R Scott Bakker vs. China Mieville

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« on: May 14, 2013, 10:04:57 pm »
Quote from: Truth Shines
The true, epic, titantic Godzilla vs. Mothra battle of our age, as far as I'm concerned -- well, at least regarding speculative/fantasy fiction.

Certainly there's no need to argue the case for Prince of Nothing on this forum.  Yet what about the utterly extraordinary Bas-Lag trilogy from China Mieville?  Any fans here?  Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and The Iron Council -- for me, as far as sheer imaginative grandeur, even PON has to take a humble bow before them.  Of course Mieville is no lightweight as far as meaning is concerned either -- morality, politics, pathos, humanity, he pulls no punches.  Reading him is a humbling experience for anyone who fancies him or herself as creative -- he shows you just what a truly creative mind is capable of. 

I just finished his latest novel -- a re-imagining of Moby Dick.  Now just pause there for a second: who would even dare to attempt something as mad as that?  Yet he would, and did -- the jaw-dropping YA novel Railsea.  Now this is what young people should read (once they get a bit older they can get Prince of Nothing ;) ), not Hunger Game, or god forbid, Twilight.

p.s.: I attempted to search the forum to see if there's already a discussion about China Mieville, but the search function was not working for me.

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« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:06 pm »
Quote from: Madness
This is the first a topic has featured China Mieville.

I'll look into the search issue.

Also, never read any of his books, though I've watched a number of his lectures. Interesting person, no doubt. I will have to look up this Bas-Lag trilogy. Good fiction has eluded me for a long time...

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« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:11 pm »
Quote from: Truth Shines
Just out of curiosity: on the old Three Seas forum, was there any discussion about Mr. Mieville?

Anyway, there's no doubt that he's a tremendous writer.  I don't know anything about his lectures, but I'm not surprised to hear that he gives interesting ones.  Like Bakker, he's also a "student of the game" -- someone who is very knowledgeable about the genre he's working in, familiar with all the traditions, and a master craftsman.  Above that, they are both writers who are not just interested in spinning tales dragons and princesses.

Be warned, though: just like reading Bakker will set an impossibly high bar for any future high fantasies you may read, the same goes for Mieville -- Victorian steampunk will never be the same again.  Similiar to what Bakker has done for the First Crusade, Mieville has reimagined early modernity: an age of science, mysticism, mass politics, violence, revolutions, utopianism, exploration, optimism...

Lastly, I may have erred in called the Bas-Lag books a "trilogy."  They are all in the same setting and share a few characters, but they are not connected in overall plot -- definitely not like Prince of Nothing.

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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:16 pm »
Quote from: Madness
There was not any conversation regarding CM on the old Three-Seas, if I recall correctly.

I went out and bought Perdido Street Station today because I'm dying for good fiction. I recently dove into Leviathan Wakes and bought Caliban's War with PSS. Honestly though, aside from Bakker, Asimov and "James A.S. Corey" are all I've been reading lately - fiction-wise. I probably have eight or nine non-fiction titles on the go ;).

We'll see how they go. No worries about misleading me, Truth Shines. CM is either going to rock my socks or be tossed to the corner ;P.

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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:21 pm »
Quote from: sciborg2
Mieville has an incredible worldbuilding skill, and his short stories are magnificent IMO.

At the same time, while I've always wanted to know what happens in his novels, I don't recall caring deeply for any characters of his. In many respects I'd want to say CM nudges out or exceeds Bakker, but character wise I think Bakker wins easily.

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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:26 pm »
Quote from: Truth Shines
I agree with you on the character issue.  Bakker's characters really have a ton of internal monologues.  Right now I'm re-reading PON (probably for the 4th or 5th time).  In TTT, there's a section of about 8 pages of just pure self-reflection by Achamian: on himself, on his relationships, on his mission...  No plot development or dialogue whatsoever.  Bakker can really give you unparalleled psychological depth when it comes to characters.

Also, absolutely agree on Mieville's worldbuilding skills.  He openly posited himself as the anti-Tolkien.  Not many, if any, people could have gotten away with it, if only because almost everyone uses his or her own versions of elves and wizards and dark lord, but not Mieville.  Bas-Lag is a genuinely original creation of the highest caliber.  The really ludicrous thing is that he makes it look almost effortless -- just look at Railsea.  It's a relatively short novel (only about two to three hundred pages) intended primarily for a YA audience, and yet he just spins out, almost as if en passant, an amazing new world

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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:31 pm »
Quote from: Wilshire
"Railsea is set on a dystopic, dying world whose oceans, the "railsea", are deserts colonized by ravenous speed-tunneling giant naked mole rats," - from OP wiki link

Sounds a lot like Dune from that line alone.
Hopefully one of these days I'll get around to China Mieville, you've piqued my interest. As I've found throughout most of these boards is that if no one is around to debate with, things get rather boring. I hope to alleviate some of that for you, but not for a bit. I've gotta finish Herbert's Dune Saga first and then exams, and then (hopefully) TUC. But then after that I'll look into it lol.

3 weeks later, Madness how goes the read?

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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:37 pm »
Quote from: sologdin
TSA is great, but iron council is probably the best spec fic ever written, inclusive of the silmarillion and dune.

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« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:41 pm »
Quote from: Truth Shines
Quote from: Wilshire
"Railsea is set on a dystopic, dying world whose oceans, the "railsea", are deserts colonized by ravenous speed-tunneling giant naked mole rats," - from OP wiki link

Sounds a lot like Dune from that line alone.

If that's the impression you got, it's more than a little misleading.  There's no feeling of scifi to it (or at least none in the traditional sense of it).  But mainly, the emphasis is on the rail not the desert.  You'll see what I mean if you read it.  Mieville, the great steampunkist that he is, is fascinated by trains and rails (also seen in Iron Council) -- that great puffing, roaring work of brute force and human imagination which embodies so many conflicting trends in early modernity, gives a completely different resonance from any elements in Dune.

Quote from: sologdin
TSA is great, but iron council is probably the best spec fic ever written, inclusive of the silmarillion and dune.

Wow that's pretty extravagant.  Still, I'd agree that in the Bas-Lag trilogy, Iron Council is clearly the exhilarating crescendo, and certainly outshines vast majority of other speculative fiction works.  You can say Perdido Street Station is about the pursuit of dreams of one man, while The Scar is the utopianism of a nation.  But Iron Council is, with its obvious nod to Judah Loew, a challenge to the order of the world itself.

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« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:47 pm »
Quote from: Curethan
I daresay Iron Council deals with themes close to sologdin's heart.  ;)

I rate the Scar most highly of CM's books that I have read.  I loved the idea of the scar itself along with all the thematic layering, not to mention that Uther Doul's crazy sword is the second best 'magic sword' in fantasy (after Stormbringer).

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« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:51 pm »
Quote from: delavagus
Quote from: sologdin
TSA is great, but iron council is probably the best spec fic ever written, inclusive of the silmarillion and dune.

I've always heard -- until now, at least -- that the Iron Council is a preachy and pretentious bore of a book, a real letdown after the first two, which are supposed to be very good.

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« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2013, 10:05:56 pm »
Quote from: Madness
Gah! I need to start reading PSS. Picked it up a couple times and it hasn't yet taken me off running.

solo strikes me as very well read and I'm a fan of his perspective on other matters. I'd certainly have to read the book before turning aside his endorsement. But after all, I'm just a man who...

Cheers.

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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2013, 10:06:01 pm »
Quote from: Curethan
Quote from: delavagus
Quote from: sologdin
TSA is great, but iron council is probably the best spec fic ever written, inclusive of the silmarillion and dune.

I've always heard -- until now, at least -- that the Iron Council is a preachy and pretentious bore of a book, a real letdown after the first two, which are supposed to be very good.

That may depend on one's political idealogy. imho

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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2013, 10:06:06 pm »
Quote from: delavagus
Quote from: Curethan
Quote from: delavagus
Quote from: sologdin
TSA is great, but iron council is probably the best spec fic ever written, inclusive of the silmarillion and dune.

I've always heard -- until now, at least -- that the Iron Council is a preachy and pretentious bore of a book, a real letdown after the first two, which are supposed to be very good.

That may depend on one's political idealogy. imho

If that's true, then the book must at least be preachy.  Whether you consider it pretentious and a bore as well will depend on one's politics...

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« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2013, 10:06:16 pm »
Quote from: Wilshire
Not necessarily. Maybe just reflecting the inability of ignoring ones own biases for long enough to read the novel... kinda makes me think of lockesnow's thread elsewhere about removing context.