Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.
Though I freely admit to not wasting time on either of those...so perhaps it's unfair. Won't stop me from making the characterization, though.
And after looking them up, I am so wrong I am boggled. Both over 500 pages. How did they feel so short? Perhaps it was how short I thought the story and characters deserved? My bad.
However long they are, though, they aren't super difficult to read. Just super annoying.
Jamie - your skill with titles leaves me in awe. However, it seems that Mieville is more likely to write "Something Completely Different But Actually Very Similar" or "Something Nostalgic That Hates What It Imitates." At least, that's what reviews tell me.
I probably slightly preferred the world-building to the plot and characters, or at any rate I'd be more likely to read Some other people do stuff in that city than
The further adventures of those same characters in various different places. But I'd be still more likely to read Another Miéville book with a new and equally / more interesting setting and also a plot and characters that are generally said to be rather good.
Regrettable he doesn't seem to have written books under any of those titles.
I came to Mieville with my expectations lowered by Ferretbrain and absolutely loved him.
I think this is the case with a good many of us; I like a few authors that have been utterly dumped on in Ferretbrain articles, while I have a sort of seething resentment towards Michael Moorcock, who is held in pretty high regard here (ditto Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber, unfortunately, and probably worst of all...Jeff Vandermeer).
However, as for Mieville, I've voiced my opinions often enough, I think. He's at once an interesting author and a highly irritating one. I actually got angry at The Scar because it felt like the book would just never end. And Perdido Street Station...was a 200-some page pulp novel that somehow mutated into the montrosity that it is. I also don't appreciate adjective-loading as a cheap way of being "arty", which early Mieville did. A lot.
Essentially, if I see a book of his at the library I read it, but I would never buy one. And even this isn't quite true, because I borrowed The City & the City and didn't get more than a few pages in.
HOWEVER, he is an author who causes strong reactions, which is far better than a mediocre author who only musters a "meh". I mean, the mere mention of his name seems to have set you all off. If I mentioned, say, Lin Carter, the only reaction would've been some pointing and laughing.
I just can't hold "having more ideas than he has plot for" against a writer.
I can. Maybe I'm a horrible, soulless person, or perhaps I just hung out with the wrong kind of RPG nerd but I'm extraordinarily uninterested in ideas, because ideas are easy.
The thing about tiny dancing copper coin golems or people with armour made of scabs is that there is nothing else to add. Once you've written the five or six words it takes to convey the idea to a third party, you have nothing else to say.
Mieville, to me, is at his best when he's just throwing crazy-cool ideas at the page (People with armor made from scabs! The Malarial Queendom! Nomad bird people with libraries strapped to their backs! Rocks that evaporate and condense together randomly! A magic order that works by sacrificing your own memories to feel your spells! Tiny dancing copper coin golems!) and not really caring too much about the plot.
Proposal for the ideal China Mieville publication format: a box of index cards, each card containing Mieville's writeup of a single idea from whichever fictional universe, world, or London he is playing with right now. Story and worldbuilding are for the reader to infer as they shuffle the cards.
Like with Yagharek; within a few pages his victim just suddenly shows up out of nowhere, reveals to Isaac what happened, and then Isaac makes his decision after an incredibly short period of time after immediately believing her (I mean, dismissing a rape claim is a shitty thing to do, but can you honestly tell me the average person would unquestioningly believe the word of a total stranger that their friend has done something totally awful without even hearing what the friend has to say?). It turns what should've been an interesting moral question into something of a throwaway. I mean, what would you do if you found out one of your friends had once raped someone and been punished for it, assuming of course they felt genuine remorse and weren't about to go do it again? Can punishment and repentence ever truly absolve someone of that magnitude of guilt, or do all rapists deserve to be ostracized for the rest of their lives? Maybe they do, but it's a complex issue about the nature of crime and punishment that deserves real thought and could honestly have taken up the bulk of the book. But no, Isaac's just like 'later dude' and that's it.
I appreciate that Mieville can think up cool stuff, but it seems like he's just totally unable to leave any of it out. If he thought of something cool, he's damn well going to shoehorn it in there somehow. Like the scene where the mayor asks the demon for help, only for him to refuse; we didn't know about demons in Bas-Lag beforehand, and they're never mentioned again. It's utterly pointless, other than to be 'cool' (which it admittedly is) and to further imply that the Weaver is a really dangerous last resort. But they imply that anyway by being really scared of him and by trying other stuff first and then ACTUALLY SAYING he's a really dangerous last resort. OK, enough complaining about Mieville for now, I promise.