Posted tagged ‘China Mieville’

Review: the City & the City

June 17, 2009

The City & the City is without a doubt the coolest book that will be published this year.  China Mieville has crafted an incredible police procedural unlike any other.

What sets it apart is his choice of setting.  Mieville is far and away the best world builder writing today, just look at his creations for Perdido Street Station and the Scar.  I sort of suspect his writing method is to dream up a setting and then work out a story that will properly take advantage of it.  

This time he’s made up the neighboring, Balkan nations of Beszel and Ul Qoma.  The two countries share a unique border (that sadly I can’t talk about for fear of spoilers) and a rivalry going back centuries.  Mieville then uses the murder investigation at the center of this book to explore these two locales in an amazingly info-dump free way.  

The end result is quite possibly Mieville’s best novel so far.  I’m a huge fan of all his books, but in the past he has had a tendancy to let his big ideas drown out his stories a bit.  That doesn’t happen here, in large part due to the structure imposed by telling a detective story this time out.

I could go on using glowing adjectives to recommend this book, but I think I’ll just leave it with READ THIS BOOK!

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RA: Politics for Geeks

September 13, 2008

I’ve been aching to put together some recomendation lists for awhile now, and as it’s an election year I figured this would be a good one to start of with.  So my top 10 political stories for geeks:

10) Iron Council, the most political novel from New Weird proponent and former Socialist party candidate China Mieville.

9) Sam & Max: Abe Lincoln Must Die, Telltale games has done an amazing job by bring back Sam & Max to adventure games.  This episode is the highlight of it to date, thanks in large part to seeing the homicidal rabbit-like Max debate the Lincoln Memorial.  Right now it’s also available as a free trial to advertise the other 9 episodes.

8 ) Howard the Duck, the best satire of life in the 70’s comics ever produced.  Of particular note here are issues 7-9 in which Howard is nominated as the Presidential candidate for the All Night Party, only to lose when some lurid photographs of him get released.

7) V for Vendetta, forget Watchmen, V is Alan Moore’s masterpiece.  A searing blast of anarchy aimed squarely at Margaret Thatcher that didn’t lose any of it’s power when translated into a movie focused on Bush’s America instead.  Both the movie and the original are well worth checking out.

6) DMZ, Brian Wood’s chronicle of the second U.S. civil war (centered in New York City) is Vertigo’s best book (once 100 Bullets ends in a few months) and is by far the most relevant comic currently on the stands.

5) Futurama: A Head In the Polls, always a show with a slight politicla bent to it (Al Gore’s daughter was one of the writers after all), Futurama went all it for this episode in which the Planet Express team explore a political convention, watch the debates between Jack Johnson and John Jackson, and ultimately allow for the second coming of Richard Nixon.  One of my favorite episodes if only for the Hypnotoad.

4) Wag the Dog, Barry Levinson and David Mamet’s brilliant tale of a staged war used to distract the public from a scandal involving the incumbant President.  Some great performances from Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and William H. Macy help to sell my favorite political film.

3) The Onion, still the best source for print satire of current events.

2) Battlestar Galactica, a continually surprising, Peabody Award winning space opera, that has proven to be the most relevant show on tv.  The writers excel at playing devil’s advicates.  Positing a world in which the heroes have no choice but to rig elections, commit terrorist bombings, hold secret military tribunals and criminalize abortions (they have gone on the record as actually being fairly liberal).  Now if it’ll just come back to wrap up the final season.

1) Transmetropolitan, the book that first put Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson on the map.  An epic chronicling how the press brings about the rise and fall of a President.  Besides the politics it is also one of the great works of futurism and a scathing attack on the failures of the press.  I’ve reread the entire thing at least half a dozen times now and I fully plan on doing so again in the near future.

Are Genres Past their Prime?

May 19, 2008

This is something I’ve been pondering a lot lately.  Actually for most of my life based on my own reading habits, which tend to defy easy classification (China Mieville, Joe R. Lansdale, Chuck Palahniuk, etc…).  Mieville is a particularly good example, in that he pretty much represents the New Weird movement.  The New Weird is one of three fairly recent movements within the f&sf community that seek to combine the tropes of multiple genres for various effects (the others being Slipstream and Interstitial).   Mieville’s stories (particularly his Bas Lag novels) have an incredible willingness to incorporate any and all literary devices as long as they can effectively tell the story.

This sort of genre merging isn’t anything terribly new, Star Trek was pitched as being about “a wagon train to the stars”, but it is gaining a new sort of prominence with every new vampire/romance series to hit the shelves.  With that in mind, I’m really wondering if it’s still useful to break out genre books into special collections.  At my library we catalog s.f., mystery, romance, and westerns separately, and any time we receive something that crosses a boundary we either place it wherever the previous book by that author went, or just give up and toss it in general fiction.

Obviously I hate this approach, but I’ve been unable to come up with something that will both appease our patrons who seek out those collections and my own sense of accuracy.  So if anyone out there on the interwebs has any suggestions please let me know, because frankly I’m at a bit of a loss.