Monday, July 5, 2010

Am I Missing Something Here?

I don't know how long I've been hearing raves about China Mieville's*  books but I kept not getting around to reading any.  This isn't really surprising since there are always a whole lot more books on my mental "to be read" list than there is time to actually...ya'know...read them.  So last week, I finally picked up one of Mieville's books...The Scar.  The description on the back cover sounded promising; like something right up my alley -- so, "what the hell", I thought.

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..."
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* 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.

8 comments:

Tom said...

Oooh, Nathan! You're reading my mind. (STOP IT!) Hear lots of buzz. Everytime I read a blurb about a specific thing he's written, eh, no, thanks. The main difference between you and me is that you actually tried to read some of his stuff. I still haven't gotten around to it, and, based on your report here, am less likely to in the future.

The spelling of his name also puts me off his books. It's like I don't want to read him in case I have to pronounce his name! Cause I know I would have butchered it.

Your link to Wiki gave the pronounciation, but like you, I couldn't make heads or tales of it, the way it was. So I delved deeper. The pronounciation links to a guide to pronounciation, which actually makes sense. The pronounciation I came up with finally is: Behave, with an m instead of the b, make the h silent, and add the al from Medieval to the end.
Me ay val, with a slight accent on the first syllable. But in actual useage, an accent on the second syllable sounds better.

Disclaimer: I don't know shit. If I ever meet him, I'll ask how he pronounces it. Anything until then is merely speculation on my part. YMMV.

sneuter: Little girl from Aliens. 's Newt, 'er.

neurondoc said...

Well, I'm in your camp. Several people whose opinions I respect suggested him, so I bought one of his books (can't remember the title, which says something). I got about 80 pages in and put it down. Too little time and too many books to waste time on something that didn't catch me by 80 pages in. Meh.







Chris
said...

Nathan, I couldn't agree with you more (well, I could, but it would just be redundant.) I bought Perdido Street Station and could not get through the first two chapters before throwing my hands up in frustration.

Chris said...

And why do I have a mess of "break" tags before my name?!

Nathan said...

I don't know Chris. I thought you had developed a stutter and I thought it would be rude to notice.

:D

John the Scientist said...

On top of that he's a fucking Communist, literally.

I read Trotsky in the original. I don't need it regurgitated for me. Perhaps he's taking his socialist realist roots too seriously, becuase what you're describing sounds just like prose form a Soviet hack.

Nathan said...

Careful John. I think you got a little on your chin there. :D

John the Scientist said...

Dude, if you're going to be a Commuinst, at least follow one of the more successful ones, one lived to an old age and managed to keep ice axes out of their skull... :D