This is the first Mieville novel I have actually managed to finish, which is progress of some sort. And I know I'm exposing myself to general ire and condemnation by giving it two stars when in fact Mieville is better than that. I even recognise that he's better than that, and this book is actually quality work.
But there ya go. Its how I feel about it. I recognise that the guy can write, I recognise that his world building is highly creative and there are substantive themes and questions of real relevance being asked. I don't care. I just don't connect with it, in fact most of the time I go beyond not connecting to being actively irritated.
His prose is complicated and occult in the original meaning of occult, hinting at hidden knowledge or truths just out of reach, the whisk and whisper of someone or something moving just out of sight. He rarely just comes out and flat says anything. Its always a slightly gothic highly atmospheric mountain of extremely colorful adjectives that in the end add up to.... not enough for me.
It feels to me like obscurantism for its own sake. He frustrates and dissapoints me with his polysyllabic dance of the seven veils, because when you draw back the curtain he is not the Great and Terrible Oz. He is not the mystery of the tabernacle. He's a guy telling a reasonably interesting story in an unbelievably roundabout way. Highly literate highly intellectual shaggy dog stories.
When I was a kid and I would go with a friend to hear the Mass in Latin, or listen to music sung in a language I didn't understand, or listen to the cantor in a synagogue the fact that I didn't understand set my imagination free to conjure up magic. When I would hear the translations I would always be terribly disappointed because where did the mystery go?
To some extent I think that's what Mieville is going for. He doesn't want his reader to fully understand what's going on. He wants to make a landscape full of shadows so the mystery can creep in. Some people like that. I'm just not one of them.