Read our guide to the genre-defying fiction of China Miéville.
Find out where to start reading China Miéville with this guide to his books.
China Miéville’s presence looms over genre fiction. presence looms over genre fiction. Over the course of a dozen books, Miéville has ranged freely across categories and classifications - epic and urban fantasy, social and hard science fiction, crime, horror and more. And in each case, he addresses, dances with, pokes at and, ultimately, departs from, the traditions and expectations therein. Although many thousands of words have been written trying to put Miéville’s work into neat buckets (“New Weird!” “Fantastika!” “Literary Speculation!” “Hauntological Slipstream!” “Tentacular Metafusion!”), time has proven that a China Miéville book is ultimately, well - Miévillian. The man is a category unto himself.
And what is Miévillian? I’m tempted to use words like “tremendous”, “mind-blowing”, “amazeballs”, and “unmitigated brilliance”, but that doesn’t help especially. As each book is wildly different from its predecessor, the trick is to look at the qualities instead - a Miévillian book is packed with glorious entertainment, epic scale, powerful themes, intellectual depth, creativity of language, subversive approaches and, with a few rare exceptions, monsters.
He is also, and let’s just slap my bias on the table right now, easily my favourite author. If I were exiled to a desert island (possibly for overuse of hyperbole), I’d throw a really nasty fit until I got to take Perdido Street Station with me. And then I’d still sneak back for a copy of Un Lun Dun. And The Scar. And a few essential short stories. And... Let’s be honest, I’d be terrible at island life.
But, in this dark and uncertain world, I have to face the horrifying truth that not everyone has read Miéville. (Yet.) And with that weight of expectation (and the prodigious size of some of his novels), I can understand how one’s first foray can be a daunting task. Each and every one of his books is shellacked in critical acclaim and a-glow with reader adoration - so which makes the best place to start?
As with all reading decisions, this one is up to you. But here are a few recommended starting points:
If there’s any sort of recurring theme to Miéville’s work, it is monsters. Oh, and amazing cities. And notions of rebellion. And a discussion of language. But also ... the importance of free will. And, in deference to that last point, I suggest that you start your Miéville journey - well, anywhere you like. Be it any of the novels above, one of the half dozen I ran out of space before I could praise, his short stories, comics, editorial features or manifestos - find what’s best for you, equip yourself with tea and snacks, and then dive straight in.