King Rat, by China Miéville (1998) E

Date read: 10.10.08
Read from: Personal collection
Reviewer: Emera

The day after stumbling drunk into his father’s flat, Saul Garamond wakes to find that he is the chief suspect in his father’s killing – which occurred as he slept one room over. Sprung from jail by a raggedly pompous, sinuously sinister figure who calls himself King Rat and claims that Saul’s mother was herself a rat, Saul uncovers the truth of his father’s death, and of his strange heritage in the sewers of London.

So this was an “eh” sort of read. Very Miéville (twisty, dark, and Urban with a capitual u, and an umlaut for good measure), and  good for a first novel, but still obviously a first novel – it’s clear why he didn’t make it big until Perdido Street Station. I found the book intriguing, but not compelling: I was convinced of its mythology and milieu, but not terribly interested, and it simply didn’t have the heft and engrossing sense of reality that the Bas-Lag books do. Add in a general sketchiness as far as character development goes, and the result was that that I imagined Miéville sitting down one day and telling himself that he wanted to write a novel about the Pied Piper legend…. WITH DRUM ‘N’ BASS. And of course a good helping of Socialism. So: too many pet elements without enough connective tissue for them to hang together comfortably. I did like the ambiguity of the King Rat character, though, and found him a memorable figure.

For the record, those interested in other Pied Piper retellings might try looking up Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents and the first story, “Paid Piper,” in Tanith Lee’s collection Red as Blood. The former is very polished and amusing, and the latter is very weird. There’s also a not-so-great one with a silly twist ending in Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling’s Snow White, Blood Red (from their retold fairy tale anthology series), whose not-so-greatness is manifest in the fact that I can’t remember the author, although the title was something along the lines of “A Sound, As of Angels.” Hmm.

Go to:

China Miéville
Looking for Jake (2005) K
The City & The City (2009) K

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  1. kakaner’s avatar

    Haha this review made me laugh =) I heartily agree with your statement about pet elements that didn’t go together… honestly, I did NOT like the whole drum n bass concept at all. =/ I felt like Mieville was trying to infuse a certain type of spirit within the book and it just wasnt taking

    on another note, talking about rats and Pied Piper reminds me of that episode of Batman Beyond and the ratboy….

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