China Mieville: Books & Short Stories

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Horror, science fiction and fantasy, author China Mieville has done them all. Whether it's a novel, a children's book or a short story, Mieville delivers his signature 'weird.' In this lesson, you'll learn more about his writing.

The Many Genres of China

Known for his take on science fiction and fantasy writing, author China Mieville has famously said he doesn't want to be pigeon-holed. He wants to write a book in every genre, or literary category. And, he's already off to a good start. His books have been described as fiction, crime, horror and fantasy, and each time he defies the barriers of what readers believe about books with those tags.

Yet, Mieville himself doesn't even believe in the idea of genres for his own work, instead referring to his novels, simply, as ''weird.'' So, let's take a look at Mieville's weirdness as seen through some of his most popular books and short stories.

Mieville Books

1. Perdido Street Station: A scientist named Isaac fulfills his greatest research to-date when a bird-like creature from another world asks for his help to fly again. At the same time, some evil creatures known as slakemoths are terrorizing the town where everyone lives, named New Crobuzon. Who's behind all the nastiness? The government, who else? It's up to Isaac and his band of friends to defeat the slakemoths. But, not before the bad guys eat part of Isaac's mind.

2. The City & The City: When a foreign student named Mahalia Geary turns up dead, an inspector with Beszel's Extreme Crime Squad is on the case. The inspector, however, isn't so clean, a political player in the conflict between the city of Beszel and another city, Ul Ooman. The investigation into the young woman's death turns from one city to the other and a secret third space between the two, in a legend known as Orciny.

3. Embassytown: Firmly in the realm of science fiction, Embassytown is set on a planet known as Arieka at the edge of the ''known universe.'' The story is full of aliens that resemble giant insects that try to talk to humans, with limited success. (After all, they speak a different language.) Despite the language barriers, the aliens and humans have managed to co-exist peacefully. With the arrival of the Ambassadors, the humans and aliens each work with the other to ultimately get what each wants.

4. Kraken: What would you do if a giant squid disappeared from a large museum? The book moves forward with various groups of people (among them: the police, criminals and wizards) in a race to find it. Little does anyone know, but the squid is a symbol for a religious group and may (or may not) have been stolen. Oh, and the End of the World is wrapped up in it, too.

5. The Worst Breakfast: A break from Mieville's typical novels, this book was written (and illustrated by Zak Smith) for children. Two kids try to out-gross each other at the breakfast table, thinking up all the gross things they've ever eaten for breakfast. By the end, they have a table piled high with slimy and stinky foods.

Mieville Short Stories

1. ''Reports of Certain Events in London'': What if the streets have their own lives? That's the concept Mieville puts forth in this short story. The streets live lives of their own, enjoying relationships, having arguments and coming and going as they please. Mieville ties the street, Varmin Way, from his book, Un Lun Dun, into this story.

2. ''Entry Taken from a Medical Encyclopedia'': There's a strange disease afoot known as Buscard's Murrain, which is only contracted by uttering one simply word. Once the word is said, the disease spreads quickly, causing the afflicted to go crazy and repeat the word to other people over and over. Then, of course, those people repeat the word and more are infected. It's an interesting take on the power of language.

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