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John Scalzi has China Miéville’s new book. Grrr….

krakenThanks to John Scalzi, we know that the arrival of China Miéville’s new book Kraken is imminent!  Per Scalzi:

This book features mysteriously disappearing cephalopods, squid cults, crime bosses and, of course, very possibly the end of the world. Because if you’ve got squid cults, can the end of the world really be that far behind? No. Not at all. China’s having a good year; his previous book The City and The City was deservedly nominated for the Nebula, and the buzz on this one is pretty strong. Folks in the UK get this on May 7; here in the US, we have to wait until the end of June.

First of all, thank you to Scalzi for giving us this vital information.  Secondly, and as usual, I’m going to say a few things again about why I think China Miéville is great — hopefully I will convince at least one other person (you, perhaps?) to give him a try.

Miéville is one of those few writers who can reliably convert a certain percentage of new readers into drooling, slavering minions who never miss a chance to persuade others to become drooling, slavering minions.  I know this from personal experience, having myself been minionized several years ago by Perdido Street Station.

So why is Miéville so good?  He certainly doesn’t exemplify the stuff I usually enjoy.  Most of the genre fantasy that I like simply recreates a pseudo-medieval world.  I’m OK with that, because if it’s done competently, it’s a fun world to set a story.  People travel by foot or on horseback; they drink ale in inns; they fight with swords and knives.  What’s not to like about that?  The typical political and economic system of such worlds is some variant of feudalism.  Magic almost always exists, but may or may not be a prominent day-to-day feature of life in that world.  Usually, my favorite genre fantasy has minimal magic and maximal realism of the trudging-through-mud-for-days-to-reach-the-castle-so-you-can-slay-your-enemies-in-a-week-long-siege variety.  Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin are two excellent (but far from identical) examples of my favorite kind of realistic fantasy.

Usually, an author that plays too fast and loose with the otherworldly, the magical, or the fantastical will lose me pretty quick.  Most of them just aren’t able to build a world that’s believable — it’s always too hokey, or it’s too inconsistent.  I find it hard to trust these authors, because their taste for innovation usually means that as soon as their hero is in trouble, the author will conveniently introduce us to some entirely unexpected feature of their world that — surprise! — allows the hero to escape unscathed.  Grrr…  I hate it when that happens.

So even though the publishers call it “fantasy,” the best stories in this genre are usually set in a predictable, mundane world that looks a lot like Europe circa 1500 a.d.

China Miéville’s books are something altogether different.  His city of New Crobuzon, for example, has a neighborhood of ant-headed women who make sculptures from their spit and communicate with each other using odiferous aerosols.  The floating city of Armada is made of hundreds of old ships tied together and is ruled in part by a vampire.  A lesser author wouldn’t have a prayer of making any of this stuff believable.  But Miéville draws you in, and keeps you wondering when he’ll unveil the next mind-blowing vision.  Plus, he keeps you guessing whether that vision is going to be beautiful or horrible.  He’s a master of world-building suspense.

There’s a lot more to say about why I love his books.  He’s known for his socialist politics, and most of his books have a substantial political dimension without being proselytizing or preachy.  His creatures are truly amazing.  Want to meet a spider-god with a scissor fetish, or a flame-throwing parasite shaped like a human hand (some are left hands, some right) that commandeers other creatures bodies?  You might not think you need to meet such creatures, but Miéville will make you realize that your life without them was a little dull.  Not much of a creature person?  Then read The City & The City.  Miéville will blow your mind with a world full of nothing but humans, too.

So, getting back to where we started — I usually have nothing but admiration for John Scalzi, his books, his baconated cat, and his blog.  But now that I know that he has an advance copy of Kraken, I’m exclusively, seethingly, jealous of him.  Bad John Scalzi!

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