Book Review: King Rat

Something is astir in the shadows of London’s underbelly. Something ancient and strong. Something with a trail of blood in its wake.

When Saul Garamond returns home late one night, he crawls straight into bed to avoid a confrontation with his estranged father. Hours later he awakens to a swarm of angry blue-suited policemen. The reason? His father has been found dead. And Saul is the primary suspect.

Confined to a cell for further questioning, he’s visited by a bizarre and unsettling stranger – the big-time crime boss. The scavenger chief. The intruder.  The whiskered boy. The Duce of the sewers. The king.

King Rat.

Freed from his cell, Saul embarks on a journey through subterranean passages and rooftops that kiss the cold night sky. His heritage is a dark and powerful one… and he finds himself marked for slaughter in an age-old war of mythic proportions.

Set in 1990s London, King Rat is China Mieville’s debut novel, and a striking one at that. Skillfully plotted and populated with bizarre characters, it’s a dark and twisty Urban Fantasy that cuts from brooding intrigue to violent action as it builds cleverly upon the famous story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

Much praise has been showered on Mieville’s exceptional word-craft, and with one of his books under my belt, I can say with confidence that the praise is well deserved: this guy can write. His prose is vibrant and creative, brimming with allusive imagery that catches the eye and with it, the imagination.

Back in that cell, the grotesque figure calling itself King Rat had impaled Saul with his grandiloquent and preposterous declamations, taking his breath away and rendering him dumb. then he had paused again, and hunched those bony shoulders defensively. And again that invitation, as casual as from a bored lover at a party. “Shall we go?” (p. 36)

If you’re already adding King Rat to your list of potential reads… wait just a minute. I’m not done.

Seeing as how the story largely revolves around rats (and their king), it should come as no surprise that multiple scenes take place in the London sewers. Vile, right? But here’s the thing: those sewers are positively pristine compared to the book’s dialogue.

Unsavory characters in an unsavory setting will naturally speak with unsavory language – so the argument goes, and to a certain extent, I understand the reasoning behind it. Mieville, however, goes over-the-top and higher still. The sheer amount of swearing in King Rat is simply astounding, and I’m not talking about mild stuff, either – this is the type of pervasive gutter language one would expect from a Quentin Tarantino film. Resovoir Dogs is probably a fitting comparison.

“Well,” you say, “that’s how those kinds of people talk. It’s a fact of life.” Maybe so. But Mieville could’ve cut the amount of profanity by half, and still convinced his readers – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that his characters weren’t nice ‘uns.

If you’re still curious about reading this book… don’t be. The interesting story and fine writing do not redeem it.  The overall reading experience can be summed up as follows: it’s like being lambasted with a cricket bat and then coated in raw sewage.


A Depraved Taste for Equality

“There is, in fact, a manly and lawful passion for equality that incites men to wish all to be powerful and honored. This passion tends to elevate the humble to the rank of the great; but there exists also in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom.”

~ Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America (p. 56)

Flotsam & Jetsam (5/24) – 505 Edition

There’s lots to read today, so take your time. But before you start picking through all this sensational linkage, it pleases me to annouce that this is offficially my 505th post. My sincere thanks to everyone who has followed this blog, whether from its inception or only recently – I hope I haven’t ruined any outfits. Ink slinging can be a messy business. If you’ve encountered anything of value here, to God be the glory. If not, well… I think you know who to blame. Now on with the show!

Spinning In the Fog – I love this. “It is not what I believe in my head, but in my heart that keeps me going, and keeps me still.”

Eleven Ways to Hurt Your Local Church – The first of three (superb) posts by my Mom. Once you’ve read that, part 2 and part 3 are also available.

Thoughts on The Hunger Games – As many of you know, I’ve read, enjoyed, and written about Suzanne Collins’ bestselling dystopian trilogy. Persis shares her thoughts on the subject, and I appreciate her level-headed approach. I think you will, too.

Five for Life – Another great book list from Michael Wright. Sheesh. He’s killing my to-be-read pile… which is both a good thing and a dangerous thing. Might be fatal if it fell on me.

Dinesh D’Souza on the Genetic Fallacy – Shared by Matt at Well Spent Journey: “Essentially John Loftus said that we can’t really know if a religion is true, because there happen to be many of them. If you happen to be born in Afghanistan, you’d be a Muslim. If you happen to be born in Tibet, you’d be a Buddhist.”

Public Policy and the Ouija Board – This is the weirdest thing I’ve read all week.

Silicon Wolfpack – I’ve mentioned this blog before, but I figured, “Why not again?” If you enjoy bizarre fantasy packed with interesting characters, fun action, and wry humor, I suggest you follow this guy’s work.

Gabriel: Zero Point – This excellent Sci-fi novella is currently free on Kindle format. If you like science fiction and good storytelling, I’d take advantage of the offer. (There is some language, so I’d recommend it for older readers).

Prometheus – To say I can’t wait to see this would be an understatement.

A Cure for Lame Table Prayers – “I find it easy to slip into vague gratefulness, and vague gratefulness is as hollow as a light bulb. Mostly I notice this at the dinner table with my family. The vague verbiage I speak over our food is a reflection of my vague thoughts about God and his provisions spread across the table.”

“I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed Him up, or is it dressed Him down? He’s regular peppermint stick now, all sugar crystal and saccharine – when He isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that ever worshiper absolutely needs.” ~ Ray Bradbury

Flotsam & Jetsam (5/22)

“… in reality, the tree is holding us.” – A beautiful excerpt from Dustin Shramek’s Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

Book Giveaway: Total Truth – Persis is giving away Nancy Pearcey’s book for the month of May. (I’m being nice here, since fewer entries means I have a better chance of winning.)

Reel Quick – Click here to read my review of Michael Mann’s The Insider (1999).

Mark Zuckerberg and the Biblical Meaning of Success – From Hugh Whelchel: “[W]e base our definition of success on whether we have cultivated and invested our God-given talents and, by faith, taken advantage of divine opportunities to use them – whether we have been given one, two, or five talents.”

Avengers Panel – A bit of superhero humor from the ever funny Eddie Eddings.

So What Are Parables? – Kim Shay writes, “The parables are told with the purpose of generating a response. They teach by aiming for a reaction from the hearers. Fee and Stuart liken it to the telling of a joke. We won’t get a joke if we have no familiarity with the points of reference.”

No Unity Without A Fight – A word from Phil Johnson.

“I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” ~ Steve Martin