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25 December 2009

#2 Perdido Street Station, China Miéville

I highly enjoyed this book. I first heard of China Miéville a couple years ago when I acquired an early reader edition of Un Lun Dun, a teen fantasy novel. I've since read two others of his books, first The City & The City then The Scar. Both were quite good, though I think I enjoyed this one the most.
A brief summary: Isaac, a freelance scientist in the city-state of New Crobuzon inadvertently looses a host of unthinkable soul- and mind-eating creatures on the populace while investigating the problem of individually powered unnatural flight. Overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds and an antagonizing government, Isaac manages to defeat the creatures through science, imagination, and a little help from the unique populace of New Crobuzon.
I think I most enjoy the originality of Miéville's universe. It is richly imagined and well described. Some writers would get caught up in the describing, and while there are times when Miéville starts down that path, he quickly brings the story back to the plot at hand. His books include a good balance of stock and developing characters, with large supporting casts assisting the evolution of the leads. Miéville also does a good job of balancing suspense through the story. I found it slightly obnoxious about three quarters of the way through this particular novel when Isaac finally realized the solution it is hidden from us by direct denial. Isaac explains the plan to his crew, but the reader is not privy to this information until it is put into effect.
Miéville's writing is hefty; one's vocabulary will likely be expanded in reading his novels. The books tend toward verbosity, but avoid being ponderous. Syntax is clearly very important to and carefully considered by the author. The plot of PSS is not exactly original, but the world in which it is set makes up for that. Reading the book, I felt something of role-playing games leaching through the storytelling (the dynamic characters are too heroic for real life, the stock characters too flat). However, this isn't any more than one would expect out of a novel from the fantasy genre.
China Miéville is a brilliant author, and Perdito Street Station is a shining example of his work. Pick this book up, and escape normalcy into the well-wrought depths of a different world.

24 December 2009

Genesis. or, Inspiration Found and Challege Posed

The question is found in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. Will 10,000 hours of preparation set one up for success?
I was set on course to be a musician, a violinist. Started young, given encouragement, quality instruction, and opportunity. For a few years on my own, I put in a couple hours of rehearsal a few days a week. World-class performers put in a lot, a LOT more hours than that, and Gladwell cites a study claiming that those performers who reach 10,000 hours of rehearsal by age 20 are much better set to succeed.
Hmm, I spent easily that amount of time reading. Trouble is, 10,000 hours of practicing the violin sets one up to be a superstar. 10,000 hours of reading sets one up to have read a lot of books. Ah well, still an accomplishment, right? We'll see.