Doorstopper steampunk fantasy from the author of King Rat (1999). In the stinking, teeming, rotting city of New Crobuzon, magic, science, and alchemy all work. Humans, aliens, sentient floor-mops, and other entities even more bizarre maintain an uneasy coexistence; criminals may be sentenced to have their heads grafted on to coal-burning machines. Overweight, talented but erratic scientist Isaac—his girlfriend is a khepri, with the red-skinned body of human female and a head resembling a huge scarab—accepts the flying humanoid Yagharek as a client. Yagharek, having had his wings hacked from his body as punishment for a crime Isaac cannot comprehend, desperately yearns to fly again. Isaac considers the magical grafting of new wings, or mechanical devices to reproduce flight. To assist his research, he gathers samples of every imaginable creature capable of flight—including a mysterious giant caterpillar that feeds only on “dreamshit,” a weird new drug that’s ravaging the city. Finally, Isaac makes a scientific breakthrough in the field of crisis energy, but, meanwhile, the caterpillar matures and escapes. The creature, a slake-moth, frees others of its kind kept by the hideous gangster Motley as a source of the drug. The slake-moths are desperately hard to kill and, with their hypnotic powers, feed by consuming dreams, leaving their victims mindless drooling hulks. Soon the city quakes in terror. Somehow the slake-moths must be destroyed—but even the devil himself declines to assist. . . .
Earthy, sometimes outright disgusting—imagine finding your toilet blocked up by diamonds—but, amazingly in a book of this length, flawlessly plotted and relentlessly, stunningly inventive: a conceptual breakthrough of the highest order.