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In this stunning new novel set mainly in the decadent and magical city of New Crobuzon, British author Miéville (The Scar) charts the course of a proletarian revolution like no other. The capitalists of New Crobuzon are pushing hard. More and more people are being arrested on petty charges and "Remade" into monstrous slaves, some half animal, others half machine. Uniformed militia are patrolling the streets and watching the city from their dirigibles. They turn a blind eye when racists stage pogroms in neighborhoods inhabited by non-humans. An overseas war is going badly, and horrific, seemingly meaningless terrorist acts occur with increasing frequency. Radical groups are springing up across the city. The spark that will ignite the revolution, however, is the Perpetual Train. Workers building the first transcontinental railroad, badly mistreated by their overseers, have literally stolen a train, laying track into the wild back-country west of the great city, tearing up track behind them, fighting off the militia sent to arrest them, even daring to enter the catotopic zone, that transdimensional continental scar where anything is possible. Full of warped and memorable characters, this violent and intensely political novel smoothly combines elements of fantasy, science fiction, horror, even the western. Miéville represents much of what is new and good in contemporary dark fantasy, and his work is must reading for devotees of that genre. FYI: Miéville has won Arthur C. Clarke, British Science Fiction and British Fantasy awards.
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In the forest Rudewood, Cutter waits for the few who will join him in finding the somaturge, or creator of golems, Judah, and then warning the Iron Council that the militia of the powerful, totalitarian city of New Crobuzon are closing in to destroy it. Meanwhile, in the malign megalopolis, young Ori, seeking to contact a daring urban freedom fighter and strike real blows against New Crobuzon's rulers, gets acquainted with an apparently mad old man said to have been a comrade of legendary outlaw-rebel Jack Half-a-Prayer. Mieville returns to the sublimely weird world of his award-winning Perdido Street Station (2000) and The Scar (2002) in a shorter but still sprawling saga that is being boosted as his breakthrough to the kind of popularity fellow English fantasists Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman enjoy. The new book's parts alternate between Cutter's and Ori's adventures, which eventually intersect, and a long flashback tells the backstory of Judah and the Iron Council. Cutter's story unfolds like a blending of western movies and King Kong, and Ori's echoes the urban grunge fantasy of Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels. Freighting his prose with arcane botanical and engineering terms as well as neologisms, Mieville writes the intertwined tales in different styles--relatively spare and dry for Cutter's, lush and saturated for Ori's. His verbal and imaginative largesse may throw some readers while utterly engrossing others. No doubt about it, he's an original. Ray Olson
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