Wading Through Perdido Street Station

I started reading China Mieville’s novel Perdido Street Station this month, and I’ve found it tough going. The writing is dense and disgusting, purposefully so. The world he’s created is a sort of steampunk Victorian dystopia. Part Diamond Age, part coroner’s textbook. He does a thorough job of painting a clear picture, but it’s a jarringly unwelcoming one.

I feel like I’m wading through words, each more off-putting than the last. I’m finding him a challenging writer to read, and that’s not a strike against him. But I keep longing for a break in the filth and grime, hoping that he’ll take me somewhere clean and green for even a single chapter. I was not aware there were so many ways to describe viscera, disfigurement, discomfort and pain.

I’m going to stick with Perdido Street Station, but I have a feeling it will take me a while to finish. So far, I’ve only been able to chip away at it in brief bursts. Traveling mentally to the oppressive city of New Crobuzon while riding a packed commuter train (my usual reading time) somehow magnifies the feeling of horrible squalor Mieville’s novel oozes.

Maybe I’m just not in the mood for morbidity.