Bas-Lag Reading Project Part Three: Perdido Street Station Part Three
We come now to the third part of my Bas-Lag Reading Project. This section will cover the third part of Perdido Street Station called Metaporphosis. With “Metamorphosis,” the main conflict in the narrative is unveiled- the Slake Moths and how to stop these nigh invulnerable predators who suck out victims’ conciousnesses. The Slake Moths introduce or interogate another aspect of the continuing theme- the mind itself as an agent of understanding.
Even though the Slake Moths are not named or really explained in depth until later parts of the novel, I want to discuss them here in terms of the trope/ archetype they perform. Isaac is a mad scientist, mind you he is not insane or a villain, but it is his actions, his thoughtless pursuit of his experiments that produce the whole problem of the Slake Moths.
A question is then begged. Is Issac Dan der Grimnebulin an example of a “good” scientist? What do I even mean by a “good” scientist. Writing about “good” in this manner means whether he is a competent, ethical, or dutiful scientist. Thinking first of the scienfific method, does Isaac follow it? Yes, I think he does, but given the familiarity that one should have with it, it is not elaborated on. Where Issac fails as a scientist, however, is in ethics. The notion of scienfific ethics (or any type of ethics for that matter) seems to be alien to New Crobuzon. Isaac uses Lemuel Pigeon to organize the theft of anything that can or could fly. This includes the theft of one of the Slake Moth caterpillars (who will be called the Runt). He also steals eqiupment from NCU, which he calls “liberating.” He even takes pride in the fact that if he can get his equipment, research materials, subjects, etc. less than legally. Hell, it is his prefered method! In a way, there is as much of a connection between Issac and Jonathan Crane or Curt Connors as there is with Reed Richards.
But there are two important things to remember about China Mieville and Bas-Lag. This is a work of Steampunk influenced by the Weird and New Weird. The various Punk genres are famous for having predominantly anti-heroes for protagonists. Also, none of Mieville’s protagonists in the Bas-Lag books are saints or even heroic until forced into it. That is what makes these characters so real. Isaac unintentionally unleashes a monster (later four more) onto New Crobuzon because he was curious about it.
In the end, Issac is sufficeintly heroic enough to want to take out the Slake Moth(s) himself. This still does not make him a “good” guy as he tends to prefere working in the darker recesses of legitimacy in New Crobuzon.
Before I switch topics, I want to write a little about the Unified Field Theory. I think the theory is meant to be a reference to the contemporary search for the Theory of Everything and to String Theory. But I also think that the UFP also references literary theory in the sense that crisis is the key to any work of narrative fiction. A narrative fiction is a steady build up of crises and conflicts, some resolved others delayed. This build up then leads to the denouement, the conclusion where the pressures of the crisis are released in any number of ways. Could this, then, be an examble of metanarrative?
This section also introduces in the last two chapters the Mayor of New Crobuzon, Bentham Rudgutter, his deputy, Montjon Rescue, and Eliza Stem-Fulcher, the home secretary. Despite the fact that they are all rather odious characters, I rather like them. Yes, Rudgutter is a rather cardboard corrupt politician, but there is a certain power, a charisma that leaks through. Seeing him deal with the Hellkin Ambassador (and later, the Weaver) is a testament to his character. To be honest, the vast majority of politicians would probably crap themselves at the prospect of meeting with a demon.
Thinking about Rudgutter and the rest of the New Crobuzine government, I will be looking at the logic, the descision to have sold the Slake Moths to Mr. Motley. I am leaning toward a commentary on the all so typical privitization or deregulation that is common in neoliberal economics.