The writer I will be going over in this article is China Miéville. He is a British fantasy/weird fiction author and he is a part of a literary movement self-named “New Weird”. At the heart of this movement stands the practice of heterogenetic (diversity in sources and details) world-building with the aim of diversifying today’s fantasy fiction culture. Simply put, they are bored of the cookie-cut fantasy settings like the endless variations of Tolkien’s Middle Earth for example.
Miéville is an author who paints a very colorful image with his other occupations and interests. I mean, you have probably heard of a writer who is involved or at least interested in politics and I bet it would not be too hard to name a novelist who also writes comic books. Well, Miéville does both of these things. He has been a part of several hard-left political parties in the UK and he also works as a writer for DC comics.
Best China Miéville Books
|New Crobuzon Series||9.48/10||3 Books||Check Price On Amazon|
|The City & The City||9.32/10||332 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Embassytown||9.24/10||368 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Un Lun Dun||9.12/10||528 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Railsea||8.92/10||448 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
We are starting this article with the best China Miéville book series there is, New Cruzbon. The name of the series comes from a city-state on the fictional planet of Bas-Lag. It is a weird fantasy and steampunk hybrid populated with humans who are not very different from us. There is no actual “New Cruzbon” series but there are multiple books taking place in this setting.
Those China Miéville are in publication order: Perdido Street Station trilogy, The Scar, and Iron Council. We also see the setting in the short-story collection “Looking for Jake” but it is just one of the many different settings used throughout the book. The most prominent features of New Cruzbon that are handled in these books are the dystopian atmosphere, people who have a lot of things wrong with them, and a cruel economic hierarchy.
Creating a Familiar Setting
The reason I so confidently declared New Cruzbon as the best China Miéville series is very simple. When you have an author as bold in world-building as this one, trying to figure out or get used to a universe can take you away from the real story. This is not an issue with New Cruzbon and the setting still maintains the author’s signature absurdity. My only worry is that it could get old in a few more books but hey, so far so good.
Second on our list, we have the most popular one among all China Miéville books. As the variety of sources are very important for the movement Miéville represents, let’s start with them. The City & the City takes its inspiration from popular names like Kafka and Orwell but also more-niche writers like Philip K. Dick and Raymond Chandler. It is a crime mystery made with unusual ingredients and spices.
The story takes place in a settlement that is made up of two totally separated “cities”. Although these two cities are in the same physical place, the residents of each city simply ignore each other completely. Even if they are living in the same house. The main event is the investigation of a young woman’s murder run by a cynical, high-ranking detective but I would say the story is solely about these weirdly isolated cities.
Get Ready to Think
It takes a lot of thinking to figure out the concepts included in the story and even then, there is always more than one possibility as to what something actually represents. The City & the City is a truly weird story. Still, it is a good one with the atmosphere it creates and its fully-fledged noir elements. More so, the use of different languages and cultures is also very prominently used in the book. Is it the best China Miéville book though? I would have to think.
Embassytown which is one of the best selling China Miéville books is mainly a science fiction story. It puts a lot of emphasis on cultural differences and languages just like The City & the City. In this world exists an extraterrestrial, intelligent species with the name Ariekei and with a language so different from out that humans can not physically speak or understand it. Only those who are willing to go through physical modifications are able to use the language.
Different Planet, Same Mankind
At the start of the book, the planet of the Ariekei has long ago been colonized by us humans. In fact, we have even built the city Embassytown in which resides only and only humans. The most important title in this colony is the Ambassador. A title that has recently been awarded to someone not even capable of speaking the language of the planet, all thanks to the ineffective bureaucracy of humans. You can probably guess what happens next.
Facing Our Truths
In what is one of his best novels, China Miéville creates a world that feels all too real despite all of its excessive strangeness. On top of this, the author handles very serious topics. The author uses politics and power struggles within it in a very parallel way to the real world, and it hits really hard since we can look at things from a less personal perspective. It shows the realities of our world in one that is completely different from ours.
Next up in our China Miéville books ranked list, we have a children’s fantasy. It mainly plays around with the “chosen one” concept. I admire that quality of this book as I do not really think tropes like that could be in any shape or form beneficial for a young mind. Life just does not work like that and children are very prone to mixing fantasy with reality.
New Adress of Your Lost Socks
The story is one of Unlondon, a magical city where every broken and lost thing -including some unlucky people as well- in London ends up. The residents of this city are weird reflections of objects like a pincushion tailor or the… umbrellas. When two London girls Zanna and Deeba find a portal to this place and Zanna is immediately declared a savior, it seems like the start of a Narnia story. Yet, that’s not even close to what really happens.
Hard to Criticize
I do not know what to say about this piece. I can’t really say I liked it but then again, I am definitely not the target audience here. I think the best thing I can say about is that it’s a watered-down version of the author’s usual work. Perhaps aimed as an introduction to the weird for children. Still, I see the potential in it to make itself a personal favorite for certain people. Still, not my personal best China Miéville book.
Railsea is another one of top rated China Miéville books and it is basically a reimagination of the iconic Herman Melville story “Moby Dick”. Only the sea is not actually made up of water but rails instead and the captain with the lost limb pursues a not-so-whale creature, a mole. The author seems to have shown all the courage for creating something new and it works.
There is a good chance you are already familiar with the Mody Dick story but just in case you are not, it is about a captain who has lost a limb to a giant pale shark during one of his voyages. As time passes, the captain feels more and more troubled with this event and he comes to a point where it’s unignorable. He decides to get his revenge, no matter what.
I am not sure if I should classify Railsea as a parody or not. The story seems to take itself seriously and everything feels very genuine. Yet, there are quite a few parody techniques used with the most notable being the narrative references to the original work. All in all, it is a captivating and amusing read. It’s a rather new book by China Miéville and I wouldn’t be disappointed at all if he decided to publish similar works.
Next up in search of the best China Miéville novel, we have a piece that’s maybe the author’s funniest and at the same time creepiest work. It is a story revolving around one of the author’s favorite topics, war. It also takes place in his favorite city, London. Which in this particular instance is riddled with magic, wizards, and horrors beyond your imagination.
An Unlucky Man
We follow the story from the eyes of Billy Harrow. Billy is a marine biologist who I think can be best described as normal. Soon though, when he witnesses a giant squid in a museum vanish into thin air, he realizes that normal people don’t really belong to the world he’s living in. Those who do belong are cultists, mages, anti-mage mages, and fascist cops. All of whom he’ll meet as they attempt to hunt him down.
A Nice Change
This is a rather simple book for the author. I mean, do not get me wrong it will definitely leave you thoughtless at points but everything is a bit milder than the all-out weirdness of his other work. If I am to be honest with you, I actually think this is a good thing. It is a lot less chaotic and still has the same conceptual impact as his other works. Easily one of the best China Miéville novels for me.
Following Kraken in our China Miéville book reviews list, we have another story revolving around mystical powers. King Rat catches attention by having a more dominant urban setting compared to the other works of the author. The story starts with a jaded young man, Saul Garamond being falsely accused of and persecuted for the murder of his father. He and his father were living together and it was no uncommon thing for them to have arguments but he’d never even think of…
You’re a Rat, Saul!
The part that the book truly reveals itself is when King Rat breaks Saul out of his imprisonment. Someone who claims to have been the commander of a disbanded rat army and also the brother of Saul’s mother. Turns out she was a rat all along, literally, who decided to just be a human instead! But King Rat didn’t break Saul out of jail just to confuse him with these things. Saul is in great danger, and he must unravel his inner rat to save himself.
I really enjoyed how the book did not make too much out of its weirdness. This is a common mistake in Miéville’s world I think. His characters are almost aware that they are absurd. King Rat is nothing of the sort though. Everything that happens seems to make sense to everyone simply because that’s just how it is in that world. King Rat is simply the best China Miéville book for me because of all the authenticity this one small detail brings.
China Miéville’s last book October stands out like a sore thumb in his portfolio. Why? Because it is exactly what the title suggests. It is a historical politics book with not even a speck of weird fiction. It is an account of the events that took place in the Russian Empire towards the end of the First World War. More specifically, events that led to the first successful social revolution in history.
It studies the cataclysmic happenings between February and October of 1917. It tries to include all the changes that took place in this time, from the villages all the way to the royal palaces and debate tables of the greatest thinkers. It does not just speculate or commentate, it provides us with sources that are first-hand reports. You might be skeptical of the book’s objectivity since the author is a political figure but it does not leave much room for doubt anyways.
October is one of the best rated books by China Miéville and I think the reason is that it is one of the least aggressive sources about the Russian Revolution there is. It does not even use a mask of moral superiority or fake empathy to do so. The whole book just seems concerned with the circumstances of the time which almost miraculously changed the world as we knew it.
Three Moments of an Explosion is a prime example of the horrors a well-seasoned weird fiction writer can create if they want to. It is a collection of twenty-eight short stories, novellas, and flash fiction pieces most of which carry horror elements. Worldbuilding is -given the length of the stories- understandably not as big a priority as it usually is for the author.
The author chooses to just include one or two elements of worldbuilding in his stories and turns them on full volume. This is very intriguing in the sense that it lets you explore the world-building process of the author without getting overwhelmed. It is much easier to inspect and self-commentate about a concept when it is alone in the spotlight.
A Prime Introduction
This blend of architecture and science fiction stories makes up for one of the best books by China Miéville. In fact, I would say it is the perfect choice for people unfamiliar with the author’s work or the weird fiction genre. It can also be highly beneficial for you if you are a writer interested in fiction since the book itself is basically a world-building practice guide.
The last piece I will go over in my search for the best books by China Miéville will be Looking for Jake. Published in 2003, it is the first collection of short stories by the author that made its way to the press. The fourteen stories that make up the book are mostly fantasy and horror fiction. The majority of these stories were previous, individual releases.
Varying in Content
Very much like his novels, these short stories differ greatly from each other. Some are post-apocalyptic, some are paranormal, and there is even one about corporate capitalism. The thing that all of them share, however, is that they are creepy as can be. The author very visibly takes a little each from Kafka, Lovecraft, and Poe.
I can not really say Looking for Jake was a good collection cover-to-cover. There are some surprisingly good tales that make you feel glad to have picked up the book but there are also some that would not be missed if they were to disappear. I would say it is a decent read if you can keep your expectations in control and remind yourself that this collection is a first for the author.
Robert is a science fiction and fantasy geek. (He is also the best looking Ereads writer!) Besides reading and writing, he enjoys sports, cosplay, and good food (don't we all?). Currently works as an accountant (would you believe that?)