King Rat, by China Miéville, is an odd book. After reading his multi-award winning Perdido Street Station and The Scar, I thought I'd try a few more. This is his first novel but it's is a completely different kind of story from either of the aforementioned titles...
When Saul Garamond's father plummeted from a top floor window in Terragon Manshions, it was a long and terminal drop and the first Saul knew about it was when he was rudely woken by the police, who saw him as their prime suspect.
While waiting in the police cell, Saul has an unexpected visit from a shadowy figure calling himself King Rat and he's come to break Saul free. So King Rat leads Saul to freedom via a nail-biting escape over the roofs of London and down into the safety of its damp and dank sewers among the rats and spiders.
But someone other than the police is looking for Saul so, against a pounding backdrop of Jungle Drum and Bass music, he must discover the real murderer, learn his true heritage, rescue his friends and and face an enemy straight out of fairytale horror!
It's not as deeply plotted out as his later works but it's still a dark tale with interesting characters. The whole idea of an animal sub-culture, with semi-human rulers, certainly works here and mixing the storyline with characters from the old 13th century German legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is definitely inventive. I was a bit worried at one point when it seemed as if the author was going to get a bit too detailed about the Jungle Drum and Bass music scene as it's not one I'm familiar with but, while it's deeply involved in the latter stages of the book as the tale reaches its climax, it doesn't deter from or interfere with the story line.
King Rat is a fairly gruesome and violent story, hence the horror categorization, but it all works and I think it'd make a pretty good and entertaining movie. The pace never lets up and there's plenty of action and a fair few high tension moments in there as well. I can just visualize the hordes of CGI rats, birds and spiders flowing over and under the buildings of London - shudder!
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery.
My Rating: 7/10