Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Mole-y Friday Random Ten

Finished reading Railsea tonight.  It's the second China Mieville book I've read.  It's got a fascinating premise, in which railrad tracks are treated as an umpredictable part of nature, like the sea.  For reasons that are sort of clever, the word "and" has entirely been supplanted by the ampersand ("&").  Somhow Mieville resists the temptation for cute puns like "s&wich".

Couple more things to say (it's Saturday afternoon now) about the book.  First, Mieville's left wing politics are fairly well known.  A lot of authors - some would say all of them - mix their political viewpoints into their work.  There are wide variations of skill in doing this.  Mieville is working at a pretty high level.  The book's concluding chapters, which reveal why his world is the way it is, do contain a sharp critique of rentier capitalism.  It's not a reductive political book, though.

Also, Mieville references and has fun with a number of well-known maritime novels, including the work of Herman Melville, who it's easy to think Mieville is related to if you read both names in a hurry.  Melville's Moby Dick has become recognized as a classic, but it was a commercial catastrophe when first published.  MD was a very strange book, for our time or its own.  So I'm happy to see that some authors like Mieville have been able to make their weirdness work for them in a career sense.

1. Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band - Beautiful Zelda
2. Laurie Anderson - Sweaters
3. Arcade Fire - It's Never Over (Oh Eurydice)
4. The Fiery Furnaces - Keep Me in the Dark
5. Reading Rainbow - Wasting Time
6. Beck - Turn Away
7. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross - Summertime
8. Elvis Costello & the Attractions - New Lace Sleeves
9. Jimmy Smith - Memories of You
10. Dirty Projectors - Useful Chamber


susan said...

I'm pleased to see you enjoyed the book. I don't know which other of his you've read, but our other favorite was The City and The City whose premise is that two entirely different cultures inhabit the same basic landscape while ignoring one another. It's definitely another order of socio-political commentary.

More recently I read his trilogy that began with Perdido Street Station. The city of New Crobazon by far the star of that first book. The story was compelling enough even as the characters were largely non sympathetic. Of the three my favorite was the second - The Scar. That's probably because I'm most drawn to character based fiction and the main ones in the story were very well drawn. Iron Council I didn't like much at all as I thought the book meandered and then fizzled.

Embassytown is a story about technologically superior humans who almost cause the extinction of a less advanced race by talking to them. As a book about language and meaning it was acceptably interesting, but overall the tone seemed to be that of fatalistic despair.

Now it's likely I've opinionated enough about the ones I've read other than Railsea. It's also interesting to consider it was written for young adults, most of whom are unlikely to have heard of Melville. I hope some of them will be encouraged to read Moby Dick, a book that had much to say about the consequences of obsession. Most likely most probably won't, though. It's probably the quintessence of tl;dr. Of course, Railsea is very much its own story and a delightful one too.

Nice FR10. I love Beautiful Zelda.

Ben said...

The City and the City was the novel of his I had read before. It impressed me a great deal so I did promise myself that I'd read more of him. It can take me awhile to get back to authors, though, the one downside of cultivationg a delibertely eclectic roster. I also read all the issues I could find of H.E.R.O., his series for DC Comics, which was a pretty interesting venure into that form. Embassytown sounds intriguing too.

Yeah, Railsea was marketed as a YA novel, and it stands up as that. It strikes me that a good author with sufficient faith in both himself/herself and the reader can write for young people without writing down to them. Neil Gaiman is also a good example. Others are not so great at it, and I won't name them right now.

Beautiful Zelda is a great song. I love that Viv Stanshall does all those corny rock n roll baritone schticks in it.