This is one of those books that was recognized by many as one of the finest fantasy books in the last fifty years. Of course, as I was reading it, I realized it could’ve been a GREAT book. One of the best fantasy novels ever written. But there wasn’t enough story to sustain such a massive bulk (I’ve never read a 600 page book that was so long).
There was lots of good stuff in there. His ability to create new races, new monsters(especially noteworthy are the Remade, former humans who are recreated with spare parts, or rearranged –usually as some form of ironic punishment) is unrivaled. New Crobuzon, his city, is so richly detailed that you could actually believe this was a real place.
He fell in love with his city. The novel (especially the first third) was more travelogue than story. Even in the final climactic battle scenes, he’s still describing the architecture, social and economic backgrounds of the neighborhoods. I found that I could skip entire pages and jump back into the story without any problems (at one point, I actually skipped ahead 25 pages and found the characters in exactly the same situation).
As for his language — again, loved it and hated it. Some passages were so beautifully described. High literary value. Then others…his language bloated…perhaps a little too in love with a thesaurus. Words like immolated, susurrus, effluvia, inchoate…were rife on every page. I know, I know, he probably likes those words, maybe even uses them in everyday speech, but they pull me right out of the story. And his love of adverbs — arrrrgh! Example: “It plunged absolutely precipitately into the water”. Sure, that’s only two extra words, but do that for every sentence, and you’ve just added 100 pages to the book.
The story boils down to a very simple concept — a scientist unwittingly unleashes a horror upon the world. Said scientist now must hunt down horror. The End.