Horror, noir, fantasy, politics, and poetry swirl into combinations as satisfying intellectually as they are emotionally.
Miéville (Railsea, 2012, etc.) has a habit of building his narratives by taking a metaphor, often about a political or social issue, and asking what would happen if it were literally true. His masterful 2009 novel The City and the City (Locus, Hugo, and Arthur C. Clarke awards), for example, explored two metropolises with entirely separate populations, governments, infrastructures, and even clothing styles that shared a single geographical location. In less-capable hands, this method might result in mere gags or dead horses endlessly beaten. (Good thing this isn’t a Miéville story, or you’d be wiping off bits of rotten horseflesh.) In Miéville’s hands it ranges from clever to profound. In “Dreaded Outcome,” the narrator, a Brooklyn psychotherapist, practices “traumatic vector therapy,” a style that incorporates military and martial arts techniques. (Like that therapist, Miéville often mixes styles and genres, in this case academic discourse and noir.) “Most of the time what our patients need is a compassionate, rigorous, sympathetic interlocutor. Sometimes the externalized trauma-vectors in dysfunctional interpersonal codependent psychodynamics are powerful enough that more robust therapeutic interventions are necessary. I checked my ammunition.” That readers can guess what will happen after the narrator learns her own therapist is also a TVT practitioner makes the ending no less satisfying. In “Polynia,” the ghosts of vanished geologic and ecologic features haunt the warmed globe, with icebergs floating in the air over London, coral forming the “Great Brussels Reef,” and rain forest undergrowth shutting down factories in Japan. Other stories are more open-ended. In “The Dusty Hat,” members of a political organization have split off from “the Mothership” to form “the Left Faction.” The story opens with the narrator contemplating a crack in his (or her?) wall and ceiling; by the time it ends, he’s discovered a vast politics of the inanimate, with its own schisms. “I poured myself a glass of water. I didn’t like how it looked at me.” As a mysterious, not-entirely-animate figure tells him, the “loyalist” crack in his wall has been watching him: “The split was against you in the split.”
Bradbury meets Borges, with Lovecraft gibbering tumultuously just out of hearing.