Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cheering Up My Daughter with Insect People

I was away on a business trip during the past week, and one night I begged out of dinner with my co-workers in order to Skype with my daughter, whom I missed dearly.  I caught her during her own dinner, and after she made a few grudging remarks I realized she was a bit out of sorts.  So I fell back on one of my parenting techniques, one that begins with the question, "Did I ever tell you about this book I read?"

In this instance I started telling her about China Mieville's "New Crobuzon" novels, a loosely connected series of three books: "Perdido Street Station", "The Scar", and "Iron Council".  And boy, I knew these books had some crazy ideas, but I never quite appreciated how crazy until I tried to verbally explain various concepts to her, including:
  • Handlingers: Sentient hands that come in pairs - dextral, and sinstral.  Can parasitically control a person.
  • Scabmettlers: A humanoid race whose blood hardens immediately upon contact with air.  Will cut themselves pre-battle to compose intricate patterns of armor upon their own body.
  • The Possible Sword: A blade with an attached "possibility engine" that allows it to strike in multiple locations at once.
  • Remaking: A punishment imposed on criminals and dissidents in New Crobuzon where...  ("Wait, forget I said any of that," I said to my daughter.  "I don't want to give you nightmares.")
  • Slake Moths: Giant moths with hypnotically shimmering wings.  They entrance their sentient prey and suck their consciousness away.
  • Toro: A dissident who forged a helmet in the shape of a bull's head.  Its horns allow Toro to tear space itself, and the reason Toro... ("Nevermind, I can't go on without spoiling the book.  I guess you'll just have to read it some day."  "Daddy!")
  • Armada: A city on the ocean consisting of thousands of ships and boats linked together.  Split into several ridings, each governed by its own ruler.  Rulers include...
    • The Lovers: A man and a woman who "love each other so much" that they share thought and movement
    • The Brucolac: A "good" vampire who imposes a blood tax on his citizens so as to provide sustenance for himself and his fellow vampires without killing anyone in the process.
  • Khepri: A humanoid race with scarab heads.
  • The Malarial Queendom: A long-vanished empire of - mosquito people (I forget the name of their race).  The males appeared as normal humans, but the females suffered from blood hunger where they would rush towards other humanoids with their long proboscis fully extended and drain them completely.
  • The Golemancer (his name is Judah Low, but I couldn't remember it at the time): A man with the power to make golems, but not just out of earth and stone; he can create fire golems, moonlight golems, and in an extremely cool sequence near the end of "Iron Council" he... nevermind, spoilers.
 I'm lucky that my daughter's mother finally came to rip her away from Skype in order to go take a bath; by the end I was running out of child-appropriate things to tell her.  But I'm glad to say that she left far more cheerfully than she arrived.

Thanks, China Mieville!

No comments:

Post a Comment