I just finished reading this book (China Mieville’s Perdido St. Station).
I can say that it was a good book, unequivocally. Vivid, descriptive writing, a totally original and densely-packed world, philosophical explorations bursting out of chapters that feel natural, if intense, otherworldly and alien..
I cannot say that I enjoyed the book, however. That word doesn’t sit right with me. It is not a book one can take joy from; it is an experience that enhanced my literary explorations, but the book is so dark that it borders on depressing. There is triumph, but at a cost, many of them.
I have often despaired at game scenarios, movies, television or books in which things were frightfully uncomplicated. The good guys succeed, and there is no real cost, or even any risk. I can only describe it as lacking an element of triste, sadness and melancholy or risk and sacrifice or striving and reward.
I get the same thing out of World of Warcraft. I hate it when the scenario is too easy, when I’m just following along with more powerful people not having anything significant to contribute. Gains are empty if I didn’t work for them.**
(** This is different than just group play, which makes things that were once soloed frightfully easy; I enjoy playing as a group, although again only if the challenge suits the group.)
I think that sometimes this attitude is why I’m not as successful as I could be. It would be too easy, or it has been too easy to get where I am. I’m an “under-achiever”, I don’t meet my “potential”. I’m not challenged.
I respond to challenge. I work harder. I’m dedicated, focussed, eager… If I don’t feel a challenge I get lazy, uninterested, uninspired, bored..
Of course, the other side isn’t any better: if I feel that I don’t have anything to contribute, that I am ineffectual or have no idea or skills to tackle a problem, the challenge isn’t interesting, only disturbing. Those sorts of things hold me in desperate fear, and all my capabilities drain away.
Back to the book: the book is, in the end, so radically far in the direction of difficulty and sacrifice that it depressed me. I am going to read Mieville’s other book, The Scar, but at this moment I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.
Rather, for the moment I need to balance my scales after such a radical departure.. I’d like to read something with triumph and hope after hard work, like the great science fiction tales of my youth from Asimov or Heinlein. The next book I have lined up, however, is Saving Charlie, a book set in the Heroes universe. As I already know the outcome of this (Charlie dies in the series, Hiro is unable ot save her), I’m not sure that this is the best book to follow up Perdido St Station. 🙂
Maybe Singularity Sky by Charles Stross will be next; or perhaps James Burke’s Twin Trails, for a reality-based reading. (James Burke was the host of the phenomenal BBC program Connection; I’m looking forward to that.)
Time, now, to sleep, perchance to lucid dream, so that I can write my own novel of triumph and success..