n my non-writer side, I’ve been developing a game, StoreyMinus, a little dungeon crawl set in London, it its sewers and tube lines and cellars and ruins, where you can crawl about and try to survive and possibly find the surface once again. It takes a lot of time to code (which I don’t have these days) but it has wetted my interests in London and its below once again.
In thinking of this, of all possible scenarios, I remembered a China Miévillebook, King Rat, which I could only vaguely remember. So, because I keep all my old favorites, I tugged this off the shelf and began reading it again.
It’s the story of Saul, a young man at odds with his father, a member of the 1998’s London youth scene. He’s just returned home from vagabonding on the beach, slipping into his father’s home, disdainfully not waking the old man as he goes to bed. But the next morning, he wakes fitfully. As cops pull him out of his bed. And there is his father on the ground outside, amid the broken glass of a six storey (there is that spelling again) fall. Clearly Saul argued with and murdered his father. Clearly.
But Saul is broken out of jail by a wiry nasty man, ratlike in more ways that you can imagine. For he is King Rat, and Saul, the child of another rat/human, is a Prince. From here, Saul learns to be a rat, to embrace his rat, eating raw garbage, running through the sewers and along the abandoned tube lines, coming to grips with his new life.
And part of his new life is the return of an old enemy. The Piper of Hamlin, who once crushed King Rat’s army, has returned. With his flute, he will charm and destroy the various armies of London (the rats, the birds and the spiders) and Saul (being not man, not rat) is the only being who can stop him.
The usual disclaimer here. I love Miéville. I love his macabre writing. Nobody can describe urban nastiness like Miéville. The London I love, the touristy London, is not the London China writes about. For example, those barges on the Thames?
An ancient barge, one of the various hulks that littered the river, untended and ignored. It heaved gently to and fro in the current, little waves slapping its greasy boards like petulant children. The corpse of a boat, its black wood leprous and decaying, a vast tarpaulin slung across it like a shroud.
And that’s what you’ll get with this book, another London, one dark and dripping and nasty. A true delight. Four flicks of a rat’s tale, this one. Read it!