This is pure indulgent dark sci-fi, very well executed. The world of New Crobuzon that Mieville creates is a rich, layered, vibrant mix of species underlain by a deep, seedy underbelly of corruption and vice, encompassing all the species that live in it. As an ‘imagined world’, this works very well. Mieville is skilled in his imagery and writes with an immediacy that breathes life into weird and wonderful species and the dismal, dark world they live in. This is a dirty, crowded, polluted world – industrial and grimy. The people that live in it – mutants, humans, other species, machines – are coloured by that grime. Parliament and the militia rule with heavy hands.
It is against this backdrop that the story unfolds. Characters such as Isaac and Lin, the unlikely couple; Yagharek, the intriguing stranger with unusual demands; the viscious criminal Mr Motley and many others live their lives. This is a moment of change for them all as an evil and dark group of creatures is accidentally released – freed to prey on a helpless city. These events bring the people together as they try and fight this unstoppable enemy. I won’t go into any more plot details as I don’t want to enter ‘spoiler’ territory. It is enough to say that there is little uplifting about this book and even the ending does little to salve the horror that has gone before.
I enjoyed this book and despite its length (867 pages), it read well and fast. Nonetheless, for me it was slightly too long. I’m not averse to long novels but I felt that the length of this one was unnecessary. A sharper and more streamlined novel would have had more effect as there were passages and threads that appeared redundant. I would, however, most certainly recommend it.