is simple. Through a series of unfortunate events, a deadly dream eating creature called a Slake Moth escapes into the city and causes chaos. The people responsible endeavor to hunt it down.
If you think that’s a slim premise to justify an almost 1000 page book, you would be right. However, Perdido Street Station isn’t a plot centered novel. It isn’t even character focused, although the multiple characters who move through the pages are drawn in exquisite detail. It is an experience. Once you tease apart the dense writing, you become a witness to the lives of the denizens of New Crobuzon. The extent of the world building is breath taking, as if the author didn’t imagine it but actually visited this world in his dreams. The complexities of the various nationalities, each with their distinct culture and attributes, makes the mind boggle that one person could hold all this detail in his head.
Two creations stood out to me in particular. The Slake Moths and The Weaver, an immense spider like being who walks through dimensions and weaves the web of reality. Both are so imaginative, so spectacular, that it is no surprise they have captured the imagination of all those who have read this book.
That is not to say that the other creatures that inhabit this world are any less interesting. I have a particular fondness for the bird like Garuda, but there is something mythic about the Weaver and the Slake Moths that transcends this narrative, as if they were plucked directly from the collective subconscious.
However, despite the imagination that left me both in awe and envious, and the realism of the city that existed in all its bizarre nature as totally grounded and realistic, there was no sense of urgency that made me want to hurry to the end. I found myself putting down the book to read other, shorter works and then picking it up again to dip my toes back in and see how the characters were faring, a bit like watching a beloved soap opera that you can miss episodes of and still catch up with from time to time and be completely enamored with again.
I look forward to reading the rest of the Bas-Lag trilogy, with hopes for the return of the Weaver.
I award Perdido Street Station…
Perdido Street Station is available for $10.02 ebook and $15.49 print book on Amazon.