My first Miéville! And it only took me nine months to read. Okay- that’s an exaggeration (it was put on hold for many of those months), but it sure wasn’t easy. Miéville sort of feels like a modern Lewis Carroll to me. He’s much smarter than I am, so I can’t say with any certainty that he invented a lot of these words, but I’m reasonably sure he invented a lot of these words, and the words he didn’t invent aren’t easy by any means. Then there’s the London lingo my kindle refuses to define for me.. but I digress.
The very simplistic plot summary: the world’s first discovered, and preserved, Architeuthis specimen is stolen from the Darwin Center where Billy Harrow works. A special police unit is brought in to investigate, and Billy’s life becomes irrevocably weird.
The first 20% of the novel is pretty straightforward and relatively easy to follow. Then Billy gets nabbed by a guy who eats people and introduced to a talking back tattoo and the difficulty increases pretty sharply from there. Sounds weird? Those things are probably the most normal to be found. We are introduced to a whole London Underground of all things cultish, magical and arcane. I have to say- even if I didn’t love this, it was easy to appreciate Mieville’s brilliance. It’s not easy to create something that feels totally unique, but he definitely succeeds.
I think what held this back from being a 4/5 Star read for me was the characters. Billy didn’t feel like he came into his own until late in the book. The characters I adored had frustratingly few POV chapters. Kathy Collingswood was pure gold, and it felt like she got shuffled off into a corner to play the waiting game. It seemed like she was only there to deliver funny punchlines and infuse some humor into the book. Meanwhile we are given way too many chapters with a character that I felt was totally unnecessary and I never ultimately cared about, not even in the end.
The conclusion was fantastic and though it was hinted at, I didn’t actually guess the ending, which is always a plus. I will definitely give Miéville another try, but I think my brain needs a break for a bit!