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The Tain

China Mieville

PS Publishing

UK Hardcover First

ISBN 1-902-88064-1

Publication Date: 11-01-2002

89 Pages; $40.00

Date Reviewed: 03-01-03  

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2003



Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, General Fiction

04-15-02, 05-06-02, 05-09-02, 05-16-02, 06-13-02, 12-13-02, 01-07-03, 01-27-03, 03-26-03, 09-13-03

What wine is fine enough to justify a $40.00 per bottle price tag? How do you pay it, why do you buy it? Sip it once and it is gone. Only the memory of the experience of consumption remains. There aren't a lot of copies of PS Publishing's 'The Tain' out and about and those that are available will cost you at least $40.00 in hardcover. How do you measure the value of prose per page? The beauty of the sentence is as fleeting as the taste of fine wine. China Mieville writes sentences that are worth more than money.

'The Tain' from PS Publishing is usual high-quality piece of private publishing, with a lovely cover image by new favorite Edward Miller. Thanks to the publishers and the writer of the introduction, who cannily advise the reader to avoid the intro until after the reading is finished. What then could make you want to read an introduction after you've finished the work? Nothing less than the writing of M. John Harrison, whose style is as gorgeous as Mieville's and not too dissimilar.

The work itself is set in a London changed, a Mieville take on apocalypse. This is not the usual bombs and bullies. Mieville manages to turn the genre into nothing less than the distilled essence of pure literary art, complete with references to his predecessors. To say much more about the content of the work would be to risk ruining it for the reader. With Mieville, the prose, as always, is the thing. He can turn a gorgeous phrase and send it skipping across the lexicons of the literary landscape like a mirror shard hurled at a mirror. He can conjure effortlessly, slip from the simple into the surreal with a weightless word or two.

Mieville successfully avoids the trap that genre fiction sets for its best practitioners. He steps past the snare of genre-for-genre's-sake and easily writes what feels like simple fiction. Paradoxically, it's not at all simple, and the strangeness within unfolds in the reader's brain like the flavor of a fine wine exploding on the tongue. There, you've had it, it's gone.

But this is book, not a bottle. The pages remain -- beautifully bound, imprisoned in Miller's gorgeous artwork. Put the book back on the shelf, give it time to age and mature. Give yourself the same time. You'll age and mature. Now open up the book again. It's the best forty bucks you've ever spent.