Judging from other reviews, this is one of those marmite books, that you'll either love, or hate. Luckily for me I'm in the 'LOVED IT' group.
New Crobuzon is an immense city which is both filthily squallid and amazingly vibrant. Filled with a fantastic plethora of people and cultures. Artists and Scientist, Thieves and politicians (often the same thing), rich and poor, bug-people, cactus-plant-people, bird-people, generic humans, steampunk cyborgs (called re-made) and countless other wierd and awful things.
Issac Dan der Grimmnebulin is a sort of free-lance Scientist, who picks up an intriguing new client. A Garuda (bird-person) called Yagharek, who commissions Isaac to give him back the power of flight. Isaac throws himself into the scientific task, spurred on by three things; A love of impossible problems, the fascinating mysterious character of Yagharek himself, and a ton of money. (Yeh that would probably get me too).
Whilst investigating many different scientific options, Isaac comes into possession of a strange rainbow coloured caterpillar that refuses to eat anything but a psychotropic drug called 'dream-shit'. And with these two set-ups for the main plot line.. how could things ever NOT become interesting?
Big thanks to Nancy for recommending this book to me; I got completely hooked into this book. It took me a week to get through - it's fairly massive, and a bit tough to get into a first - but well worth the effort involved.
All the characters were brilliant and detailed, but my absolute favourite was Yagharek, the wingless Garuda. he's such a mystery in the beginning. And I found myself rushing through inbetween sections (as interesting as they were), hurrying to his next appearance and then reading voraciously for any hint and suggestion as to his background. Why and how did he lose his wings? What crime would be so great as to fit that punishment? Why do I have a crush on a fictional bird-person? These things kept me up at night until I closed the last page of the book.
I can't say the book didn't have it's flaws. The one thing that did bother me, was the the concept of the bug-people. (The other races I could actually accept). But the bug people.. the problem for me was that in this race, the females have a human female body, but their head is a bug. And the males are just a bug (no human parts). I find it impossible to imagine a species that could evolve this way, and I kept waiting for this to link in to some wierd science experiment in the manner of the re-made, which I thought would fit so well into the universe that it HAD to be the explanation. But either I missed it, or rendered it illegible whilst drooling on the pages reading about Yagharek, or it just wasn't there. A great pity.
A few words of warning for those who have not yet read this masterpiece;
The imagery is so vivid and the setting so much a contrast of filth and colour that you may feel the need to wear gloves while reading, or store it in the fridge.
There is a distinct lack of happy endings, please have a pack of kleenex to hand whilst reading.
If a book is akin to a desert, I would term this a chocolate fudge sundae with sour skittles on top. NOM NOM! Enjoy :)