Friday, November 4, 2011

King Rat

King Rat by China Miéville
Tom Doherty Associates, copyright 1998
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9780312890728

Something is stirring in London's dark, stamping out its territory in brickdust and blood. Something has murdered Saul Garamond's father, and left Saul to pay for the crime.
But a shadow from the urban waste breaks into Saul's prison cell and leads him to freedom. A shadow called King Rat, who reveals Saul's royal heritage, a heritage that opens a new world to Saul, the world below London's streets—a heritage that also drags Saul into King Rat's plan for revenge against his ancient enemy,. With drum 'n' bass pounding the backstreets, Saul must confront the forces that would use him, the forces that would destroy him, and the forces that shape his own bizarre identity.

My Thoughts:

In King Rat by China Miéville Saul Garamond's father is murdered under mysterious circumstances the night Saul returns to London. Saul, who was asleep at the time of the murder, is left implicated in the crime. After being questioned by the police and left locked up in a cell, a mysterious figure, King Rat, breaks Saul out of jail and the adventure begins in London's underground and sewers, with the music of Drum ‘n’ Bass, mixed strangely with the flute, always in the background.

King Rat is a murder mystery, urban fantasy, and horror story, that uses rewritten folk lore and mythical characters to tell the story. China Miéville reworks the story of the Pied Piper and includes King Rat, Anansi the spider, and Loplop the king of birds, as characters. In his version the Pied Piper is an evil psychotic killer. This is a dark, gritty narrative set in the garbage strewn alleys, sewers and the underbelly of London.

There are some similarities to Miéville's Un Lun Dun. As in any good myth, in both a seemingly normal person has a destiny or task that they must complete to save others from a deadly outcome. While King Rat is set in London, Un Lun Dun is in an alternate London. King Rat is, however, a far darker and menacing tale and a very urban fantasy.

This was China Miéville's first novel and probably would be considered the start of his "new weird" genre of literature. In some ways I wish I knew Drum 'n' Bass music in order to hear the musical background pulsing throughout the novel. On the other hand, I could have looked into it and didn't, so my lack of total understanding didn't prohibit me from enjoying the tale.  Admittedly, I enjoyed Perdido Street Station, Un Lun Dun, and The City and the City more, but King Rat is highly recommended.


I can squeeze between buildings through spaces you can't even see. I can walk behind you so close my breath raises gooseflesh on your neck and you won't hear me. I can hear the muscles in your eyes contract when your pupils dilate. I can feed off your filth and live in your house and sleep under your bed and you will never know unless I want you to. opening

His father would probably be waiting for him. He knew Saul was coming back, and he would surely make an effort to be welcoming, forfeiting his usual evening in the pub to greet his son. Saul already resented him for that. He felt gauche and uncharitable, but he despised his father's faltering attempts to communicate. He was happier when the two of them avoided each other. Being surly was easy, and felt more honest. pg. 15

"Mr. Garamond," he said. "I'm sorry to have to tell you that your father is dead."
Saul gazed at him. That much was obvious surely, he felt like shouting, but tears stopped him. He tried to speak through his streaming eyes and nose, but could issue nothing but a sob. He wept noisily for a minute, then struggled to control himself. He sniffed back tears like a baby and wiped his snotty nose on his sleeve. The three policemen stood and watched him impassively until he had controlled himself a little more.
"What's going on?" he croaked. pg. 22-23

“I’m the big-time crime boss. I’m the one that stinks. I’m the scavenger chief; I live where you don’t want me. I’m the intruder. I killed the usurper, I take you to safekeeping. I killed half your continent one time. I know when your ships are sinking. I can break your traps across my knee and eat the cheese in your face and make you blind with my piss. I’m the one with the hardest teeth in the world, I’m the whiskered boy. I’m the Duce of the sewers, I run the underground. I’m the king."....
I’m King Rat.” pg. 34

He was swallowing with anxiety. He was remembering his father. This was the key to everything, he thought; his was the catalyst, the legend that would make sense of the surreality which had caught him up in its gusts. pg. 43

"You're a special boy, Saul, got special blood in your veins, and there's one in the city who'd like to see it spilled. Your mum was my sister, Saul.
"Your mum was a rat." pg. 44

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