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Tony Grist

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The Scar: China Mieville [Jul. 16th, 2013|09:27 am]
Tony Grist
Mieville keeps me reading because he's so ingenious, but that's all. Publishers Weekly (quoted on the inside back cover) says he writes "dark, eccentric characters worthy of...Charles Dickens" which only goes to show how little Publisher's Weekly knows. There's more to being Dickensian than calling people things like Tanner Sack. Dickens people buck us up- even- perhaps especially- when they're horrible. Mrs Gamp entertains and engages us; Mr Sack doesn't; he's just a chap with tentacles who suffers humiliation.  The floating pirate city of Armada is a wonderfully elaborate creation but it's like I'm viewing it from behind glass. I marvel, but I'm not drawn in. I don't want to get too closely involved. Will our charmless heroine escape from charmless Armada and return to her charmless home city of New Crobuzon? Frankly, I couldn't care less.
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Comments:
From: cmcmck
2013-07-16 01:27 pm (UTC)
Like all the idiots who say something is 'comparable to Tolkein at his best' which, of course, it never is.

There's only one Charles Dickens!

Btw, Gamp is a genuine local name hereabouts! :o)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-07-16 01:53 pm (UTC)
Well I never! How about Pumblechook?
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From: cmcmck
2013-07-16 05:26 pm (UTC)
That's one I've never run into, but there are Copperfields and Dorrits.

Our local pedicure is a Gamp.

Edited at 2013-07-16 05:28 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2013-07-16 02:40 pm (UTC)
I've tried two Mievilles and failed to get into either of them. I have to like the characters (which doesn't mean they have to be "likeable" in the conventional sense), so I think that's probably why I abandoned his books. His characters just don't interest and intrigue me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-07-16 04:30 pm (UTC)
This is the fourth I've read. I like how clever he is, but his characters don't come alive for me either. I'm half way through The Scar but I'm not sure I'll finish it.
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[User Picture]From: glitzfrau
2013-07-16 06:44 pm (UTC)
God, this is the perfect assessment of Miéville. I loved The City And The City, which perfectly exploited Miéville's signature glacial tone and clever-clever emotional disengagement. And I did warm to Kraken, though my girlfriend didn't. But the rest of them? Too charmless by half. You are right.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-07-16 08:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Kraken was the first I read and it remains my favourite. It's a romp. The City and the City is damn clever- though I find it's fading in my memory as mere cleverness tends to do. "Glacial" is exactly the right word; I wish I'd thought of it.
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[User Picture]From: Michael John Grist
2013-07-17 10:49 pm (UTC)
Glacial, clever clever, and behind glass- those are quite the things I felt on reading it too. There are characters, but they don't seem to do anything. They are, as I recall anyway, really just bystanders watching a non-thing almost happen. And that's it. So that's all we are too, bystanders looking at a deeply-written fantasy travelogue, without any real conscious act of will by the characters to change their circumstances.

I finished it just to see if it would change. However I didn't finish 'Perdido Street Station' for largely the same reasons. A bunch of bizarre characters in a bizarre world, but none of them really doing anything much. No arcs to speak of, no investment, just a bunch of stuff laid out for us to look at, pretty static. Even as I began to disengage from that book, about halfway through, things were happening, but none of them were initiated by our characters as anything more than coincidence and chance. None of it seemed to matter, much as with the Scar.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-07-18 04:17 pm (UTC)
The one I liked best was Kraken. It's paced like a crime thriller- only with extreme weirdness. I doubt that I'll finish The Scar. I put it aside to read something else and once I've done that I rarely go back.
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