If you are the kind of person who enjoys books that begin with a map of an imaginary place (which, on occasion, I am), then you are likely to find this a highly impressive achievement. It’s a science fiction/fantasy/horror hybrid, set in the sprawling city of New Crobuzon – think Ankh-Morpork* spliced with the Alien movies. Miéville’s loving, hustle-bustle descriptions of the city read like the psychogeographies of Iain Sinclair (“a subversive topography” etc) and are almost as well-written and entertaining.
The story is less gripping, at times coming across like a retelling of a session in a role-playing game, complete with pedantic detail, incredible coincidences and characters switching from genius to imbecilic as dictated by plot requirements. The ending is a real downer, too.
Most of the fun is in the incidentals. I particularly enjoyed a digression concerning “His Infernal Excellency, the Ambassador of Hell.”
An exceptional example of, ahem, “speculative fiction”.
*If you don’t know where Ankh-Morpork is, then you are unlikely to enjoy this kind of book. Trust me.