Perdido Street Station is the book I've been missing from China Mieville's work, probably one of my favourite writers of the last decade. He is a genre defier in that he doesn't stick to the one shelf and diversifies with each novel. That said he has created a unique fantasy world called Bas Lag that contains the very urban New Crobuzon and several of his works are set there. This is the novel that introduced that world.
It's vast and expansive and dangerous and not a nice place to live, but live there people do, millions of them, cheek by jowl. And they're not all human. You have living cacti, humanoid bird people, scarab beetles that walk tall and frog like creatures. Then there are the remades, humans who have been mutated and physically altered through the use of Mieville's magic system of thaumaturgy.
This first novel deals with themes as diverse as love across races, drug use, the life of an artist, the tyranny of government and lives unfulfilled. The stories are as diverse as the very creatures. There is politics and science to understand, dimension of space to remember, the playful use of writing to master and characters that even though prominent might not make it to the end of the book.
Mieville is playful and creative in his big ideas and not scared to come up with his own interpretation of a world without relying on past genre creations. If you've never read any of his work, this would be one of the best places to start.
The Swamp Thing has been around since 1971, but it was Alan Moore's reinterpretation of the character back in the 80s that is probably best remembered. Moore took a character that was essentially a 'creature of the black lagoon' horror staple and turned him into something else. He based his idea on the concept of the 'Green Man' as known in European folklore, an elemental that lives within nature because it is part of nature, the two bound up into one.
It was partly through Swamp Thing that the comics for adult readership was created and would lead to the building of the DC Vertigo brand. These comics left simple horror and violence behind and combined it with character led stories, creating a mythology and real world universe for these creatures to exist in. He also introduced the character of John Constantine in Swamp Thing.
The stories themselves are still completely accessible and have not really dated, the art however has and the colour is quite lackluster in places.
Read this week:
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore - Issues 20 to 64