Third foray into the fantasy world of New Crobuzon (The Scar, 2002, etc.), a city unlike any other. Think Calcutta, then add magic, aliens, alchemy, and other disciplines almost unimaginably strange and alarming.
New Crobuzon’s rulers, a quasi-democratic, utterly ruthless capitalist gang, enforce their will through militia equipped with firearms and magic, perhaps mounted upon Remade steeds with steam-piston legs. Citizens who transgress are likely to find their heads and torsos grafted on to a horse’s body . . . facing the horse’s rear end. The city has chosen to fight a war with remote Tesh, whose utterly mysterious leaders retaliate with terrible, incomprehensible magical weapons. Revolution is in the air. Shopkeeper Cutter treks into the wilderness in search of his lover, the revolutionary Judah Low. Judah intends to bring about the return of the Iron Council, a train with crew and passengers that was expelled from the city years ago and has since inched across the continent, laying track down before, ripping it up behind. Ori Ciuraz yearns to move beyond pamphlets and talk to violent sedition; through the old, half-mad revolutionary Spiral Jacobs, he contacts Toro, whose magical bull’s mask can tweak open doorways between dimensions. As usual, however, nothing is what it seems; the unexpected is the norm.
Prodigiously inventive—Miéville dreams up and throws away more astonishing ideas in a paragraph than most writers manage in a lifetime—but bogged down with sheer tonnage; the hardworking experimental prose doesn’t help.