Well, at the risk of offending any of you who might be fans, (or possibly my own level of obtuseness), I've gotta say, "I just don't get it". I found the thing to be dense throughout and utterly clunky in places. You know how some writers' characters are said to "jump right off the page" at you? Mieville's characters (in my humble opinion), seem to be cowering in an attempt to hide in the book's binding. I'll admit that he describes the world he's created in a fashion that makes it utterly conceivable and visible to the reader. On the other hand, in doing so, he seems to use 500 words where 50 would do just fine. I found myself skipping through passages (sometimes pages at a time), just to get to the point where he got around to the meat of the description...and in a vain attempt to reach a page where something would finally happen.
And, far be it from me to call a writer pretentious, but just how many times would you use the word "puissant" in 578 pages. (Once or twice may be an admirable use of vocabulary. So many times that it becomes noticeable...just seems like showing off.)
It's entirely possible that I'm just too much of a neanderthal to "get it". The guy has won all sorts of writing awards. He seems to sell well, and apparently lots of people like his stuff -- otherwise, I wouldn't have been hearing his name so often. On the other hand, is it possible that his stuff is the written equivalent of Brokeback Mountain... a movie that everyone loved, an important cinematic event? A movie that I found crushingly boring no matter how much I was supposed to appreciate it.
It won't change my opinion, but feel free to agree with me that I've discovered another Emperor who has no clothes, or that, I have merely exposed myself as a dullard, utterly lacking imagination and taste.
There's a paragraph near the end of the book that actually sums up my opinion fairly well, without, I think, giving away too much.
"So many truths have been kept from me. This violent, pointless voyage has been sopping with blood. I feel thick and sick with it. And that is all: contingent and brutal without meaning. There is nothing to be learnt here..."---------------------------------------
* And, just for the hell of it, even after looking at the pronunciation guide on Wiki, I still have no idea how to pronounce the guy's name. If any of you can clue me in, I'd appreciate it. After all, it's only polite to say his name right when I'm telling you I don't care for his stuff.