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File:Perdido street station american cover.jpg

In the city of New Crobuzon, rogue scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin is commissioned by a wingless bird-man to return his ability to fly. Isaac's artist girlfriend Lin, who has a beetle for a head, is commissioned by a crime lord to create a very special sculpture. Naturally, it all goes to hell.

China Mieville's sprawling monster-hunt, followed by related works The Scar and Iron Council (different stories set in the same world) gave a name to the New Weird movement and provided a counterpoint to the long, dreary march of Tolkien rip-offs. They're also excellent examples of Steampunk.

Compare Kraken, by the same author.


This book provides examples of the following tropes:

  • AI Is a Crapshoot (the Construct Council)
  • Alien Sky: It is mentioned that the moon has two 'daughters' orbiting it.
  • Badass: Yagharek and Jack Half-a-Prayer fit the bill in the more classic sense of the term, though Isaac and Derkhan's sheer bravery despite possessing no combat training definitely qualify them too.
  • Badass Bookworm (Isaac, in spite of being a scientist, holds his own against the city's militia with some well-lobbed chemicals, not to mention taking on monsters that Hell itself was too scared to fight)
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Aspic Hole.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The khepri males and home-grubs. Isaac mentions the infeasibility of acquiring giant insect wings for Yagharek from an assassin beetle ("Get our arses kicked.").
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Most notably the Weavers, who don't have a sense of morality so much as they have a (very, very alien, to humans) sense of beauty. The garuda would also count, as they are fiercely individualistic and value choice above all else. As a result, crimes in their society solely consist of violations of others' choices, which means that many things that are crimes in human society are not crimes in garuda society, and vice versa. The feelings of one garuda as she discusses being raped highlight just how different garuda society is from human society; she seems to care little about what happens to her rapist as long as he continues to receive his punishment, and becomes quite irritated when a human character considers her a victim worthy of pity.
  • Body Horror: The Remades. Oh God, the Remades...
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Isaac, overlapping with Genius Bruiser.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: A large part of the reason Diabolus Ex Machina is summoned.
  • Bury Your Gays: Oddly averted. In books where being a named character and being sympathetic/a decent human being is usually a recipe for death, and the named-protagonist body count runs into the double digits, Derkhan manages to make it out mostly in one piece. Key word here being mostly.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Toro is mentioned (though not by name) before she becomes important.
    • Also, in the first book they mention that the Ambassador from Tesh is a vagabond by custom, and in the last book this is important as the villain and source of impending arcane doom is Spiral Jacobs, the vagabond.
  • The Dandy: Lemuel Pidgeon.
  • Deal with the Devil: Averted - the devil refuses. See Oh Crap.
  • Death World The Cacotopic Stain. Though death is honestly not that big of a deal compared to what else the place can do to you. Gone into more detail in Iron Council.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Isaac & Lin
  • Downer Ending: The few characters who don't die trying to save the city/world suffer terrible personal loss. The worst thing is that a fairly happy ending could easily have occurred if a few crucial moments had played out differently. They just didn't.
  • Down the Drain: Plagued by biological monstrosities (byproducts of waste materials from research facilities), gang members, and the odd multi-planar Giant Spider makes the sewers uniquely dangerous in a city filled with danger already. Isaac etc. are appropriately intimidated when they find themselves in the sewer system, and must rely on Lemuel to avoid most certain danger.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Most notably the slake-moths, which literally feed on people's consciousness, leaving them as utterly mindless shells. Even looking at them will destroy your consciousness. These creatures are so terrifying that when the government of New Crobuzon attempted to make a Deal with the Devil to deal with them, hell refused to get involved. There's also the Weaver, the creature the government turns to when the demons turn them down; it is a gigantic spider that exists between dimensions and is capable of traversing them as we would traverse down the street. It is also prone to doing things like cutting off the ears of everyone in the room, then repairing some people's ears (seemingly at random) purely for the "beauty" of it. Whatever left behind the bones that became The Ribs in Bonetown is more or less outright stated to be this- even the slake-moths find being around The Ribs unsettling.
    • It's at least implied that there's something even more powerful that eats slake-moths in their native habitat, that keeps their numbers down.
  • Faceless Goons: The Militia, who vaciliate between Elite and Regular Mooks, depending on the needs of the scene.
  • Fantastic Racism
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture (New Crobuzon is basically London, although the author has stated that other cities were also influences, notably Cairo)
  • Fate Worse Than Death (Pretty much everybody who doesn't die)
  • Fridge Horror: Throughout Perdido Street Station, there are snippets of reports of an eye-snatching serial killer dumping eyeless victims all over the city. Ben Flexible gets snatched by New Crobuzon's militia tortured for information, and is later found, dead and eyeless, in the river. A few chapters later, Mayor Rudgutter mentions that his eyes are failing. He'll have to get another pair...
  • Giant Spider: The Weaver.
  • Handicapped Badass: Jack Half-a-Prayer, the one-man La Résistance who has been Remade with a giant Praying Mantis arm.
  • Helping Hands: The Handlingers.
  • Humongous Mecha: the Construct Council.
  • Icon of Rebellion: Jack-half-a-prayer.
  • Interspecies Romance (Isaac and Lin)
  • La Résistance (Runagate Rampant)
  • Late to The Punchline: Finding out what "Prayer" in Jack Half-a-Prayer really means. One of his arms has been replaced with the claw of a giant PRAYING mantis.
  • Machine Worship: The Godmech cogs. The trope is played for comedy at first when Isaac frightens off a Godmech Cog, and played straight when the Construct Council shows up.
  • Malignant Plot Tumor - The slake-moths.
  • Mermaid Problem: Neatly tied up when it comes to the Khepri. Weird bug head, sexy lady body. For some reason.
  • Mushroom Samba: Lucky Gazid hides some dreamshit in Isaac's sandwich. Isaac doesn't realise until things start going weird. (Note that to the reader, Isaac's world is pretty darned weird to begin with ... but to him it makes sense.)
  • Nightmare Fetishist: How else to describe Isaac Grimnebulin? He's in love with a woman whose head is a giant beetle, a bird-person turning up on his doorstep asking for a new set of wings all but causes him to squee, and he is cheerfully enchanted with one particularly weird grub netted by his black-market attempts to find flight specimens. Until that grub grows up. You know when Isaac is freaked out, shit got real. He can hold a conversation, an intelligible and productive conversation, with The Weaver.
  • Noble Savage (Yagharek Subverted by the end of Perdido Street Station. Played straight with the rest of his race though.)
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: A female garuda is specifically stated to have "ornamental" breasts incapable of lactating. Averted with the vodyanoi, whose gender can be fully concealed with a loincloth.
  • Oh Crap (The city rulers in Perdido Street Station, on realising that the devils are scared of their problem.)
  • One-Gender Race (The Khepri, effectively - who subvert the standard female-only race rules by being Bee People (well, beetle people) and not at all pretty)
    • They do have two different genders, but show extreme sexual dimorphism: the males are mindless beetles, whereas the females are sentient and are largely humanoid.
  • Orifice Invasion: The slake-moths.
  • Post-Modern Magik - too many examples to list.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy - Yagharek, though a more articulate and melancholy version of the trope.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Isaac has saved New Crobuzon, defeated the Slake Moths, proved his crisis engine will work (and more importantly, kept it out of the hands of the Corrupt Government & the Mecha-Mooks), and hardest of all, survived. On the other hand, Lin is lobotomized, Yagharek is revealed as a rapist, Isaac refuses to help Yagharek, and the Constructs are headed for destruction. Not to mention Isaac and Derkhan have to flee New Crobuzon with the lobotomized Lin in tow, as the government is understandably not interested in giving them credit for having saved the city and has left them at the top of the Most Wanted list.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil
    • Averted in that the "victim" explicitly doesn't accept that label or consider herself damaged. Played straight (or doubly averted) by how the protagonist reacts- Word of God states he was literally incapable of understanding her point of view.
      • The circumstances are rather special here: according to the garuda's Blue and Orange Morality, it was less the rape than Yagharek's removal of his victim's choice not to have sex with him that the garuda find unacceptable. They literally refer to it as choice-theft in the second degree. The first degree being murder.
  • Robot Buddy (David & Lublumai's cleaning construct)
  • Scary Black Man: Isaac is described as having skin the color of smouldering wood, he's very fat (meaning he possesses Stout Strength, which is described below) and knows how to use his not inconsiderable bulk to intimidate (see an amusing scene where he drives off a Godmech Cog and uses his bulk for this purpose.) and has a couple disturbing interests.
  • Schmuck Bait: The Torque, at least to scientist-dabblers. Isaac spends some time explaining, with graphic illustrations (mostly left to the reader's imagination), exactly why messing with it is a really bad idea.
  • Secret Police
  • Shout-Out (The rampage of the five Rorschach-winged dream-eaters is referred to variously as the Dream Curse, the Midsummer Nightmare, and Nocturne Syndrome, all references to The Sandman)
    • The professional adventurers are described as "grave-robbers" and only in it for "gold and experience."
  • Stout Strength: Strangely inverted-Isaac vomits after enough rooftop-hopping and gets winded after climbing up a flight of stairs, but he is very capable of punching Lucky Gazid across a room.
  • Straight Gay: To a certain extant Derkhan, although it may be a case of Hide Your Lesbians. She has a 'good' reason: New Crobuzon is not, to put it mildly, rainbow-friendly.
  • Take That (The book includes a good-natured jab at the typical role-playing-game adventuring party, who are looked upon by the thoroughly urban protagonists as a bunch of psychotic tomb-robbers)

  Derkham: "Anything for gold and experience."

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