Oh dear, my naffness premonition about King Rat turned out to be right. Check out these lines:
- “Saul’s heart was beating like a Jungle bassline.” [This is after Saul had been running for ages. Fuck saving the metropolis, dude has some serious irregular heartbeat issues to worry about! You want to exaggerate like this, say his heart was beating like Moby’s Thousand, but a jungle bassline is just…medically wrong.]
- “The rats and Saul left the relative safety of London’s nightlands and entered the warehouse, the frenzied jaws of Drum and Bass, the domain of smoke and strobe lights and Hardcore, the Piper’s lair, the heart of Darkness, deep in the Jungle.” [Again with the unnecessary capitalisations. Are we in Brixton or the Hundred Acre Wood?]
- “The Drum and Bass felt as if it would lift the hatch out of the floor, off into the sky. It was unforgiving, a punishing assault of original Hardcore beats.” [It feels a bit off to use that usual MC patois of “original hardcore” in a description like this. Is it just me?]
- “She pulled the record back, let it forward again a little, pulled it back, scratching playfully like an old school rapper, finally releasing her hand and switching off the first tune in a smooth movement, unleashing the new bassline.” [Scratching like a rapper? Also, reading about how someone DJs is like watching paint dry.]
Apart from the drum’n’bass cringeworthiness, some other things about the book’s plot seem a bit misconceived, sort of like what you might come up with if you went out to a massive jungle night with your mates back in the day, took a lot of E, brought everyone back to yours to come down on some spliffs, and while lounging wrecked on your plonk-stained student flat carpet, started brainstorming ideas for a book. For example (some spoilers to follow, but I think they’re so damn obvious long before they happen that there’s no harm giving them away now):
- Saul the protagonist finds out as a young man that he is actually a rat. He is told this by King Rat, also a rat. He encounters Anansi, the king of spiders, and Loplop, king of birds. But at no point do any of these characters appear in any form other than human. I think it’s totally acceptable for them to be able to take on forms other than their own species, but it’s rather odd they always seem to prefer being human. Love the skin you’re in, man. Or carapace.
- A minor character in the book is a police detective whose name is Crowley. Aha, the reader thinks, giving him a name so obviously allusive means I should keep my eye on this one! Actually, no. Apart from investigating all the grotesque murders perpetrated by the Piper, he’s just a honest ordinary policeman trying to do his job. Most pointless red herring ever.
- The premise of the book is that, as hinted at in the children’s story, the Pied Piper of Hamlin is totally eeeeevil and gets a real buzz from mesmerizing hapless creatures with his flute playing and making them dance to his dastardly tune. He doesn’t seem to reap real world benefits from this like sex slaves or anything, he just likes the control. And he really really wants to kill Saul, because Saul is a rat-human hybrid and isn’t affected by the sound of his flute. No, there isn’t any more to it than that. So anyway, an easy way for him to kill Saul is to lure him somewhere crowded, then play his flute and command the mesmerized humans to kill Saul. But clearly that would be too easy for our villain! Instead, he actually has to persuade a dnb producer/DJ to let him play flute on a track, lure Saul to a massive jungle night, and force the DJ to drop the track. You know that sound of a record sputtering to a sudden halt? I’m making it right now. I mean, come on. Okay, so Mieville loves jungle. I love jungle too, but you don’t see me finding nonsensical ways to include it in my joint venture agreements.