King Rat by China Miéville

Something is stirring in London’s dark, stamping out its territory in brickdust and blood. Something has murdered Saul’s father, and left Saul to pay for the crime.

But a shadow from the urban waste breaks into his prison cell and leads him to freedom. A shadow called King Rat.

In the night-land behind London’s façade, in sewers and slums and rotting dead spaces, Saul must learn his true nature.

Grotesque murders rock the city like a curse. Mysterious forces prepare for a showdown. With Drum and Bass pounding the backstreets, Saul confronts his bizarre inheritance – in the badlands of South London, in the heart of darkness, at the gathering of the Junglist Massive.

Like the DJ says: ‘Time for the Badman.’ 

China Miéville is one of my favourite authors thanks to his excellent work but I am seriously behind on his fiction. I love Un Lun Dun, Perdido Street Station and The City and the City but I’ve never read King Rat before so decided to remedy that when I saw it on the shelf at the library and managed to finish it off over the course of a few days. It’s literally that good, and a compelling urban fantasy that reminded me of the Pied Piper of Hamelin legend and makes excellent use of the mythology and urban landscape of London. It’s great from start to finish, and thanks to the excellent writing, comes highly recommended.

Miéville introduces you to the protagonist Saul, who is the number one suspect in his father’s murder. However, Saul gets pulled into a strange and surreal world by the being known as King Rat, and in this new landscape it’s interesting to watch things play out like they do, taking us on a tour of the rat-infested London underground, with drum and bass music also featuring pretty well.

Even though this may be Miéville’s first novel it’s an excellent debut, and if you like urban fantasies set in London then King Rat will be right up your street and if you’re a drum and bass fan I can imagine you’ll enjoy this as well. There’s a lot of things to like here and although it may not quite be as good as the author’s later works it marks a great building point that leads onto further excellent titles. Like pretty much all of the author’s fiction King Rat is a standalone title so you do not have to read anything after this, and it ends on an open ended note with a nice epilogue following the closure of the main story.

If you’re put off by how big Miéville’s later books get then this one might be for you, it’s short, quick and easy to read and fans of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere will enjoy this one a lot. It’s engaging even if it does suffer from a lack of depth particularly for the villains in places, but on the whole, King Rat is an excellent and really enjoyable read that’s worth checking out if you like Miéville, Gaiman or just love good urban fantasy.

VERDICT: 8/10

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