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    Review of KING RAT by China Mieville

    Tor Books, October 1999

    Saul Garamond doesn't bother waking his father when he returns from a trip out of town--which the police find suspicious considering his father is lying dead outside the apartment. While he's waiting in jail between interviews with cops intent on getting a confession, Saul is visited by a weird "man" who claims to be the king of rats... and Saul's uncle. Using rat skills, the King leads Saul out of jail and into the sewers, exposing Saul to the non-human side of his heritage. But the King has a problem... since the Pied Piper struck, the rats no longer trust him and the King himself lives in fear. Somehow, together, they've got to find a way to defeat the piper and reclaim the rat kingdom.

    Saul's adventures take place in a London that's just a twist away from the ordinary. Saul's friends struggle for success in the music business while the piper strikes again and again, leaving a trail that Saul knows can only be a trap. Worse, Saul doubts the motives of the King.

    KING RAT is China Mieville's first novel (see more reviews of speculative fiction by Mieville) and it's an impressive introduction. Mieville really gets into the city of London, with its stinks, it's squallor and it's energy. Saul is an interesting protagonist, fallible, angry, yet with firm friendships and a growing appreciation for his dead father. There's a lot of potential here, and KING RAT is an enjoyable read. It's especially enjoyable for fans of Mieville (like me) because Mieville builds on his strengths in his later works. He returns to London, for example, in Un Lun Dun, ( see our review), and his strengths in creating complex plots and strange reflections of our world have developed masterfully. KING RAT is certainly not as mature as Mieville's later work, but it's certainly an enjoyable read in itself, as well as an introduction to an important author in today's speculative fiction scene.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 2/19/12

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