Thursday, April 06, 2006



That is what we embody. Facelessness, uniformity, soulessness - those are not words for us. We were never faceless. To claim that would be an abomination of the highest degree, for it is the contempt of millions and a whitewashing of a myraid coloured lives. We were never uniform. No doubt clad as such, long ago, but never little matchstick men, to be struck dry without discrimination or rancour.

Why? Why do they label us such? And why, why do we listen?

We are silent. Whether it be conditioning, cultural or otherwise, I do not know. But our silence dances in the lecture hall. It revels in the empty grass in a corner, it echoes in the pages and pages of white officialdom.

No, we are not voiceless, for we speak. Our talk is voluble and varied, spicy and flavoursome. But we are silent. As we often are. For we think that there are only two notches on the lever that may express dissent - none at all, and to the extreme. Cautious probes forwards are diverted with benign intent. Radicals are eliminated as threats to the state.

The voluble minority trades correspondence in the underground of the cyberage. Their electronic ministrations trickle powerfully down congested highways, and are sniggered at by self-important revolutionaries. Dissent and radicalist anti-intent evade the peering eyes, the scrutiny, of the powers that be. Lies and mistruth and shocking indignities are bandied back and forth among dwarfs and titans of the age. Such is steam vented and virulence transmitted, the shocking contagion of the networks and talk-webs.

But, in the arena of the real, they are silent. Shockingly, incongorously. Silent.

Globally,we are silent. We maintain pomp and dignity that belies our stature. But, down here, we are silent. We are savages from a voiceless land. We communicate using arcane ideograms and inscrutable hand signals. At the shock of our volubility, paradigm shifts emerge and fade rapidly into obscurity. Always gracious, always tight and correct, and they fall for our conjuror's tricks, they fall for our facades and performances everytime. We are charlatans who hide the real cards from view. We are silent.

They talk of our cosmopolitanism. For we are nomads bound to a meandering course and a distant womb that beckons for deliverance. We search for our Canaan, never realizing that we have already left it for greener pastures. We are thanklessly globalist. For our paucity makes us dissolve within the congealing mists. Such that we find cause to trumpet the recalcitrants, those that refuse to fade away into mist. But their voices are silent, stridence unheard in a voluble wind. For they are too few. And they cannot be too many.

Perhaps our lives have been structured around silence. Perhaps the race has been run too far and too fast. Perhaps, in our ceaseless wandering, we have missed the oasis, or seen it fade in a relentless mirage. For we are too caught up in our private lives to speak. And the world is too seemingly perfect, in its crystalline silence.

For once broken, we fear the futility of picking up the shattered pieces. For, but for its deep unfathomability, we admire its unbroken skin. And the passersby, varied as they often are, speak without regard for our values.

Wherefore apathy, agreement, or guilt, I do not know.

But we are silent.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station is a celebration of grotesquerie in every sense of the word. It is an almost revoltingly eclectic conglomeration of the most far-reaching and diverse themes, motifs, and symbols in the realm of speculative fiction, sprung forth from the most fecund imagination of a British author set to outdo all his contemporaries in the deliverance of the perverse and the macabre.

It is interesting how British authors, most of all, seem to revel in this brand of macabre fiction. We see signs of incipient madness in giants such as Peter F Hamilton, Alastair Reynolds, and others. Mieville's New Crobuzon is the student of their devices. Almost from the beginning it is depicted in such filth, chaos and despair that the reader is disinclined to take the author's words at face value, assuming, rather, an unsubtle attempt at hyperbole. New Crobuzon itself seems to be an agglomeration of various disparate elements of other brilliantly realized worlds. Its post-Victorian air and cheerful
debauchery recall the city Ankh-Morpork of Pratchett's Discworld. Its macabre fusion of machine and man is reminiscent of Alistair Reyonld's Inhibitors series. The mindbending horror of the slake-moths is perfectly captured in the ruinous depredation of the undead in Hamilton's Confederation Universe novels. Yet what sets Perdido Street Station apart is the author's casual treatment of this deliberately instituted filth. Mieville achieves this effect by making New Crobuzon the centerpiece of his narrative, in an acknowledgement of the setting as an integral part of an appreciation of the novel.

New Crobuzon is set to become a defining landmark in the techno-fantasy playland. With it Mieville conceives a whole new way to unite science fiction with fantasy, creating something so new and unique that it defies all current boundaries. In Mieville fiction refuses to conform to boundaries and bleeds cross-genre, something that perhaps only readers as modern as we are are prepared to accept. The defining thing about New Crobuzon and its world, Bas-Lag, is that magic becomes a scientific and technological curiosity, a plaything for engineers. It is a world where stuffy academics from established institutions mutter hexes with impunity and self-styled mediums use electrochemical cells. The chief theme seems to be fusion, and Mieville's work embraces the concept on all levels, especially in the deranged Motley and the phenomenon of the Remade. Mieville's world is overrun with strange forces of chaos that foster unity and disunity at will, and this allows him an excuse to set his imagination loose, filling the hundreds of pages with strange constructs (pun intended, don't even try to guess what this means if you haven't read the book), macabre creations of darkness and light, and the occasional non sequitur irrationality ala Douglas Adams. It is a world where eldritch realms share space with the physical and phantasmorgic entities roam before an incredulous science. Despite this seemingly fantastic realm, however, Mieville's characters are real and tangible, with real lives, insecurities, and attachments. And many of Mieville's ideas have real-world relevance, being metaphors of such issues as homosexuality, ethics in industry, and the dangers of unrestrained advancement.

All in all, Perdido Street Station is a testament to the power of grotesquerie and an unrestrained imagination. While I have yet to finish the book, its been a jolly disgusting ride through much filth and excitement.