Since I loved Neal Stephenson’s books about old technology, someone suggested the steampunk genre and handed me this book. It takes place in a alternative future dystopia where we have very capable machines and technologies, but no computers. Things run on steam and cities are dank dangerous and dripping with ooze and slime that Mieville describes in great detail. There are a variety of human and non-human occupants of the fetid city who live in close quarters sometimes well adn sometimes poorly. This story is about a scientist, his non-human girlfriend and an escaped pack of monsters that threatens the city. There is also an exile from a band of birdmen type creatures who is hoping to regain flight.
The book is great, creepy, interesting and long. While I enjoyed reading about every sodden sidewalk, tilting building and rotting river, it got tiresome as I became more and more curious how the plot details were going to work out. Mievielle includes a map at the beginning which implied to me that the book would have something to do with the geography of place, but really it’s about decay in its many forms and the actions of semblances of governments, relationships and nature under the heavy weight of neglect and distinterest. This book was so singularly itself, that I think I am still going to have to look for more examples of the steampunk genre to see if it’s one that I enjoy or not.