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Perdido Street Station

by

Perdido Street Station Cover

ISBN13: 9780345459404
ISBN10: 0345459407
Condition: Standard
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Only 1 left in stock at $4.95!

 

Staff Pick

Perdido Street Station is an excellent tale. The characters are realistic, as is the city they live in (even though it is a far-fetched fantasy land). The story is well paced and carries the reader forward — it will keep your interest piqued till the very end.
Recommended by Hobie, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies New Crobuzon, a squalid city where humans, Re-mades, and arcane races live in perpetual fear of Parliament and its brutal militia. The air and rivers are thick with factory pollutants and the strange effluents of alchemy, and the ghettos contain a vast mix of workers, artists, spies, junkies, and whores. In New Crobuzon, the unsavory deal is stranger to none — not even to Isaac, a brilliant scientist with a penchant for Crisis Theory.

Isaac has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before fathomed. Though the Garuda's request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger.

While Isaac's experiments for the Garuda turn into an obsession, one of his lab specimens demands attention: a brilliantly colored caterpillar that feeds on nothing but a hallucinatory drug and grows larger — and more consuming — by the day. What finally emerges from the silken cocoon will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon — and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it invokes...

A magnificent fantasy rife with scientific splendor, magical intrigue, and wonderfully realized characters, told in a storytelling style in which Charles Dickens meets Neal Stephenson, Perdido Street Station offers an eerie, voluptuously crafted world that will plumb the depths of every reader's imagination.

Review:

"Earthy, sometimes outright disgusting — imagine finding your toilet blocked up by diamonds — but, amazingly in a book of this length, flawlessly plotted and relentlessly,stunningly inventive: a conceptual breakthrough of the highest order." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"The most exciting, enthralling novel I have read in a long time. It is about everything important — love, work, hope, worlds we knew were out there but needed a writer like Miéville to show them to us. His imagination is vast, his talent volcanic. Read this book. It just might be a masterpiece." Jonathon Carroll

Review:

"More world building than storytelling, the yarn at least suggests that the author of King Rat is marching forward in his fantasy-writing career." Booklist

Review:

"It is the best streampunk novel since Gibson and Sterling's." John Clute

Review:

"[A] phantasmagoric masterpiece...The book left me breathless with admiration." Brian Stableford

Review:

"This science fiction novel rocked my world. Sex with giant insects. Dream-sucking slake moths. An action-packed thriller with high literary production values. A sprawling, vastly ambitious, exquisitely executed science fiction fantasy with the best possible ending: You want more, more, more." Andrew Leonard, Salon.com

Review:

"Miéville's canvas is so breathtakingly broad that the details of individual subplots and characters sometimes lose their definition. But it is also generous enough to accommodate large dollops of aesthetics, scientific discussion, and quest fantasy in an impressive and ultimately pleasing epic." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"China Miéville's cool style has conjured up a triumphantly macabre technoslip metropolis with a unique atmosphere of horror and fascination." Peter Hamilton

Synopsis:

In the sprawling gothic city of New Crobuzon, a stranger requests the services of Isaac, an overweight and slightly eccentric scientist. But it is an impossible request — that of flight — and in the end Isaac's attempts will only succeed in unleashing a dark force upon the city.

Synopsis:

Chapter One

A window burst open high above the market. A basket flew from it and arced

towards the oblivious crowd. It spasmed in mid-air, then spun and

continued earthwards at a slower, uneven pace. Dancing precariously as it

descended, its wire-mesh caught and skittered on the buildings rough

hide. It scrabbled at the wall, sending paint and concrete dust plummeting

before it.

The sun shone through uneven cloud-cover with a bright grey light. Below

the basket the stalls and barrows lay like untidy spillage. The city

reeked. But today was market day down in Aspic Hole, and the pungent slick

of dung-smell and rot that rolled over New Crobuzon was, in these streets,

for these hours, improved with paprika and fresh tomato, hot oil and fish

and cinnamon, cured meat, banana and onion.

The food stalls stretched the noisy length of Shadrach Street. Books and

manuscripts and pictures filled up Selchit Pass, an avenue of desultory

banyans and crumbling concrete a little way to the east. There were

earthenware products spilling down the road to Barrackham in the south;

engine parts to the west; toys down one side street; clothes between two

more; and countless other goods filling all the alleys. The rows of

merchandise converged crookedly on Aspic Hole like spokes on a broken

wheel.

In the Hole itself all distinctions broke down. In the shadow

of old walls and unsafe towers were a pile of gears, a ramshackle

table of broken crockery and crude clay ornaments, a case of mouldering

textbooks. Antiques, sex, flea-powder. Between the stalls stomped hissing

constructs. Beggars argued in the bowels of deserted buildings. Members of

strange races bought peculiar things. Aspic Bazaar, a blaring mess of

goods, grease and tallymen. Mercantile law ruled: let the buyer beware.

The costermonger below the descending basket looked up into flat sunlight

and a shower of brick particles. He wiped his eye. He plucked the frayed

thing from the air above his head, pulling at the cord which bore it until

it went slack in his hand. Inside the basket was a brass shekel and a note

in careful, ornamented italics. The food-vendor scratched his nose as he

scanned the paper. He rummaged in the piles of produce before him, placed

eggs and fruit and root vegetables into the container, checking against

the list. He stopped and read one item again, then smiled lasciviously and

cut a slice of pork. When he was done he put the shekel in his pocket and

felt for change, hesitating as he calculated his delivery cost, eventually

depositing four stivers in with the food.

He wiped his hands against his trousers and thought for a minute, then

scribbled something on the list with a stub of charcoal and tossed it

after the coins.

He tugged three times at the rope and the basket began a bobbing journey

into the air. It rose above the lower roofs of surrounding buildings,

buoyed upwards by noise. It startled the roosting jackdaws in the deserted

storey and inscribed the wall with another scrawled trail among many,

before it disappeared again into the window from which it had emerged.

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin had just realized that he was dreaming. He had

been aghast to find himself employed once again at the university,

parading in front of a huge blackboard covered in vague representations of

levers and forces and stress. Introductory Material Science. Isaac had

been staring anxiously at the class when that unctuous bastard Vermishank

had looked in.

“I cant teach this class,” whispered Isaac loudly. “The markets too

loud.” He gestured at the window.

“Its all right.” Vermishank was soothing and loathsome. “Its time for

breakfast,” he said. “Thatll take your mind off the noise.” And hearing

that absurdity Isaac shed sleep with immense relief. The raucous profanity

of the bazaar and the smell of cooking came with him into the day.

He lay hugely in the bed without opening his eyes. He heard Lin walk

across the room and felt the slight listing of the floorboards. The garret

was filled with pungent smoke. Isaac salivated.

Lin clapped twice. She knew when Isaac woke. Probably because he closed

his mouth, he thought, and sniggered without opening his eyes.

“Still sleeping, shush, poor little Isaac ever so tired,” he whimpered,

and snuggled down like a child. Lin clapped again, once, derisory, and

walked away.

He groaned and rolled over.

“Termagant!” he moaned after her. “Shrew! Harridan! All right, all right,

you win, you, you . . . uh . . . virago, you spit-fire . . .” He rubbed

his head and sat up, grinned sheepishly. Lin made an obscene gesture at

him without turning around.

She stood with her back to him, nude at the stove, dancing back as hot

drops of oil leapt from the pan. The covers slipped from the slope of

Isaacs belly. He was a dirigible, huge and taut and strong. Grey hair

burst from him abundantly.

Lin was hairless. Her muscles were tight under her red skin, each

distinct. She was like an anatomical atlas. Isaac studied her in cheerful

lust.

His arse itched. He scratched under the blanket, rooting as shameless as a

dog. Something burst under his nail, and he withdrew his hand to examine

it. A tiny half-crushed grub waved helplessly on the end of his finger. It

was a refflick, a harmless little khepri parasite. The thing must have

been rather bewildered by my juices, Isaac thought, and flicked his finger

clean.

“Refflick, Lin,” he said. “Bath time.”

Lin stamped in irritation.

New Crobuzon was a huge plague pit, a morbific city. Parasites, infection

and rumour were uncontainable. A monthly chymical dip was a necessary

prophylactic for the khepri, if they wanted to avoid itches and sores.

Lin slid the contents of the pan onto a plate and set it down, across from

her own breakfast. She sat and gestured for Isaac to join her. He rose

from the bed and stumbled across the room. He eased himself onto the small

chair, wary of splinters.

Isaac and Lin sat naked on either side of the bare wooden table. Isaac was

conscious of their pose, seeing them as a third person might. It would

make a beautiful, strange print, he thought. An attic room, dust-motes in

the light from the small window, books and paper and paints neatly stacked

by cheap wooden furniture. A dark-skinned man, big and nude and

detumescing, gripping a knife and fork, unnaturally still, sitting

opposite a khepri, her slight womans body in shadow, her chitinous head

in silhouette.

They ignored their food and stared at each other for a moment. Lin signed

at him: Good morning, lover. Then she began to eat, still looking at him.

It was when she ate that Lin was most alien, and their shared meals were a

challenge and an affirmation. As he watched her, Isaac felt the familiar

trill of emotion: disgust immediately stamped out, pride at the stamping

out, guilty desire.

Light glinted in Lins compound eyes. Her headlegs quivered. She picked up

half a tomato and gripped it with her mandibles. She lowered her hands

while her inner mouthparts picked at the food her outer jaw held steady.

Isaac watched the huge iridescent scarab that was his lovers head devour

her breakfast.

He watched her swallow, saw her throat bob where the pale insectile

underbelly segued smoothly into her human neck . . . not that she would

have accepted that description. Humans have khepri bodies, legs, hands;

and the heads of shaved gibbons, she had once told him.

He smiled and dangled his fried pork in front of him, curled his tongue

around it, wiped his greasy fingers on the table. He smiled at her. She

undulated her headlegs at him and signed, My monster.

I am a pervert, thought Isaac, and so is she.

Breakfast conversation was generally one-sided: Lin could sign with her

hands while she ate, but Isaacs attempts to talk and eat simultaneously

made for incomprehensible noises and food debris on the table. Instead

they read; Lin an artists newsletter, Isaac whatever came to hand. He

reached out between mouthfuls and grabbed books and papers, and found

himself reading Lins shopping list. The item a handful of pork slices was

ringed and underneath her exquisite calligraphy was a scrawled question in

much cruder script: Got company??? Nice bit of pork goes down a treat!!!

Isaac waved the paper at Lin. “Whats this filthy arse on about?” he

yelled, spraying food. His outrage was amused but genuine.

Lin read it and shrugged.

Knows I dont eat meat. Knows Ive got a guest for breakfast. Wordplay on

“pork.”

“Yes, thanks, lover, I got that bit. How does he know youre a vegetarian?

Do you two often engage in this witty banter?”

Lin stared at him for a moment without responding.

Knows because I dont buy meat. She shook her head at the stupid question.

Dont worry: only ever banter on paper. Doesnt know Im bug.

Her deliberate use of the slur annoyed Isaac.

“Dammit, I wasnt insinuating anything . . .” Lins hand waggled, the

equivalent of a raised eyebrow. Isaac howled in irritation. “Godshit, Lin!

Not everything I say is about fear of discovery!”

Isaac and Lin had been lovers nearly two years. They had always tried not

to think too hard about the rules of their relationship, but the longer

they were together the more this strategy

of avoidance became impossible. Questions as yet unasked demanded

attention. Innocent remarks and askance looks from others, a moment of

contact too long in public—a note from a grocer—everything was a reminder

that they were, in some contexts, living a secret. Everything was made

fraught.

They had never said, We are lovers, so they had never had to say, We will

not disclose our relationship to all, we will hide from some. But it had

been clear for months and months that this was the case.

Lin had begun to hint, with snide and acid remarks, that Isaacs refusal

to declare himself her lover was at best cowardly, at worst bigoted. This

insensitivity annoyed him. He had, after all, made the nature of his

relationship clear with his close friends, as Lin had with hers. And it

was all far, far easier for her.

She was an artist. Her circle were the libertines, the patrons and the

hangers-on, bohemians and parasites, poets and pamphleteers and

fashionable junkies. They delighted in the scandalous and the outré. In

the tea-houses and bars of Salacus Fields, Lins escapades—broadly hinted

at, never denied, never made explicit—would be the subject of louche

discussion and innuendo. Her love-life was an avant-garde transgression,

an art-happening, like Concrete Music had been last season, or Snot Art!

the year before that.

And yes, Isaac could play that game. He was known in that world, from long

before his days with Lin. He was, after all, the

scientist-outcast, the disreputable thinker who walked out of a lucrative

teaching post to engage in experiments too outrageous and brilliant for

the tiny minds who ran the university. What did he care for convention? He

would sleep with whomever and whatever he liked, surely!

That was his persona in Salacus Fields, where his relationship with Lin

was an open secret, where he enjoyed being more or less open, where he

would put his arm around her in the bars and whisper to her as she sucked

sugar-coffee from a sponge. That was his story, and it was at least half

true.

He had walked out of the university ten years ago. But only because he

realized to his misery that he was a terrible teacher.

He had looked out at the quizzical faces, listened to the frantic

scrawling of the panicking students, and realized that with a mind that

ran and tripped and hurled itself down the corridors of theory in anarchic

fashion, he could learn himself, in haphazard lurches, but he could not

impart the understanding he so loved. He had hung his head in shame and

fled.

In another twist to the myth, his Head of Department, the ageless and

loathsome Vermishank, was not a plodding epigone but an exceptional

bio-thaumaturge, who had nixed Isaacs research less because it was

unorthodox than because it was going nowhere. Isaac could be brilliant,

but he was undisciplined. Vermishank had played him like a fish, making

him beg for work as a freelance researcher on terrible pay, but with

limited access to the university laboratories.

And it was this, his work, which kept Isaac circumspect about his lover.

About the Author

China Miéville is currently reading for his Ph.D. at the London School of Economics. His first novel, King Rat, was published in 1998. He lives in England.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 7 comments:

mikecampbellsan, August 19, 2012 (view all comments by mikecampbellsan)
A phantasmagorical work. A bit steam punky, a bit fantastical, and entirely engaging. If you want to dip your toe into the "New Weird" of fantasy/sci fi, this hit by China Mieville is a great choice. Follow up with The Scar if you like the world of New Crobuzon.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Anthony Thayer, September 2, 2011 (view all comments by Anthony Thayer)
The story Mr. Mieville spins about this amazing steampunk metropolis is so sprawling and varied that it is difficult to fit into my poor brain. Every re-read reveals more and more of the world, and every book that takes place in this world only adds to the weight and feel. Politics and rage and romance and descriptions that defy description make the whole thing feel so real. Though difficult to read at times, it pays to keep with it and see it through all of the filth and grit for the shining core of the story to come through.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Roy Christopher, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Roy Christopher)
Less of a book and more of an alternate universe.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 7 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780345459404
Author:
Mieville, China
Publisher:
Del Rey Books
Author:
Mieville, China
Location:
New York
Subject:
Finance
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
Science Fiction - Adventure
Subject:
Economics - General
Subject:
Scientists
Subject:
Science / Adventure
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Adventure
Subject:
fantasy;fiction;steampunk;science fiction;sf;new weird;urban fantasy;horror;novel;speculative fiction;dark fantasy;dystopia;weird fiction;new crobuzon;sff;cities;dark;urban;british;magic;science;2000s;cyberpunk;flight;city;drugs;adventure;arthur c. clarke
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st mass market ed.
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series Volume:
v. 1
Publication Date:
20030731
Binding:
MASS MARKET
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
640
Dimensions:
7 x 4.2 x 1.1 in 0.6688 lb

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Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Staff Picks

Perdido Street Station Used Mass Market
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 640 pages Del Rey Books - English 9780345459404 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Perdido Street Station is an excellent tale. The characters are realistic, as is the city they live in (even though it is a far-fetched fantasy land). The story is well paced and carries the reader forward — it will keep your interest piqued till the very end.

"Review" by , "Earthy, sometimes outright disgusting — imagine finding your toilet blocked up by diamonds — but, amazingly in a book of this length, flawlessly plotted and relentlessly,stunningly inventive: a conceptual breakthrough of the highest order."
"Review" by , "The most exciting, enthralling novel I have read in a long time. It is about everything important — love, work, hope, worlds we knew were out there but needed a writer like Miéville to show them to us. His imagination is vast, his talent volcanic. Read this book. It just might be a masterpiece."
"Review" by , "More world building than storytelling, the yarn at least suggests that the author of King Rat is marching forward in his fantasy-writing career."
"Review" by , "It is the best streampunk novel since Gibson and Sterling's."
"Review" by , "[A] phantasmagoric masterpiece...The book left me breathless with admiration."
"Review" by , "This science fiction novel rocked my world. Sex with giant insects. Dream-sucking slake moths. An action-packed thriller with high literary production values. A sprawling, vastly ambitious, exquisitely executed science fiction fantasy with the best possible ending: You want more, more, more."
"Review" by , "Miéville's canvas is so breathtakingly broad that the details of individual subplots and characters sometimes lose their definition. But it is also generous enough to accommodate large dollops of aesthetics, scientific discussion, and quest fantasy in an impressive and ultimately pleasing epic."
"Review" by , "China Miéville's cool style has conjured up a triumphantly macabre technoslip metropolis with a unique atmosphere of horror and fascination."
"Synopsis" by , In the sprawling gothic city of New Crobuzon, a stranger requests the services of Isaac, an overweight and slightly eccentric scientist. But it is an impossible request — that of flight — and in the end Isaac's attempts will only succeed in unleashing a dark force upon the city.
"Synopsis" by , Chapter One

A window burst open high above the market. A basket flew from it and arced

towards the oblivious crowd. It spasmed in mid-air, then spun and

continued earthwards at a slower, uneven pace. Dancing precariously as it

descended, its wire-mesh caught and skittered on the buildings rough

hide. It scrabbled at the wall, sending paint and concrete dust plummeting

before it.

The sun shone through uneven cloud-cover with a bright grey light. Below

the basket the stalls and barrows lay like untidy spillage. The city

reeked. But today was market day down in Aspic Hole, and the pungent slick

of dung-smell and rot that rolled over New Crobuzon was, in these streets,

for these hours, improved with paprika and fresh tomato, hot oil and fish

and cinnamon, cured meat, banana and onion.

The food stalls stretched the noisy length of Shadrach Street. Books and

manuscripts and pictures filled up Selchit Pass, an avenue of desultory

banyans and crumbling concrete a little way to the east. There were

earthenware products spilling down the road to Barrackham in the south;

engine parts to the west; toys down one side street; clothes between two

more; and countless other goods filling all the alleys. The rows of

merchandise converged crookedly on Aspic Hole like spokes on a broken

wheel.

In the Hole itself all distinctions broke down. In the shadow

of old walls and unsafe towers were a pile of gears, a ramshackle

table of broken crockery and crude clay ornaments, a case of mouldering

textbooks. Antiques, sex, flea-powder. Between the stalls stomped hissing

constructs. Beggars argued in the bowels of deserted buildings. Members of

strange races bought peculiar things. Aspic Bazaar, a blaring mess of

goods, grease and tallymen. Mercantile law ruled: let the buyer beware.

The costermonger below the descending basket looked up into flat sunlight

and a shower of brick particles. He wiped his eye. He plucked the frayed

thing from the air above his head, pulling at the cord which bore it until

it went slack in his hand. Inside the basket was a brass shekel and a note

in careful, ornamented italics. The food-vendor scratched his nose as he

scanned the paper. He rummaged in the piles of produce before him, placed

eggs and fruit and root vegetables into the container, checking against

the list. He stopped and read one item again, then smiled lasciviously and

cut a slice of pork. When he was done he put the shekel in his pocket and

felt for change, hesitating as he calculated his delivery cost, eventually

depositing four stivers in with the food.

He wiped his hands against his trousers and thought for a minute, then

scribbled something on the list with a stub of charcoal and tossed it

after the coins.

He tugged three times at the rope and the basket began a bobbing journey

into the air. It rose above the lower roofs of surrounding buildings,

buoyed upwards by noise. It startled the roosting jackdaws in the deserted

storey and inscribed the wall with another scrawled trail among many,

before it disappeared again into the window from which it had emerged.

Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin had just realized that he was dreaming. He had

been aghast to find himself employed once again at the university,

parading in front of a huge blackboard covered in vague representations of

levers and forces and stress. Introductory Material Science. Isaac had

been staring anxiously at the class when that unctuous bastard Vermishank

had looked in.

“I cant teach this class,” whispered Isaac loudly. “The markets too

loud.” He gestured at the window.

“Its all right.” Vermishank was soothing and loathsome. “Its time for

breakfast,” he said. “Thatll take your mind off the noise.” And hearing

that absurdity Isaac shed sleep with immense relief. The raucous profanity

of the bazaar and the smell of cooking came with him into the day.

He lay hugely in the bed without opening his eyes. He heard Lin walk

across the room and felt the slight listing of the floorboards. The garret

was filled with pungent smoke. Isaac salivated.

Lin clapped twice. She knew when Isaac woke. Probably because he closed

his mouth, he thought, and sniggered without opening his eyes.

“Still sleeping, shush, poor little Isaac ever so tired,” he whimpered,

and snuggled down like a child. Lin clapped again, once, derisory, and

walked away.

He groaned and rolled over.

“Termagant!” he moaned after her. “Shrew! Harridan! All right, all right,

you win, you, you . . . uh . . . virago, you spit-fire . . .” He rubbed

his head and sat up, grinned sheepishly. Lin made an obscene gesture at

him without turning around.

She stood with her back to him, nude at the stove, dancing back as hot

drops of oil leapt from the pan. The covers slipped from the slope of

Isaacs belly. He was a dirigible, huge and taut and strong. Grey hair

burst from him abundantly.

Lin was hairless. Her muscles were tight under her red skin, each

distinct. She was like an anatomical atlas. Isaac studied her in cheerful

lust.

His arse itched. He scratched under the blanket, rooting as shameless as a

dog. Something burst under his nail, and he withdrew his hand to examine

it. A tiny half-crushed grub waved helplessly on the end of his finger. It

was a refflick, a harmless little khepri parasite. The thing must have

been rather bewildered by my juices, Isaac thought, and flicked his finger

clean.

“Refflick, Lin,” he said. “Bath time.”

Lin stamped in irritation.

New Crobuzon was a huge plague pit, a morbific city. Parasites, infection

and rumour were uncontainable. A monthly chymical dip was a necessary

prophylactic for the khepri, if they wanted to avoid itches and sores.

Lin slid the contents of the pan onto a plate and set it down, across from

her own breakfast. She sat and gestured for Isaac to join her. He rose

from the bed and stumbled across the room. He eased himself onto the small

chair, wary of splinters.

Isaac and Lin sat naked on either side of the bare wooden table. Isaac was

conscious of their pose, seeing them as a third person might. It would

make a beautiful, strange print, he thought. An attic room, dust-motes in

the light from the small window, books and paper and paints neatly stacked

by cheap wooden furniture. A dark-skinned man, big and nude and

detumescing, gripping a knife and fork, unnaturally still, sitting

opposite a khepri, her slight womans body in shadow, her chitinous head

in silhouette.

They ignored their food and stared at each other for a moment. Lin signed

at him: Good morning, lover. Then she began to eat, still looking at him.

It was when she ate that Lin was most alien, and their shared meals were a

challenge and an affirmation. As he watched her, Isaac felt the familiar

trill of emotion: disgust immediately stamped out, pride at the stamping

out, guilty desire.

Light glinted in Lins compound eyes. Her headlegs quivered. She picked up

half a tomato and gripped it with her mandibles. She lowered her hands

while her inner mouthparts picked at the food her outer jaw held steady.

Isaac watched the huge iridescent scarab that was his lovers head devour

her breakfast.

He watched her swallow, saw her throat bob where the pale insectile

underbelly segued smoothly into her human neck . . . not that she would

have accepted that description. Humans have khepri bodies, legs, hands;

and the heads of shaved gibbons, she had once told him.

He smiled and dangled his fried pork in front of him, curled his tongue

around it, wiped his greasy fingers on the table. He smiled at her. She

undulated her headlegs at him and signed, My monster.

I am a pervert, thought Isaac, and so is she.

Breakfast conversation was generally one-sided: Lin could sign with her

hands while she ate, but Isaacs attempts to talk and eat simultaneously

made for incomprehensible noises and food debris on the table. Instead

they read; Lin an artists newsletter, Isaac whatever came to hand. He

reached out between mouthfuls and grabbed books and papers, and found

himself reading Lins shopping list. The item a handful of pork slices was

ringed and underneath her exquisite calligraphy was a scrawled question in

much cruder script: Got company??? Nice bit of pork goes down a treat!!!

Isaac waved the paper at Lin. “Whats this filthy arse on about?” he

yelled, spraying food. His outrage was amused but genuine.

Lin read it and shrugged.

Knows I dont eat meat. Knows Ive got a guest for breakfast. Wordplay on

“pork.”

“Yes, thanks, lover, I got that bit. How does he know youre a vegetarian?

Do you two often engage in this witty banter?”

Lin stared at him for a moment without responding.

Knows because I dont buy meat. She shook her head at the stupid question.

Dont worry: only ever banter on paper. Doesnt know Im bug.

Her deliberate use of the slur annoyed Isaac.

“Dammit, I wasnt insinuating anything . . .” Lins hand waggled, the

equivalent of a raised eyebrow. Isaac howled in irritation. “Godshit, Lin!

Not everything I say is about fear of discovery!”

Isaac and Lin had been lovers nearly two years. They had always tried not

to think too hard about the rules of their relationship, but the longer

they were together the more this strategy

of avoidance became impossible. Questions as yet unasked demanded

attention. Innocent remarks and askance looks from others, a moment of

contact too long in public—a note from a grocer—everything was a reminder

that they were, in some contexts, living a secret. Everything was made

fraught.

They had never said, We are lovers, so they had never had to say, We will

not disclose our relationship to all, we will hide from some. But it had

been clear for months and months that this was the case.

Lin had begun to hint, with snide and acid remarks, that Isaacs refusal

to declare himself her lover was at best cowardly, at worst bigoted. This

insensitivity annoyed him. He had, after all, made the nature of his

relationship clear with his close friends, as Lin had with hers. And it

was all far, far easier for her.

She was an artist. Her circle were the libertines, the patrons and the

hangers-on, bohemians and parasites, poets and pamphleteers and

fashionable junkies. They delighted in the scandalous and the outré. In

the tea-houses and bars of Salacus Fields, Lins escapades—broadly hinted

at, never denied, never made explicit—would be the subject of louche

discussion and innuendo. Her love-life was an avant-garde transgression,

an art-happening, like Concrete Music had been last season, or Snot Art!

the year before that.

And yes, Isaac could play that game. He was known in that world, from long

before his days with Lin. He was, after all, the

scientist-outcast, the disreputable thinker who walked out of a lucrative

teaching post to engage in experiments too outrageous and brilliant for

the tiny minds who ran the university. What did he care for convention? He

would sleep with whomever and whatever he liked, surely!

That was his persona in Salacus Fields, where his relationship with Lin

was an open secret, where he enjoyed being more or less open, where he

would put his arm around her in the bars and whisper to her as she sucked

sugar-coffee from a sponge. That was his story, and it was at least half

true.

He had walked out of the university ten years ago. But only because he

realized to his misery that he was a terrible teacher.

He had looked out at the quizzical faces, listened to the frantic

scrawling of the panicking students, and realized that with a mind that

ran and tripped and hurled itself down the corridors of theory in anarchic

fashion, he could learn himself, in haphazard lurches, but he could not

impart the understanding he so loved. He had hung his head in shame and

fled.

In another twist to the myth, his Head of Department, the ageless and

loathsome Vermishank, was not a plodding epigone but an exceptional

bio-thaumaturge, who had nixed Isaacs research less because it was

unorthodox than because it was going nowhere. Isaac could be brilliant,

but he was undisciplined. Vermishank had played him like a fish, making

him beg for work as a freelance researcher on terrible pay, but with

limited access to the university laboratories.

And it was this, his work, which kept Isaac circumspect about his lover.

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