So, this book has been on my radar for a while, but I never really got around to reading it until it was chosen as a group read. Not very many of the group enjoyed it, and some gave up on it around mid-way. I was determined to at least finish it, and so I have. Though it did take me the better part of a damn month to do it!
Anyway... for me it was a kind of middle-of-the-road book. There were things I liked, things I didn't and things I wanted more (and less) of. But I did like it generally more than I didn't, so it's getting a 3 from me. I didn't hate it, but I definitely wasn't regretting the times I had to put it down. There were parts that were really tense and exciting, but that was the exception rather than the rule.
Here's the thing. Miéville has created this whole world, and alternate dimensions and strange and different everything. And he explains it all in loving, technical detail. Sometimes a bit too much. Paragraphs of descriptions of people and traditions and culture that is only truly in the story as background, or as a temporary setting, or a transition... And it gets a little tedious. But then at the same time, I appreciate the fact that he has not only created the species, or race, but also all of their heritage and routine and lifestyle and habit that go along with that. He's no skimper when it comes to introducing his populace.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same, really, about the things that truly interested me, like the more dystopian aspects of the story, and Remaking, etc. I had hoped that this book would be about that stuff, especially since, towards the beginning, art and Remaking were compared. It made me excited, but then both things sort of passed off into obscure background references, to be brought back occasionally, but not in the point-of-the-story way I'd have liked. I also wanted to know more about the Handlingers and the Hellkin... and both were brought in and then back out they go, like pitchers from the bullpen.
The story veered off into a never-would-have-seen-it-coming-EVER direction, and while it was unexpected, I wouldn't say it was bad. I would just say it was kind of... unfocused. And that's not really the right word, but I'm not sure which would be better. What I mean to say is that, the build-up and background set the stage for SO MUCH in this story, and then the crisis was so unexpected and had nothing much to do with much of the set-up, and then the deeper meaning and metaphorical aspects were just kind of unexamined. I expected a kind of metaphorical, what does it all mean kind of examination... This seemed like the perfect vehicle for that kind of thing. But it just wasn't there.
I just wanted more from THIS story. I got a lot of Bas-Lag introductory stuff, but I wanted just a bit more coherence to the story than I got. It seemed like a lot of ideas just kind of thrown all together.
But then I was engrossed in parts of the story, and curious about where it was going, and I enjoyed quite a lot of the different aspects of it, so I can't complain too much. And I do intend to read more of Miéville in the future... someday.