Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Monday, March 13, 2006

mieville, ed wood, some crappy russian horror movie

movies first.

Sarah, Robert, and I went to see um Night Watch, a russian horror flick about ancient armies of good and evil coming to a final sort of apocalyptic battle. What can be said. Well, it was in russian. There was gut-churning Shaky-Cam (tm). Um. Can't really say much for the story. Actually all three of us decided to just leave about half-way thru. There's not much here, folks. Go see Final Destination 3 instead.

Michelle and I saw the apparently newly released colorized version of Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space last night, in the truly amazing Castro Theater. Um. What's to be said. It was Plan 9 From Outer Space. But in color. We slept thru about a quarter of it, but would have slept thru a lot less had it not been like 37 degreed in the amazing Castro Theater.

Moving along to books,
i confess that i didn't in fact rush out and get that 9/11 book;
instead i slunk along Mykle and Kai's bookshelves and read not one but two books by China Mieville. I get a strange feeling when i embark on a Mieville book because he was born in 1972, just like me. So at the same time as i'm reading, anticipating writing underwhelming reviews of say King Rat, i also have to bear in mind that he wrote it when both he and i were 25. Which, jeeze. Nice job, basically.


King Rat,
probably my favorite Mieville book to date, which probably shows some perversity on my part. i mean, in the introduction he makes call-outs to the folks who introduced him to jungle and break beat music, and you just get this sinking-gut feeling that not only is there going to be lots of slop about jungle music, but jungle music is going to be found to be transcendantly important. and lo, in the end, it is indeed the drum and it is the bass which save the day.

and yet this is my favorite Mieville novel to date.

i think the reason is that while his later works are more virtuoso performances or whatever, he exercises exactly zero self-restraint in them. it's a world without bounds. there are no bounds. from a physics point of view, you could say that Perdido Street and Iron Council do not conserve energy. As sytems. Which is certainly a less limiting way to structure things, but even tho there's fewer (no) restrictions on possibility, that doesn't make it more fertile or rich, and certainly makes it less fun to engage with. It's like playing games with a precocious five-year old. It's loads of fun, and their leaps of fancy are refreshing and amazing and stuff, but after a while you begin to yearn for some semblance of the contractual nature of more adult games. Perdido Street and Iron Council enter into very, very few contracts with the reader. The result, for me, is more or less the same as an author writing "And suddenly there's a tidal wave, and everything is swept out to sea." Or in Mieville's case: "And suddenly there's a Time Golem*, and everything is frozen for ever". - The density of unprecendented events within the book's universe is just too much. I can only get excited about one or two events which Change The Nature of The World As We Know It Forever per novel, and China puts in like three per chapter.

* You know, a Time Golem. Jewish golems are made of clay, but golems made of iron, wood, rope, or meat are not unheard of. And in Iron Council, you'll meet golems made of [insert list of increasingly immaterial and abstract things here], culminating with a time golem. Well, jeeze, why not a Will Golem ? Or a Victory Golem ? Or a Golem Golem ?

So except for King Rat. King Rat has exactly two events which Change The Nature of The World As We Know It Forever, and one of them happens a long long time ago in the body of the Pied Piper of Hammelin legend.
Which leaves one in the present story.
Which, believe it or not China, sometimes less really is more.

Okay, so King Rat is premised on the idea that the Pied Piper legend actually happened, and further that the Pied Piper was a sort of megalomaniacal eternal corporeal spirit who desires nothing less than to "Make the entire world dance to [his] tune". And further posits that there are matching eternal corporeal spirits who are kings of various kinds of beasts, the chief of which are Birds, Spiders, and the chief-most of which is Rats. There is no King Human. So it comes to a showdown in modern London between the Kings of Rat, Bird and Spider and the Pied Piper. It's actually pretty good, and not nearly as ruffle-cuffed as i've made out. There's some violence and gore. And, unfortunately, a literally fanatical loving of Drum-and-Bass music.

Iron Council takes place in the same universe as Perdido Street Station, about sixty years later. It's basically a tyranny-rebellion story, where the lords of the land have been conquesting a railroad out into the wilderness, with which to bring commerce/dominion, except that a revolt takes place at the head of the in-construction track, and in this universe is unprecendented because it actually succeeds, and the various misfits in the rebellion take over the train and drive it into the wild. - How do you drive a train into the wild ? You lay more track in front of it, of course. Where do you get the new rails ? You dig 'em up from behind you. - Which is sort of neat, this sort of ephemeral railroad track. We're talking about a couple thousand people. That's really the only interesting stuff. The rest is, as mentioned, a succession of increasingly abstract golems, battles, horrors, and, um, particle effects.

I feel i should also add that Mieville has much more three-dimensional female characters than most male authors, and his portrayals of sexuality are also a lot more mature than same.

I have three (3!) more books to report on, which i'll do in the next post.


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