King Rat Paperback – Oct 6 2000
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Saul Garamond returns from a journey in late evening and sneaks into his bedroom to avoid a confrontation with his estranged father. He awakes to the intrusion of police and the news that his father has been murdered and he is the number-one suspect. Forgotten in a jail cell, he is freed by a peculiar, stinking, and impossibly strong stranger--only to find rescue may be worse than imprisonment. The plot moves through subterranean and rooftop London quick as a techno beat, as Saul discovers his curious heritage and finds himself marked for death in an age-old secret war among frightful inhuman powers.
China Miéville's urban fantasy novel, King Rat, is an impressive, even daring, debut. It is a Lost Prince story that avoids both black-and-white morality and the standard fantasy-novel adoration of royalty. Furthermore, it is inspired by the unlikeliest of sources, the Rat King legend and the Pied Piper of Hamelin fairy tale. Finally, King Rat, powered and propelled by the rhythms of jungle/drum-'n'-bass music, is a fantasy novel set in the 1990s that genuinely captures the 1990s. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In the past decade, contemporary renderings of traditional fairy tales have become a staple of fantasy fiction. This flashy riff on the Pied Piper theme marks a notable extension of the trend and an auspicious debut for its author. Saul Garamond is a restless young Londoner, aimlessly adrift, when he is wrongly imprisoned for the murder of his father. Saul is snatched from the authorities by a mysterious savior named King Rat, who claims to be both the deposed leader of the rodent army driven out of Hamelin 700 years before and Saul's real father. Raised as a human, Saul has much to unlearn before King can teach him to become a worthy opponent of the Rat Catcher, who framed Saul for murder and is still pursuing King. Meanwhile, the Rat Catcher forces his friendship on Saul's composer friend, Natasha, by posing as a flautist who hopes to work his melodies into her "drum 'n' bass" dance music and turn London's hip-hop underground into his unwitting stormtroopers. Though the plot is predictable and Saul's efforts to get in touch with his inner rat are clearly patterned on the Star Wars school of messiah-making, Mi?ville pulls the reader into the story through the kinetic energy of his prose. From the novel's opening image ("The trains that enter London arrive like ships sailing across the roofs"), the narrative crackles with a mesmerizing melange of impressionistic description and street slang that powerfully limns the squalid London cityscape. Paced at the rhythm of the Jungle music it evokes, this dark urban fantasy proves nearly as irresistible as the Pied Piper's tunes.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The human characters in the book are, without doubt, the weakest. Fabian and Natasha exist only to serve in the traditional Damsels-in-Distress role (an apt comparison, as the book is a much more traditional Good-versus-Evil tale than it likes to think it is). Inspector Crowley is even worse off: a cliched Cop-with-a-Hunch, Mieville makes some half-hearted attempts at sketching a personality for him before abandoning him altogether. Deborah, in her bizarrely brief appearance, serves no purpose whatsoever other than cheap shock value at her fate. Saul, perhaps, comes off the best of all the characters in the novel (yes, I place him squarely in the "human" camp, as he gives no evidence that his psychology is in any real way different from ours); we are at least privy to his true thoughts and emotions, which is more than can be said for anyone else in the book - particularly, sadly, the non-human characters (King Rat, Anansi, Loplop and the Piper), the book's most conceptually interesting people.Read more ›
It amazes me, after having read King Rat, that China Mieville didn't start getting widespread recognition until after his third novel, Perdido Street Station. King Rat heralded the coming of a great new writer, and most of the planet ignored it. Their loss.
Saul Garamond comes home one night after a camping trip and immediately goes to bed. He is awakened the next morning by the police, who suspect him of killing his father, who took a plunge out their sixth-story apartment window sometime during Saul's absence. He's held in prison overnight, but during his stay there, a fellow who calls himself King Rat slips into Saul's cell and breaks him out. For Saul is the key to the defeat of King Rat's oldest and most powerful enemy...
Set amid the Jungle craze that hit London in the mid-nineties, and spending a good deal of time in the sewers underneath London, King Rat achieves what Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere came so close to but missed by a hair-taking modern London and making it into a completely new place, filled with wonder and magic. Seeing it from a different point of view (but unlike Gaiman, Mieville gives us a point of view that actually exists inside the fantasy world-the point of view of the homeless). A number of previous reviewers have commented that it helps when reading the novel to know a good deal about Cockney rhyming slang and Jungle music. I know diddly about either, other than that they exist, and still found the novel easy enough to follow (while some of the slang terms I couldn't figure out for the life of me, the context of their use made the meanings obvious).
Like Perdido Street Station, King Rat shows Mieville as more than a capable writer, but one possessed of greatness.Read more ›
For this, his first work, he confines himself to the comparatively mundane setting of underground London, underground in both the physical and slang senses of the word, as we follow the story of Saul Garamond, heir apparent to the King Rat of Pied Piper fame. From the sewers to the rifling of garbage heaps for dinner, Mieville delights in offending your hygienic senses while enticing you with glimpses of a musical sub-culture that is just as strange to the average person as the rarified air of sub-atomic research. Bringing the characters of the ancient fairy tale to life is no small task, and Mieville succeeds admirably in the persons of King Rat and the Pied Piper himself. The Pied Piper comes across as a truly sadistic being, as shown by his actions, though at one point he specifically denies that characterization, while King Rat is easily identified with as the whining, downtrodden person who can never quite reach his goal of revenge. Their conflict is very real and very understandable, couched in a thousand years of remembrances of wrongs done, and is an effective mirror of all too many human interactions.
What is not so well crafted is the character of Saul. His reactions to the impossibility of the reality of King Rat, or to the murder of his father, come across as much too accepting, reactions that no normal person would have.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
First novel by inventive left-wing fantasy author China Mieville, in which young Saul Garamond comes to terms with his true identity as a half-rat superhero, after the murder of... Read morePublished on March 7 2006 by A. J. Cull
This is a very good and engaging reinscription of the Pied Piper children's story. Here the rats, more or less, are the heroes and the Piper is a beautiful but psychopathic... Read morePublished on May 20 2004
King Rat is inspired by Neil Gaiman's NeverWhere. But it is not a copy. Mieville has his own voice and vision. Read morePublished on May 2 2004 by isala
Texture, scent, colour. I've not read anything this, well, real in a long time. Even when it's not something you'd really want to smell or sense, Mieville lets you have it full... Read morePublished on April 6 2004 by J. A. Meadows
I've just discovered China Mieville and after reading so many rave reviews of The Scar and Perdido Street Station decided to go out and pick up those books. Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2003 by D. Berdanis
Sorry, folks, but this book does not hold up. It's starts off with a fast pace and characters and a story that just sucks you in. Read morePublished on July 11 2003 by Salvatore Cangemi
In "King Rat" China Mieville has created a Pied Piper tale for the 21st century. Using the duality of the ultra-chic yet hyper-primitive culture of the London club scene as his... Read morePublished on March 5 2003 by Amazon Customer
What would happen if you took the Pied Piper story, brought it to modern times and set in in the London Underground? Then you'd get the very Neil Gaiman-ish book that is King Rat. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2003 by Sebastien Pharand
When I got to the library, some other cove had checked out China Mieville's acclaimed second book "Perdido Street Station", but his first novel was still on the shelf, so I took it... Read morePublished on July 16 2002 by Royce E. Buehler