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"There really is no way to adequately explain either the setting or the plot of Perdido Street Station without making it sound like a bad acid trip [...] Mieville however not only manages to make the entirely unique world and seemingly nonsensical plot hang together incredibly well, but also tell it with a beauty, a dark, poignant sense of humour  and a descriptive atmospheric style that is nothing short of brilliant."
—Fantasy Book Review

See also: Perdido Street Station (location)

Perdido Street Station is the first novel set in Bas-Lag, China Miéville's created world. It is Miéville's second novel, and was first published in 2001 by Macmillan.

Epigraph[]

"I even gave up, for a while, stopping by the window of the room to look out at the lights and deep, illuminated streets. That’s a form of dying, that losing contact with the city like that."
—Philip K. Dick, We Can Build You

Plot summary[]

The story takes place within the city of New Crobuzon; the entire novel is set here. Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is the novel's protagonist; a scientist who conducts experiments and independent research within his laboratory in Brock Marsh. Isaac's partner Lin is a khepri and a famous "gland artist" within the city. Later, Isaac meets a garuda named Yagharek who was exiled from his homeland after raping a fellow member of his species. The punishment for his crime led to his wings being severed during a public execution; he travels to New Crobuzon in the hope of regaining his ability to fly by acquiring new wings. Isaac makes a promise to Yagharek that he'll restore his wings and the garuda offers a decent sum of money to the scientist after he begins his research. During this time, Lin was offered the opportunity to create a sculpture of a criminal kingpin known as Motley; she dedicates her days to the artwork which remains in the attic of one of Motley's operating buildings. Motley makes a significant amount of money from trading hallucinogenic drugs; the substance is the extracted and processed milk from Slake Moths known as Dreamshit. In order to complete his contract for Yagharek, Isaac enlists the help of a criminal named Lemuel who finds a variety of winged creatures who the scientist aims to study and gain knowledge on the physiology of flight.

Having received all manner of flying creatures arrive at his laboratory, Isaac discovers one of them to be a colorful caterpillar with no interest in eating conventional food. He decides to feed it a hallucinogenic drug known as Dreamshit which causes the worm to excessively grow and out-size its cage. The caterpillar pupates into an adult Slake Moth, wrecking Isaac's laboratory and eating the mind of his roommate before fleeing to free its fellows being held captive by Motley. Motley discovers this and assumes that Isaac is a potential rival drug-trader. As a result, he holds Lin ransom within his attic, threatening to kill her if Isaac refuses to return the moth. Lemuel reminds Isaac that Motley has no incentive to keep Lin alive, so returning the worm will be ultimately pointless. With the assistance from his friend Derkhan, Isaac finds out that Motley had purchased the moths from the government of New Crobuzon; the state attempts to quell the various rebellions within the city and recapture the escaped Slake Moths who're incredibly dangerous to the population. The creatures are able to essentially harvest people's consciousness and kill them; this occurs on several occasions which rouses the city into action against the slake-moths.

New Crobuzon's government use the help of a spider called the "Weaver" in their goal of recapturing the moths. Unfortunately, the spider refuses to co-operate and collaborates with Isaac and his team instead. Realising the potential of one of his creations known as the "Crisis Engine", Isaac meets the Construct Council in one of the cities rubbish dumps. These near-sentient robots are able to harness the engine's power by transferring its energy into another human. After finding the location of the slake-moths nest, which lies in the home of the cactacae called the "glasshouse", they kill a single moth and destroy their eggs. The moths finally converge on Perdido Street Station and the battle unfolds between Isaac's team and the monsters. By utilising the crisis engine, they manage to kill all but one moth, who eventually returns to its original home in Motley's attic, exactly where Lin is being held. During their confrontation, the moth harvests half of Lin's consciousness, essentially lobotomising her and significantly diminishing her cognitive capacity. The group manage to elude Motley, and the final moth flies from the attic into the night sky whilst Isaac, Lin, Derkhan and Yagharek seek refuge in a building within the centre of New Crobuzon.

Yagharek informs Isaac about his crime and the reason why he was forced to leave his homeland; Isaac is disturbed by this new information and doesn't complete his contract with the garuda after learning about why he lost his wings. Eventually, the garuda who was Yagharek's rape victim reaches the house where they're staying and insists that Isaac not restore the garuda's wings. The scientist agrees which reinforces his decision, and soon decides to leave New Crobuzon with Lin and Derkhan, and they walk out into the night. Yagharek writes a note about his feelings surrounding his crime and chooses to remain in New Crobuzon and forge a new life for himself in an attempt to erase his previous mistakes. His victim returns to the Cymek desert, as she wasn't searching for retribution but simply closure regarding Yagharek's crime.

Plot[]

Prologue[]

An anonymous figure stands on a barge as it makes its way into the city through Raven's Gate. New Crobuzon is strange to the figure — they are overwhelmed by the architecture and the buildings, the likes of which they have never seen before, and they struggle to calm themselves in this unfamiliar territory. Thought they wish they could fly above the city, they force themselves not to think in that way. As the barge pulls into Smog Bend, they pay the ferryman in precious stones and depart to follow the trainlines. They wrap their heavy cloak around themselves and walk onward.

Part One: Commissions[]

Chapter One[]

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a rogue scientist and former professor at the New Crobuzon University, wakes from a dream in his apartment. Next to him is his lover, the khepri Lin. After a little while, the two sit down to have breakfast. Lin has bought pork from a butcher at the local market, who has added a playful note about Lin having a guest for breakfast. The note prompts Isaac to express his concern about the secrecy of their relationship, made more difficult by their very different social circles: Lin is an artist, and while her circle of artist friends in Salacus Fields know of and accept their relationship, Isaac treads in more conservative grounds - he is worried that if word of their relationship reached his former university colleagues and his former boss, Montague Vermishank, it could cost him his access to university tools.

The two have a lovers' quarrel over the unequal stress of secrecy, but it is brief and they soon make up. Lin tells Isaac that she is going to Kinken to buy some colourberries for her work, and then to an exhibit in Howl Barrow; she will be working late, so she and Isaac make plans to have dinner at The Clock and Cockerel that Shunday. As Lin is about to leave, Isaac gently pulls her with him onto the bed.

Chapter Two[]

It is 11 o'clock when Lin finally leaves her apartment in Aspic Hole - she and Isaac leave separately to avoid attracting notice. Lin walks through Aspic Hole toward Sobek Croix, taking in the activities around her - children collecting engine parts, gentlemen and ladies strolling by with a slight air of disapproval, the flat-roofed buildings with planks and gangways connecting the tops of their roofs. When she reaches Sobek Croix, she hails a ptera-bird cab. She has lied to Isaac - while she does need to purchase colourberries, she will not be attending Cornfed Daihat's exhibit. Instead, she takes the cab past the militia tower in Flyside, through the traditional khepri ghetto of Kinken, and into West Gidd, where she pays the driver with a generous tip and leaves, not wanting to be traced. She hurries to her secret appointment near the Ribs in Bonetown.

Chapter Three[]

Isaac takes a train and gets off at the Scientific Quarter in Brock Marsh. From the station, he walks through the Quarter, passing by shops, pubs, and the area's small, stubby militia tower. Badgers scamper around by his feet, delivering messages and carrying goods for their owners. Isaac passes all this by and makes his way to The Dying Child, a small run-down pub that he frequents. He walks by several regulars, whom he knows, and grabs a drink with the pub's owner, a vodyanoi named Silchristchek. The two talk for a little while, and Isaac watches the little animated water figurines that the vodyanoi has made with watercraefting. Sil, as Isaac calls him, eventually hands Isaac what he came for: another, more enduringly-made water figurine.

Figurine in hand, Isaac quickly makes his way back to his rented laboratory and living space where his friends David Serachin and Lublamai Dadscatt, also rogue scientists, are conducting their own work. After quick greetings, Isaac climbs the stairs to his study and begins to examine the figurine - studying voydanoi watercraeft is Isaac's latest interest, and he immerses himself deeply into his research. After a while, Isaac breaks for lunch. He realizes that David and Lublamai have left the apartment for lunch and that it has been several hours since he arrived. As Isaac grabs some food from a pantry, he hears the door below him open and close. Isaac walks to the top of the stairs and realizes that, rather than his colleagues returning from lunch, a stranger has entered. A garuda, specifically. Isaac has never seen its like before, and realizes that it must have come from the Cymek Desert. After a little bit, Isaac overcomes his awe and simply asks: "Can I help you?".

Part Two: Physiognomies of Flight[]

Part Three: Metamorphoses[]

Part Four: A Plague of Nightmares[]

Part Five: Councils[]

Part Six: The Glasshouse[]

Part Seven: Crisis[]

Part Eight: Judgement[]

Characters[]

Main Characters[]

Minor Characters[]

  • Andrej Shelbornek - A terminally ill man used by Isaac and his group as bait.
  • Teafortwo - A wyrman who runs small favours for Isaac and his laboratory.
  • David Serachin - A "rogue-scientist" who shares a lab with Isaac.
  • Lublamai Dadscatt - A "rogue-scientist" who shares a lab with Isaac.
  • Lemuel Pigeon - Isaac's contact with New Crobuzon's criminal underworld.
  • Vermishank - A well-respected scientist and thaumatuge. He is also Head of Studies at New Crobuzon University.
  • Cornfed Daihat - An artist friend of Lin's.
  • Construct Council - A self-aware gestalt consciousness composed of numerous constructs.
  • The Weaver - A multi-dimensional being in the form of a giant spider.
  • Silchristchek - The vodyanoi owner of The Dying Child pub.
  • Montjohn Rescue - An ambassador of the handlingers and Rudgutter's second-in-command.
  • Pengefinchess - A vodyanoi adventurer and part of a mercenary group hired by Isaac and Lemuel.
  • Tansell - An adventurer in the same group alongside Pengfinchess and Shadrach.
  • Shadrach - An adventurer in Tansell and Pengfinchess' group.

Awards[]

Nominated
2002 - Nebula Award for Best Novel
2002 - Hugo Award for Best Novel
Won
2001 - Arthur C. Clarke Award
2001 - British Fantasy Society's August Derleth Award
2001 - Amazon.com Editor's Choice Award in Fantasy
2002 - Premio Ignotus Award for Best Foreign Novel (for the Spanish translation)
2002 - Kurd Lasswitz Award for Best Foreign Novel (for the German translation)

Translations[]

  • Germany: Die Falter and Der Weber
  • Portuguese: "Estação Perdido"

See Also[]

External Links[]


China Miéville's novels and other works
The Bas-Lag Cycle

Perdido Street Station · The Scar · Iron council · "Jack"

Other novels

The City & the City · Embassytown · King Rat · Kraken · Railsea · Un Lun Dun

Novellas

The Last Days of New Paris · This Census-Taker · The Tain

Short story collections

The Apology Chapbook · Looking for Jake · Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories

Nonfiction

October: The Story of the Russian Revolution


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