To paraphrase Pratchett, "There's a saying that all roads lead to Ankh-Morpork New Crobuzon. And it's wrong. All roads lead away from Ankh-Morpork New Crobuzon, but sometimes people walk along them the wrong way."(A stunning image of New Crobuzon from http://www.curufea.com)A word of warning: if you read only for the story and plot, this book is not for you. Yes, there is an interesting storyline with mystery and danger and love and betrayal - but it is neither the strength nor the focus of Perdido Street Station. What the book is really about is the city of New Crobuzon itself, and Mieville's amazing boundless imagination knows no limits when it comes to creating a living breathing creature of this surreal, phantasmagorical place. "I turn away from him and step into the vastness of New Crobuzon, this towering edifice of architecture and history, this complexitude of money and slum, this profane steam-powered god." New Crobuzon is "the sunless city of mundane betrayal and danger", a sprawling metropolis in the Industrial Revolution era-like setting. It is the melting pot of Mieville's world, with many races happily living grudgingly coexisting within it. Ruthless militia patrols the streets while crime bosses prosper and the courts sentence the criminals to the horrendous Remaking. The macabre city is diseased, gangrenous, festering, filthy, covered in grime and stench, with all the vices of a huge metropolis - violence, crime, drugs, corruption, poverty, and politics. Dominated by the eponymous bulk of Perdido Street Station, with the enormous ribcage of a long-dead ancient giant jutting out in the middle of it, built on the banks of rivers from which you'd better not take a drink, it appears to be made of the stuff of nightmares. That is, until the events set in motion by the unwitting characters of this story unleash the true sickeningly-awful meaning of nightmares onto "this old city that snores and farts and rumbles and scratches and swells and grows warty and pugnacious with age." The ultimate existential horror - the loss of the integrity of one's mind, the fear of helplessness. "The nightmares were splitting the membrane of sleep. They were spilling into the everyday, haunting the sunlit realm, drying conversations in the throat and stealing friends away." Mieville takes the strange and innately repulsive concepts and unflinchingly uses them to carve out the setting and the characters of his story. His amazing imagination and brilliant descriptive skills make this loud, boisterous, filthy, and terrifying place so incredibly vivid that it seemed to me that I actually spent some time there, lived and breathed it, actually felt it - which, in turn, makes me want (a) an immediate shower, (b) a full-body CT scan, and (c) immediate treatments for parasites and contagious diseases that any visitor to it would undoubtedly get. *******************************************I was warned about the linguistic complexity of this story. It is true - Mieville's prose can be dense and complicated and at times deliciously pompously pretentious, studded with adverbs and adjectives. Usually I would contemptuously and exasperatedly shrug my shoulders and walk away from that. However, Mieville does something amazing with his fascinating language and melodic flow of narration (especially Yagharek's interludes), making me love it in a perversely masochistic way while reaching for the dictionary. What did you expect - after all, in this book, there is a mention of Palgolak, god of knowledge. With a library. (How cool is that???) China Mieville, making sophisticated words cool since 1972. I bet he was born clutching a dictionary. (Dear Mr. Mieville, thank you for 'prestigitation', 'salubrious', 'avaricious', 'penury', 'susurrus', and of course, 'palimpsest'. These words will forever stay with me. Bring on the SATs!)******************************** As for the characters... Well, they are definitely flawed, careless, and not too likeable (yes, Isaac, I'm looking at you!), and therefore feel quite real despite their intended alienness. Lin, oh Lin, you poor thing... Construct Council - I wonder if we shall meet again, you terrifying artificial machine-god intelligence. But the tormented and mysterious choice-stealing Yagharek was my favorite throughout - and my heart was aching for him in the last few pages - the unexpected but in retrospect inevitable way to end this amazing gut-punches-delivering book.==========================================EDIT AFTER THE REREAD - WITH SPOILERS (November 2012):The more I think about it, the more I find Yagharek to be the heart of this book. The earthbound garuda, punished for a crime that for different reasons is despicable both for his tribe and for us, readers - and Isaac, too. Yagharek, who in his desperate quest to fly again (and ashamed of himself for even trying) makes a journey not just from Cymek to New Crobuzon but also a mental one, from a quiet subdued creature obsessed only with its own plight to a fighter, a hero, a friend - and, ultimately, someone new. No, Yagharek does not get what he wants. Instead, he gains something else - something new, something more (or so I would like to think). The choice-thief is forced - by the choices of others, no less - to let go of his half-existence, of clutching to what he used to be, of seeing himself as a failed half-creature. The choice-stealer is forced to make a choice; and the one he makes, unexpected and difficult, is what makes me hopeful, makes me think that he has made his journey of bravery and friendship and selflessness not in vain. It makes me feel more respect for this Disrespected and Abstract Individual. Because he made himself whole - maybe not in the way we were hoping for - but whole nevertheless."I will not do this any more. I will not be this cripple, this earth-bound bird, any longer. This half-life ends now, with my hope."And speaking now from the experience of having read more Miéville now, I think of a brief instance of meeting Yagharek in one of the sequels, and feeling real surge of pride at his future action - and I realize that this former half-creature, the redeemed criminal, the earthbound garuda - whatever Yagharek is or was, he has made a secure place in my heart, and he is the glimpse of hope, perseverance, and the crazy stubborn vitality, tenacity and resilience that despite all odds permeates the filth of New Crobuzon. Yagharek's story is the heart of this otherwise brutal book."I am not the earthbound garuda any more. That one is dead. This is a new life. I am not a half-thing, a failed neither-nor."-------------------------------------------------------------------------4.5 solid stars. Why not 5 stars then, since I am clearly in love with this book? Because I am awful, that's why. I hate insects, and all the insect-filled storyline made me feel like bugs were crawling under my skin. Brrrrrr.... Which, I suspect, may have been the intended effect. Also, intentionally or not, it feels that a few storylines were dealt with too quickly and incompletely. But overall, a great book that I loved very much and highly recommend. "I turn and walk into my home, the city, a man."============By the way, my review of the second Bas-Lag book, "The Scar", is over this way.And my review of "Iron Council", the third book set in Bas-Lag universe, is over here.