Perdido Street Station: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize 'Perdido Street Station' by China Mieville and examine the characters from this story, which is about how monsters, created from genetically modified insects, are used to make drugs.


Imagine living inside the carcass of some ancient creature. What kinds of cohabitants would you find there? Perdido Street Station by China Mieville is a science fiction story about the creatures living together in New Crobuzon, a bustling city in the midst of some type of rib cage, and its population of people, insects, animals, and hybrids of each species. Let's find out more about this story.

Story Summary

Isaac, a scientist who specializes in studying winged creatures and crisis energy (which alters inanimate objects in various ways to change reality), is approached by Yagharek, a garuda (half human/half bird) whose wings were clipped as punishment in his homeland. Yagharek wants Isaac's help so that he can fly again. Isaac begins conducting experiments with the help of Lemuel Pigeon, who has criminal connections. Lemuel brings him a giant caterpillar and feeds it drugs that are obtained through Mr. Motley, the head drug dealer in New Crobuzon. The caterpillar metamorphizes into a monstrous, venomous slake-moth. The slake-moth attacks one of Isaac's colleagues and escapes. Isaac, Yagharek, and Lemuel resolve to capture and destroy the slake-moth.

Isaac's girlfriend, Lin, a khepri (a beetle head with a human body) and an artist, goes to work creating a sculpture of Mr. Motley. She learns that Motley has four slake-moths that he milks to make drugs. When Isaac's slake-moth frees the others, Mr. Motley concludes that Isaac is trying to steal his business. As a result, he kidnaps Lin until Isaac returns the slake-moths. The slake-moths start eating the citizens of New Crobuzon.

Derkhan, a newspaper editor, and friend of Lin's discovers, along with Isaac, that corrupt government officials sold the slake-moths to Mr. Motley. The Weaver, a spider-like creature, and the Construct Council, a group of robots that was created to do janitorial work, help Isaac track and kill the slake-moths and destroy their eggs. The final slake-mouth flees to Mr. Motley's warehouse where Lin has been imprisoned and attacks Lin. Isaac escapes with Lin and Yagharek as Motley's gang kills the slake-mouth.

Yagharek's crime that cost him his wings is revealed by his victim, so Isaac refuses to help him. Lin does not recover from the slake-moth attack.

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