please comment!

As a solitary housecat, I am new to reading and trying to understand human literature. These are my immediate thoughts as I read the books on my humans' shelves. I hope you will share your own thoughts on reading, literature, science fiction, art, etc.

Please do be respectful of others.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A house cat's review of Perdido Street Station

The many story threads of Perdido are warped through the weft of betrayal. 

We are introduced to a rough, urban city-state in which the political system is mainly known to the citizens through the secretive power of the militia and the sick, disfiguring surgeries called Remaking that are doled out with astounding creativity as punishments to criminals. Different species that are somewhat “humanoid” all discriminate against each other. Life is rough in New Crobuzon, but work in the city draws people of all types.

Against this dark background, we meet Isaac Dan der Gimnebulin, a freelance scientist, with a particular interest in the theory of physics and everything. As his relationship with Lin, a Xenian, deepens, his failure to publicly acknowledge their romance is sad but understandable.

Or perhaps it’s just hidden in plain sight. There is so much treachery in New Crobuzon – someone is secretly slipped a powerful hallucinogen; a renowned scientist and academic fails to disclose his involvement in the Remaking of criminals; a clerk steals a caterpillar from government scientists and sells it in the underground; people are expelled from their species-specific communities for lack of space; and roommates make secret reports to the government. Against all this, Isaac’s inner debate about his inter-species romance seems mundane.

Like most people, Isaac is complex – mostly wanting to help people, but also self-absorbed. He agrees to help a garuda, Yagarek, who is disfigured in punishment for his crime of “choice theft” – his wings have been sawed off and he can no longer fly. He seeks the renegade scientist, Gimnebulin, to return him to the sky.

As the plot thickens, Isaac realizes his actions have endangered the city: the caterpillar stolen by the government clerk was sold to him. It grows to a humanoid moth and escapes, releasing its siblings as well. Together the slake moths terrorize the city of New Crobuzon. Isaac seeks to make amends, by hunting them.

In so doing, he encounters the Construct Council – a hive mind of mechanical intelligence. The Council uses Isaac as bait to draw down and kill the moth Isaac had raised. 

When Isaac understands that the Council is a powerful ally, he enters a bargain to share knowledge and work together, but he does not keep his end of the deal with the machine conscience. Instead he holds back key parts of his crisis engine. He justifies betraying the Council by reasoning that it has no feelings and no morals; it’s just seeking knowledge and power. 

Through the fight to rid the city of the slake moths, there is death, near-death, and ruined lives, but in the end, the most disturbing tragedy is Isaac’s betrayal of Yagarek.

Feminists, especially, could argue that Isaac is “doing the right thing” – what would you do if you found out that someone you had recently befriended is undeniably a rapist? 

However, Isaac’s decision is still a betrayal of a friend and, make no mistake, this time it is a decision to betray.

The situation portrayed by Mieville raises serious questions: if a criminal endures a cruel and unusual punishment, does he not deserve pity? If you are interacting with a known criminal, are you no longer obligated to act with honor?


I apologize that it took me so long to make this post. This was a difficult book for me to process on many levels, and I have left much out.

I am glad that the author tackled the difficult issues inherent in the mingling of many intelligent species. However, I noticed that cats were not included amongst the “people”.

How did you react to Perdido Street Station? Have you read other books by 

Mieville, and are they all this difficult? Leave a comment – I’m interested in your thoughts.


Title: Perdido Street Station
Author: China MiƩville
Publisher: The Random House Publishing Group
Imprint: Ballantine Del Rey
Edition: Mass Market Paper Back
Copywright: 2000 by China MiƩville

Monday, February 11, 2013

10 words I had to look up in Perdido Street Station

Greetings comrades in reading. I am exhausted by Perdido Street Station. I need more time to think about it before I can fully report. The full tragedy of it all has not yet sunk in. 

The book is long and I had to look up a lot of words. Here's a sampling of the vocabulary I had not heard before:
10. inveigles
09. scree
08. autopoiesis
07. inchoate
06. oleaginously
05. scintilla
04. zoetrope
03. pusillanimous
02. vertiginous
01. oneiric

Mieville used numbers 01 and 02 repeatedly throughout the book, so that gives you an idea of the novel's ambiance. I hope to post my report soon. 

In the meantime, I found this interesting:
AbeBooks Most Expensive Sale in January 2013 was a signed first edition copy of Dune for $15,000. Wow!