Entertaining set of stories– when they are, at least, stories– offset with just a few too many vignettes that start out as stories and go nowhere. The originality of Mieville’s voice is never in doubt, here: there are some beautiful ideas floating around, such as icebergs reconstituting themselves in mid-air, a cabal of creatures whose bones have been scrimshawed while they are still alive, and secret playing cards that open up a secret world of playing structures to those who play them. But a template to Meiville’s storytelling quickly becomes apparent, which leads to the collection, as a whole, beginning to feel rather samey– again, and again, stories fall into a pattern of “here is an amazing secret, discovered by a character; here is the character trying to ascertain the universal truth of this secret; here am I, the author/narrator/antagonist, confirming that the searched-for universal truth exists; no, I will not explain how or why.”
Taken individually, some of these stories are wonderful. Collected together, they are to similar in narrative structure, and cut through with too many sprinkles of nothingness, to truly astound.