Friday, March 23, 2012

King Rat by China Mieville

After reading Embassytown by Mieville, I decided to reach back to the early canon, so I checked this one out from the library. Mieville turns a genre staple on its head here. The theme of the child abandoned by its magical nobly born parents, usually elven, who goes on a quest to regain their rightful heritage is quite common. What's not so common is to find out, as the protagonist, Saul, does in this case, that your father is King of the Rats, lord of the sewers of London. How delightful.

Unfortunately, that's really the only delightful thing about the story, as it is rather dreary and depressing throughout.

Mieville does a good job, though, of reviving and revising the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. The Piper, Pete (Peter Piper picked a peck....?), encountered and defeated the King of the Rats and his minions a century or so ago, as well as terrorizing, Anansi, Lord of the Spiders, and LopLop, king of the birds. Now he's back in the streets of London, trying to humiliate them all once more. He's enlisted the unwitting aid of one of Saul's friends, Natasha, who is a composer of a new advanced Jungle music, and will use her to fulfill his evil plot.

One great descriptive passage:
"His life was in thrall to another hex, a power which had crept into his police cell and claimed him, a dirty, raw magic, a spell that stank of piss. This was urban voodoo, fueld by the sacrifices of road deaths, of cats and people dying on the tarmac, an I Ching of spilled and stolen groceries, a Cabbala of road signs."

Descriptive and creative as expected from Mieville, this is a pretty vicious tale.

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