King Rat is Miéville's first novel. It is set in a late-90s London (not in fictional New Crobuzon like his other novels - Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council). The imagery and language is dark and gritty, as I've come to expect from Miéville. The use of London street slang can be a bit difficult to understand for us 'Americans', but in the end context creates understanding and it adds to the atmosphere of the book. Right beside the coarse slang of the streets of London is the industrial music of late-90s, Jungle. Jungle plays a key role in the story and will especially appeal those familiar with the music and the Rave-type scene. Miéville is fantastic at creating the mood of a city through his descriptions. In King Rat I felt he gets it just right - in the other novel I've read by him (PSS) it seems a bit over done at times.
Upon returning to London, Saul is arrested and blamed for the death of a family member. Shortly after his arrest he is rescued from jail by a mysterious man calling himself King Rat. This man has inhuman strength and agility and smells of an animal - a very dirty and stinky animal. Saul has much to learn from King Rat - about himself and the world as he has never seen it.
In this new world, Saul learns of The Piper - the same Piper from the fairy tale that rids Hamlin of rats and ultimately its children. The Piper can play his tune to the entire world's species, he is in town, and he wants both Saul and King Rat dead.
The story is well told, if not as engrossing as Perdido Street Station. At times you can taste the world of Saul and King Rat - and you wish you couldn't. Overall it is a good read, though I hesitate to call it a great read. On a 10-scale, where 10 is unsurpassed and 5 is a take-it or leave-it book, I score King Rat at 6.5. In comparison, I'd probably score Perdido Street Station at 8.5 or even 9.
Related Reviews: The Scar
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