I’ve always had mixed feelings about Stephen King, and I realised that none of them are based on his actual written work.
On the one hand there’s the obvious quality of films like Misery, The Shining, Stand By Me, or The Shawshank Redemption – on the other, there’s dross of unfathomable quantity, including It, Secret Window, The Lawnmower Man, The Mangler, Maximum Overdrive and innumerable TV movies.
To compound things, when I first moved to London my housemates happened upon a Stephen King TV series, called Nightmares & Dreamscapes. The episode in question was called Crouch End, and it had us in stitches throughout.
I first came across China Miéville last year, during a sci-fi binge that I had hoped would bring me up to date with the genre. Despite enjoying science fiction, my sample of it was rather antiquated – Shelley, Verne, Wells – being mostly from Literature classes.
Some cursory research (Top 100s and the like) led me to The City & The City (2009), an immensely rewarding fusion of science fiction and crime noir by Miéville. The concept is elegant: a city inhabits the exact same geographical space as another entirely foreign city, with denizens of both forced to ignore, avoid and “unsee” the existence of the other. The penalty of interacting, or even noticing, the opposite plane is named Breach and is swiftly and ruthlessly dealt with by an ethereal force of the same name.
It’s ruddy ace, it is. The plot follows a detective as he investigates a murder that appears to have involved some form of Breach from the neighbouring city, but a conspiracy is afoot and dark forces attempt to pervert the course of justice. Read it. It’s brilliant.
However, there’s something of a hangover from The City that lingers in Kraken, Miéville’s subsequent novel, like one rum too many. Continue reading Kraken – China Miéville – [Book Review]