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
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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.
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