|Paperback, Pan, 2010|
Deep in the research wing of the Natural History Museum is a prize specimen, something that comes along much less often than once in a lifetime: a perfect, and perfectly preserved, giant squid. But what does it mean when the creature suddenly and impossibly disappears?
For curator Billy Harrow it's the start of a headlong pitch into a London of warring cults, surreal magic, apostates and assassins. It might just be that the creature he's been preserving is more than a biological rarity: there are those who are sure it's a god.
A god that someone is hoping will end the world
I'm cheating a little. This book hasn't been languishing in my TBR pile because I forgot about it, or wasn't in the mood for it. It was sitting there as my reward for finishing a draft, because I knew that if I read it, I wouldn't be doing anything else until it was done.
I really don't know how Mieville comes up with his ideas. Billy disappears into another London populated by strange religions and mysterious characters. This London has talking tattoos and guardian angels, and horrors hiding below a paper-thin surface. Although Billy is the protagonist, for me, London is the hero of the book. Despite the craziness of what's going on, it doesn't feel like some alien city; it feels like London. Magic is called 'knack', and if Londoners had magic, that's exactly what they'd call it.
I found it easy to immerse myself in, but I struggled to understand the final twist of the plot. That meant that I felt a tiny bit unsatisfied at the end. If I read it again with the benefit of a little bit of foreknowledge, I think it would be easier, and I probably will read it again because the imagination of it just takes my breath away.