“Perdido Street Station”: Book Review

Perdido Street Station - Cover
Perdido Street Station – Cover

“Perdido Street Station” easily takes me to both a familiar and an utterly strange world from the first page. It first remind me to a street in Agrabah from Aladdin, and then to a steampunk-ized version of our world where mechanical things with gears, pistons, steams, on an uneven arrangements roaming clumsily, noisily, mechanically. Going deeper into this world, however, we see a scarred world, wondrous, fantastical, but also made of stuffs from nightmares. Terrifying, almost repulsive at times. A fantasy genre unlike most of its brethren.

This is the first time I read China Miéville and I was led to believe that “Perdido Street Station” is going to be a hard science-fiction because I had intended to read a hard science-fiction when I finally pick “Perdido” from my long queue of “to-read” section from my library.

And so I was a bit surprised after flipping the first few pages and found out that “Perdido” is not strictly belongs to science-fiction genre, but rather to fantasy genre. And not the High-kind fantasy I used to read too.

But my surprise turns into pleasant as I quickly found my way into the world of “Perdido Street Station,” getting acquainted with its many inhabitants although they were not always pleasant or easy to read (and imagine) to.

It takes a little while for the story to get its engine going. Most of early chapters were devoted to characters as they were introduced, and the many threads that eventually led to the story’s fight against its main antagonist in a series of epic action set-pieces.

The story is also not particularly kind to its designated protagonists as well. I personally feel that this kind of direction is a rather refreshing although obviously won’t bode well to readers who seek a “feel-good” story.

In fear of spoiling the story more than it already has, let’s just say that there are a lot of ways the story could have ended that would leave its readers in a pleasant smile, rather than perhaps, a bit too real, and a bit too depressing direction that Miéville chose.

With so many fantasy books being adapted to a movie or a tv series, as I read this book, I kept thinking about the feasibility of this book turned into a moving picture. It has many great ingredients. A lot of visually enchanting characters, there are magic involved, also machines, epic battles with guns and beasts and multi-dimension movements (think of X-Men’s Nightcrawler), a sprawling city, a mysterious desert, a haunted forest, even a bit disgusting Red district. Although, well, it is a bit depressing and a bit hard to enjoy. But hey, Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire) works.

All in all, great intro to Miéville although I’m going to venture to a lighter literature first before heading back to Miéville’s Bas-Lag. But I’m definitely going to be back.

Rating: ★★★ – Great read. A bit hard to swallow at first, and its ending is perhaps a bit too depressing for some.

“Ready Player One”: Book Review

Ready Player One - Cover“Ready Player One” on the outset, is a yet another young adult genre. Its main protagonist claimed herself (or himself, in this case) to be no more than just an ordinary teenager. But as the story progresses, this “ordinary” teenager would becomes a reluctant hero that saves the world against the Power that Be.

What makes “Ready Player One” a notch more enjoyable for me, compared to other young adult genre, is that Video Games took a big big role in the book. There was a prevalent virtual world in the book’s universe quite similar to “Second Life.” That is if “Second Life” is at least as massive and significantly more prevalent as Facebook nowadays (does “Second Life” is still live?).

It also borrows heavily on MMORPG concept which strikes a familiar tune to yours truly here. To an uninitiated, in an MMORPG world, you run around in a virtual world, doing quests, solving puzzles, killing monsters, and getting rewards in doing so.

In “Ready Player One,” the virtual world has evolved to become its own “real world.” It has real economy, real (and clear) social status within, real job, real school system, and for a lot of people, just like our hero, a real life. Because for them, the real real life is too depressing.

Anyways, it so happens that the virtual world creator (or founder, which better fits the theme of the book) has left a series of cryptic clues that will led the solver to a hidden “treasure” inside this virtual world. This “treasure” would allow anyone who found and possess it with what many would’ve guessed as near as unlimited power as you could get within the virtual world.

And because the virtual world in this book is essentially the “real world” with real economy and real currency the “treasure” is priceless. It was worth killing for so to speak. And the hunt becomes a world-wide obsession with some groups forming some kind of an evil alliance that will do everything, extortion, mass murder, everything to reach the “treasure” ahead of everyone else.

Naturally, our hero solves the first clue first and because the high-score system visible to anyone inside the virtual world, it puts a big target on his back. The hunt now revolves around him.

The clues are another reason I fell prey to this book as they includes a number of obscure references that I’m actually familiar with. Rush (that progressive old-school band hailing from Canada) is a prime example of it. I would not say that nobody ever heard of Rush but I could imagine that the intersection between those who are familiar with Rush and also read this book to be quite small.

But at the end of the day, the book is still a young adult book. A fast read, but not very rewarding because you felt that you had read something similar before. I’m still looking forward for the film’s adaptation though, and with Steven Spielberg on helm, it should be interesting.