China Miéville

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Art’s something you choose to make … it’s a bringing together of … of everything around you into something that makes you more human, more khepri, whatever. More of a person.

China Miéville (born 6 September 1972) is a Hugo, Arthur C. Clarke and Locus award-winning English fantastic fiction writer.


The reason that I like SF and fantasy and horror is that to me it's the pulp wing of surrealism.
There’s simultaneously something rigorous and something playful in genre. It’s about the positing of something impossible and then taking that impossibility and granting it its own terms and systematicity. It’s carnivalesque in its impossibility and overturning of reality, but it’s rationalist in that it pretends it is real.
  • I am often asked is [my work] science fiction or fantasy and my answer is usually ‘Yes’.
  • As far as I'm concerned, some of the best literature of the last hundred years has come out of the genre tradition and of course the best of it challenges expectations just as the best of literary fiction challenges those expectations. But it's not that genre fiction is any more a constraint than mimetic fiction. So I see myself very much as a genre writer. I love the fantastic genres. I see what I'm doing as a development of them but very much a part of them. I never feel that I'm leaving them behind. I try and be as experimental and avant-garde and stretching as I can be but I don't see that as turning my back on the genre at all. Genre has always been able to encompass that.
    • Interview with 3am
  • The reason that I like SF and fantasy and horror is that to me it's the pulp wing of surrealism.
    • Interview with 3am
  • The thing about good pulp is that you trust the reader and you know that the mind is a machine to process metaphors so of course all those connections will be there. But you've also granted the fantastic its own dynamic and allowed that awe. There's no contradiction. So I want to have monsters as a metaphor but I also want monsters because monsters are cool. There's no contradiction.
    • Interview with 3am
  • But it's a prize that... if you're into science-fiction and fantasy you grow up reading books with "Hugo [Award-winner]" on the cover. And this is very, very moving, to be in that position oneself. It's an odd situation [too], because, as you say, it was a tie, which is very rare with the Hugo, which has happened, like three times over sixty years, or something. But I prefer to think of it as a quantum Hugo and that Paolo Bacigalupi and I oscillate between between Hugo particle and wave form, this year. So it's properly science-fictional.
  • The other, more nebulous, but very strong influence of RPGs was the weird fetish for systematization, the way everything is reduced to “game stats.” If you take something like Cthulhu in Lovecraft, for example, it is completely incomprehensible and beyond all human categorization. But in the game Call of Cthulhu, you see Cthulhu’s “strength,” “dexterity,” and so on, carefully expressed numerically. There’s something superheroically banalifying about that approach to the fantastic. On one level it misses the point entirely, but I must admit it appeals to me in its application of some weirdly misplaced rigor onto the fantastic: it’s a kind of exaggeratedly precise approach to secondary world creation.
  • There’s simultaneously something rigorous and something playful in genre. It’s about the positing of something impossible—whether not-yet-possible or never-possible—and then taking that impossibility and granting it its own terms and systematicity. It’s carnivalesque in its impossibility and overturning of reality, but it’s rationalist in that it pretends it is real. And it’s that second element which I think those who dip their toes in the SF pond so often forget. They think sf is “about” analogies, and metaphors, and so on. I refute that—I think that those are inevitable components, but it’s the surrendering to the impossible, the weird, that characterizes genre. Those flirting with SF don’t surrender to it; they distance themselves from it, and have a neon sub-text saying, “It’s okay, this isn’t really about spaceships or aliens, it’s about real life,” not understanding that it can be both, and would do the latter better if it was serious about the former.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon
  • Although we revolutionary socialists are always accused of being Utopian, nothing strikes me as more Utopian than the reformist belief that with a bit of tinkering and some good faith, we can systematically improve the world. You have to ask how many decades of broken promises and failed schemes it will take to disprove that hope. Marxism isn’t about saying you’ll get a perfect world: it’s about saying we can get a better world than this one, and it’s hard to imagine, no matter how many mistakes we make, that it could be much worse than the mass starvation, war, oppression, and exploitation we have now. In a world where 30,000 to 40,000 children die of malnutrition daily while grain ships are designed to dump food into the sea if the price dips too low, it’s worth the risk.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon
  • Socialism and SF are the two most fundamental influences in my life.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon
  • I refuse to play the wink-wink-nudge-nudge game with readers. I don’t like whimsy because it doesn’t treat the fantastic seriously, and treating the fantastic seriously is one of the best ways of celebrating dialectical human consciousness there is. The one-sided celebration of the ego-driven contextually constrained instrumentally rational (as opposed to rational in a broader sense) is bureaucratic: the one-sided celebration of the subconscious, desire/fantasy driven is at best utopian, at worst sociopathic. The best fantasies—which include sf and horror—are constructed with a careful dialectic between conscious and subconscious.
    • Interview with Joan Gordon

Short Fiction

All page numbers from the trade paperback first American edition published by Del Rey ISBN 0-345-47607-7
See the Wikipedia page for original publication details
All italics as in the original stories
  • “There’s three ways not to see what you don’t want to,” she told me. “One is the coward’s way and too painful. The other is to close your eyes forever, which is the same as the first, when it comes to it. The third is the hardest and the best: you have to make sure only the things you can afford to see come before you.”
    • Details (p. 111)
  • You make what you see into a window, and you see what you want through it. You make what you see a sort of a door.
    • Details (p. 113)
  • In a newsagent’s he picked up a copy of the Standard, and hesitated by the chocolate, looking at the low-fat version he had trained himself to pretend he liked but suddenly hungry for a real bar, which with guilty devil-may-care he took and paid for.
    • Go Between (p. 129)
  • It’s the first principle, isn’t it? Whoever’s arguing fiercest for violence is the cop.
    • ’Tis the Season (p. 195)
  • This was not the time for rage but for politics and strategy.
    • The Tain (p. 252)
  • You didn’t know, but not knowing is no excuse.
    • The Tain (p. 254)
  • What if the chosen one misunderstands what he’s been chosen for?
    • The Tain (p. 301)
All page numbers from the hardcover first American edition published by Del Rey ISBN 978-1-101-88472-0
See the Wikipedia page for original publication details
All italics as in the original stories
  • Across the globe, in dark places of the earth, secret lairs were rarely caves of monsters or marvels but markets. Shops. The worst-kept secret in circulation was that certain activities invested items in their proximity with certain affects, effects, and powers, and made them hugely valuable. And that thus it was imperative that they be sold. That, certainly, had been the case for as long as there had been people and things, but there were always fluctuations. The occult economies of charged items were always jostling.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 101)
  • Lists make magic, the rhythm of itemized words: you do not list ten techniques, numbered and chantable, in austere prose appropriate for some early-millennium rebooted Book of Thoth, and not know that you have written an incantation.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 102)
  • Abomination from one perspective, it was advertising copy from another.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 102)
  • Koning was a self-made expert. She snuggled what she’d bought in the nest she had made of shredded grimoires and scrunched-up rules of engagement. She watched it. It did nothing.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 103)
  • Metamorphosis is death. Inside a pupa larval flesh breaks down utterly, as if in chemical spill. Eyes do not become other eyes nor mouthparts mouths. All parts are lost in a reconfiguring slop, as absolutely formless as a salted slug, that ex liquid nihilo self-organizes into a quite other animal. A cocoon is not a transformation pod but an execution chamber, one that doubles as a birthplace, and is parsimonious with matter.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 104)
  • Koning’s skills were adequate, her calculations plausible enough, that the plans were hubristic but not quite mad.
    • The 9th Technique (p. 107)
  • The priest was nodding as he sang. I remembered his anger. I remembered when his companion said, “Bastards,” and I realized I didn’t know if she meant the godnappers, or the gods who’d let themselves be taken, who’d let everyone down.
    • The Buzzard’s Egg (p. 121)
  • Joanna took Mel to Dresden, to the Frauenkirche. The timed their visit to coincide with a monthly English evensong. “Firebombs not enough?” Mel whispered. “Now we inflict Anglicanism on them?”
    • Säcken (p. 127)
  • Annalise’s fantasies involve disappearance. She catastrophizes all the time, and makes things worse than they need to be by doing so.
    • Dreaded Outcome (p. 159)
  • She knows most of this, to some extent, and she knows she’s depressed, but if knowing the problem was the solution, most patients wouldn’t need us at all.
    • Dreaded Outcome (p. 159)
  • “Do you even know why you’re angry with me?” Simone shouted.
    “Oh, I’ll figure something out,” Tova said.
    • After the Festival (p. 196)
  • You were sick of sentimentality, of the moralism, maneuvering, and malice that comes with it.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 202)
  • We know the axes on which we should judge, and age has never been one.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 203)
  • That was a salvo of something against something.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 209)
  • I told myself I had no choice but in a situation like that the choice you have is how you go about not having a choice.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 211)
  • “So what’s your alternative?” people say, as if that’s logic. We don’t have to have an alternative, that’s not how critique works. We may do, and if we do, you’re welcome, but if we don’t that no more invalidates our hate for this, for what is, than does that of a serf for her lord, her flail-backed insistence that this must end, whether or not she accompanies it with a blueprint for free wage labour. Than does the millennially paced rage of the steepening shelf of the benthic plain for a system imposed by the cruelest and most crass hydrothermal vent, if that anemone-crusted angle of descent does not propose a submerged lake of black salt.
    • The Dusty Hat (p. 215)
  • How is it appropriate to feel? she thought. Only humans dread. Dread is appropriate to nothing. It’s the surplus of animal fear, it’s never indicated, it’s nothing but itself.
    • Keep (p. 280)
  • They think I’m old-fashioned? Is being against racism and hatred old-fashioned? OK, I’m old-fashioned.
    • The Junket (p. 320)
  • Moral your artistic proclivities are not, nor fitting for a physician, though I won’t deny the skill in them. They are, I will say it, unnatural.
    • The Design (p. 374)
  • It was an unusually hot afternoon. One of those days all slowly ambling bumblebees and honeysuckle and so forth, at which the English countryside, when it puts its mind to it, excels, and quite unlike any summer day anywhere else. Calm and still and lovely, but never without a sense of something impending. The sort of day one misses even as one experiences it.
    • The Design (p. 377)
Perdido Street Station. Random House Worlds. 27 February 2001. ISBN 978-0-345-44302-1.  Original published in 2000 by Del Rey Books, mass market paperback edition
  • Now what are we looking at right here? What’s bang in the middle? Some people think that’s mathematics there. Fine. But if maths is the study that best allows you to think your way to the centre, what’re the forces you’re investigating? Maths is totally abstract, at one level, square roots of minus one and the like, but the world is nothing if not rigorously mathematical. So this is a way of looking at the world which unifies all the forces: mental, social, physical.
    • pp. 168
  • This was the most difficult, the most extraordinary transition. Her body had been a source of shame and disgust; to engage in activities with no purpose at all except to revel in their sheer physicality had first nauseated, then terrified, and finally liberated her.
    • p. 217
  • Lin realized that she was living in an unsustainable realm. It combined sanctimony, decadence, insecurity and snobbery in a weird, neurotic brew. It was parasitic.
    • p. 217
  • Andrej’s mind, like any sane human’s … was a constantly convulsing dialectical unity of consciousness and subconsciousness, the battening down and channelling of dreams and desires, the recurring re-creation of the subliminal by the contradictory, the rational-capricious ego. And vice versa. The interaction of levels of consciousness into an unstable and permanently self-renewing whole.
    • p. 632
  • To take the choice of another … to forget their concrete reality, to abstract them, to forget that you are a node in a matrix, that actions have consequences. We must not take the choice of another being. What is community but a means to … for all we individuals to have … our choices.
    • p. 692


  • Veldt to scrub to fields to farms to these first tumbling houses that rise from the earth. It has been night for a long time. The hovels that encrust the river’s edge have grown like mushrooms around me in the dark. We rock. We pitch in a deep current.
    • Yagharek
  • Timbers whisper and the wind strokes thatch, walls settle and floors shift to fill space; the tens of houses have become hundreds, thousands; they spread backwards from the banks and shed light from all across the plain. They surround me. They are growing. They are taller and fatter and noisier, their roofs are slate, their walls are strong brick. The river twists and turns to face the city. It looms suddenly, massive, stamped on the landscape. Its light wells up around the surrounds, the rock hills, like bruise-blood. Its dirty towers glow. I am debased. I am compelled to worship this extraordinary presence that has silted into existence at the conjunction of two rivers. It is a vast pollutant, a stench, a klaxon sounding. Fat chimneys retch dirt into the sky even now in the deep night. It is not the current which pulls us but the city itself, its weight sucks us in. Faint shouts, here and there the calls of beasts, the obscene clash and pounding from the factories as huge machines rut. Railways trace urban anatomy like protruding veins. Red brick and dark walls, squat churches like troglodytic things, ragged awnings flickering, cobbled mazes in the old town, culs-de-sac, sewers riddling the earth like secular sepulchres, a new landscape of wasteground, crushed stone, libraries fat with forgotten volumes, old hospitals, towerblocks, ships and metal claws that lift cargoes from the water. How could we not see this approaching? What trick of topography is this, that lets the sprawling monster hide behind corners to leap out at the traveller? It is too late to flee.
    • Yagharek
  • The rotting buildings lean against each other, exhausted. The river smears slime on its brick banks, city walls risen from the depths to hold the water at bay. There is a vile stink here. (I wonder how this looks from above, no chance for the city to hide then, if you came at it on the wind you would see it from miles and miles away like a dirty smear, like a slab of carrion thronging with maggots, I should not think like this but I cannot stop now, I could ride the updrafts that the chimneys vent, sail high over the proud towers and shit on the earthbound, ride the chaos, alight where I choose, I must not think like this, I must not do this now, I must stop, not now, not this, not yet.)
    • Yagharek
  • A train whistles as it crosses the river before us on raised tracks. I look to it, to the south and the east, seeing the line of little lights rush away and be swallowed by this nightland, this behemoth that eats its citizens. We will pass the factories soon. Cranes rear from the gloom like spindly birds; here and there they move to keep the skeleton crews, the midnight crews, in their work. Chains swing deadweight like useless limbs, snapping into zombie motion where cogs engage and flywheels turn. Fat predatory shadows prowl the sky. There is a boom, a reverberation, as if the city has a hollow core.
    • Yagharek
  • The water here reflects the stars through a stinking rainbow of impurities, effluents and chymical slop, making it sluggish and unsettling. (Oh, to rise above this to not smell this filth this dirt this dung to not enter the city through this latrine but I must stop, I must, I cannot go on, I must.)
    • Yagharek
  • My cloak (heavy cloth unfamiliar and painful on my skin) tugs at me and I can feel the weight of my purse. That is what protects me here; that and the illusion I have fostered, the source of my sorrow and my shame, the anguish that has brought me to this great wen, this dusty city dreamed up in bone and brick, a conspiracy of industry and violence, steeped in history and battened-down power, this badland beyond my ken.
    • Yagharek

Chapter 1

  • Mercantile law ruled: let the buyer beware.
    • p. 8
  • They had always tried not to think too hard about the rules of their relationship, but the longer they were together the more this strategy of avoidance became impossible. Questions as yet unasked demanded attention. Innocent remarks and askance looks from others, a moment of contact too long in public-a note from a grocer-everything was a reminder that they were, in some contexts, living a secret. Everything was made fraught. They had never said, We are lovers, so they had never had to say, We will not disclose our relationship to all, we will hide from some. But it had been clear for months and months that this was the case.
    • p. 11
  • She was an artist. Her circle were the libertines, the patrons and the hangers-on, bohemians and parasites, poets and pamphleteers and fashionable junkies. They delighted in the scandalous and the outre. [...] Her love-life was an avant-garde transgression, an art-happening, like Concrete Music had been last season, or ‘Snot Art! the year before that.
    • About Lin. p. 11-12
  • He was, after all, the scientist-outcast, the disreputable thinker who walked out of a lucrative teaching post to engage in experiments too outrageous and brilliant for the tiny minds who ran the university. What did he care for convention? He would sleep with whomever and whatever he liked, surely!
    • About Isaac. p. 12
  • But Isaac’s research-unchanged in its aims over all those years-could not proceed in a vacuum. He had to publish. He had to debate. He had to argue, to attend conferences-as the rogue, the rebellious son. There were great advantages to renegacy.
    • p. 13
  • To cross-love openly would be a quick route to pariah status, rather than the bad-boy chic he had assiduously courted. What scared him was not that the editors of the journals and the chairs of the conferences and the publishers would find out about Lin and him. What scared him was that he be seen not trying to hide it. If he went through the motions of a cover-up, they could not denounce him as beyond the pale.
    • p. 13
  • The sun shifted above them, sending shadows of the window-pane and clouds moving uneasily through the room. The lovers did not notice the day move.
    • p. 14

Chapter 2

  • I see clearly as you, clearer. For you it is undifferentiated. In one corner a slum collapsing, in another a new train with pistons shining, in another a gaudy painted lady below a drab and ancient airship... You must process as one picture. What chaos! Tells you nothing, contradicts itself, changes its story. For me each tiny part has integrity, each fractionally different from the next, until all variation is accounted for, incrementally, rationally.
    • Lin to Isaac. p. 16
  • Faint cries and industrial drones sounded from dark windows set into its brick banks, some of them below the high-water mark. Prisons and torture-chambers and workshops, and their bastard hybrids, the punishment factories, where the condemned were Remade.
    • p. 19
  • Sweet smoke wafted over the crowd: khepri, mostly, but here and there other races, investigating the statues. They filled the square: fifteen-foot figures of animals and plants and monstrous creatures, some real and some that had never lived, fashioned in brightly coloured khepri-spit. They represented hours and hours of communal labour. [...] To Lin the statues represented dedication and community, and bankrupt imaginations falling back on cod-heroic grandiosity. This was why she lived and ate and spat her art alone.
    • p. 20
  • She was an outsider. Had left her sisters. Forgotten hive and moiety.
    • p. 20
  • There was no chance at all he would see her, in that labyrinth of dubious experiments, where the nature of the research made even the architecture untrustworthy.
    • p. 22
  • Behind her, for a moment, the sky was very full: an aerostat droned in the distance; tiny specks lurched erratically around it, winged figures playing in its wake like dolphins round a whale; and in front of them all another train, heading into the city this time, heading for the centre of New Crobuzon, the knot of architectural tissue where the fibres of the city congealed, where the skyrails of the militia radiated out from the Spike like a web and the five great trainlines of the city met, converging on the great variegated fortress of dark brick and scrubbed concrete and wood and steel and stone, the edifice that yawned hugely at the city’s vulgar heart, Perdido Street Station.
    • p. 22
  • Isaac was still piqued by the ignorance surrounding watercraeft. It brought home to him, again, how much mainstream science was bunk, how much "analysis" was just, description-often bad description-hiding behind obfuscatory rubbish.
    • p. 28

Chapter 4

  • She was intelligent enough to realize that her excitement was childish, but not mature enough to care.
    • p. 36
  • This is what makes the world, Ms. Lin. I believe this to be the fundamental dynamic. Transition. The point where one thing becomes another. It is what makes you, the city, the world, what they are. And that is the theme I’m interested in. The zone where the disparate become part of the whole. The hybrid zone.
    • Mr. Motley, p. 41
  • I will ask you to work from life, to produce a model-life-size, I fancy-of me. Very few people see my face, Ms. Lin. A man in my position has to be careful. I’m sure you can understand. If you take this commission I will make you rich, but I will also own a part of your mind. The part that pertains to me. That is mine. I do not give you permission to share it with any. If you do, you will suffer greatly before you die.
    • Mr. Motley, p. 41

Chapter 5

  • The lamp was a beacon, a lighthouse in that forbidding city, steering the wyrman’s way over the river and out of the predatory night.
    • p. 55
  • In this city, those who look like me are not like me. I made the mistake once (tired and afraid and desperate for help) of doubting that. Looking for a place to hide, looking for food and warmth at night and respite from the stares that greet me whenever I set foot on the streets.
    • Yagharek. p. 57
  • I have taken to foraging alone after nightfall when the city quiets and becomes introspective. I walk as an intruder on its solipsistic dream. I came by darkness, I live by darkness. The savage brightness of the desert is like some legend I heard a long time ago. My existence grows nocturnal. My beliefs change.
    • Yagharek. p. 58
  • The winds of this city are a more melancholy breed. They explore like lost souls, looking in at dusty gaslit windows. We are brethren, the city-winds and I. We wander together.
    • Yagharek. p. 58
  • We have watched mutant creatures crawl from sewers into cold flat starlight and whisper shyly to each other, drawing maps and messages in faecal mud.
    I have sat with the wind at my side and seen cruel things, wicked things.
    My scars and bonestubs itch. I am forgetting the weight, the sweep, the motion of wings. If I were not garuda I would pray. But I will not obeise myself before arrogant spirits.
    • Yagharek. p. 58
  • Sometimes I clamber to the top of the huge, huge towers that teeter like porcupine spines from the city’s hide. Up in the thinner air, the winds lose the melancholy curiosity they have at street level. They abandon their second-floor petulance. Stirred by towers that poke above the host of city light-intense white carbide lamps, smoke-burnished red of lit grease, tallow twinkling, frenetic sputtering gas flare, all anarchic guards against the dark-the winds rejoice and play. I can dig my claws into the rim of a building’s crown and spread my arms and feel the buffets and gouts of boisterous air and I can close my eyes and remember, for a moment, what it is to fly.
    • Yagharek. p. 59

Chapter 6

  • You can’t respect other people’s individuality if you focus on your own individuality in a kind of abstract, isolated way. The point is that you are an individual inasmuch as you exist in a social matrix of others who respect your individuality and your right to make choices. That’s concrete individuality: an individuality that recognizes that it owes its existence to a kind of communal respect on the part of all the other individualities, and that it had better therefore respect them similarly.
    • Gedrecsechet. pp. 71-72
  • An abstract individual is a garuda who forgot, for some time, that he or she is part of a larger unit, and owes respect to all the other choosing individuals.
    • Gedrecsechet. p. 72

Chapter 8

  • "Art’s something you choose to make … it’s a bringing together of … of everything around you into something that makes you more human, more khepri, whatever. More of a person."
    • p. 94

Chapter 10

  • I think artists have an ambivalent relationship with drugs. I mean, the whole project’s about unlocking the beast within, right? Or the angel. Whatever. Opening doors one thought were jammed closed. Now, if you do that with drugs, then doesn’t that make the art rather a let-down? Art’s got to be about communication, hasn’t it? So if you rely on drugs, which are, I do not care what any proselytizing little ponce dropping a fizzbolt with chums at a dancehall tells me, which are an intrinsically individualized experience, then you’ve opened the doors, but can you communicate what you’ve found on the other side? Then on the other hand, if you remain stubbornly straight-edged, keep sternly to the mind as she is more usually found, then you can communicate with others, because you’re all speaking the same language, as it were… but have you opened the door? Maybe the best you can do is peer through the keyhole. Maybe that’ll do…
    • Mr. Motley, p. 111
  • "Part of you understands without recourse to words, even if your higher mind asks questions in a format which renders an answer impossible." He looked at her triumphantly. "You too are the bastard-zone, Ms. Lin! Your art takes place where your understanding and your ignorance blur."
    • Mr. Motley, p. 115

Chapter 12

  • If a murderer stalked the mansions of Flag Hill or Canker Wedge, would the militia waste any time or spare resources? Why, no! The hunt for Jack Half-a-Prayer proves it! And yet, when the Eyespy Killer strikes in Smog Bend, nothing happens! Another eyeless victim was fished from the Tar last week-bringing the number killed to five-and not a word from the blue-clad bullies in the Spike. We say: it’s one law for the rich, another for the poor!
    • Runagate Rampant, p. 127
  • We say: votes for all and vote for change!
    • Runagate Rampant, p. 127
  • We say: towards an all-race union against the bosses!
    • Runagate Rampant, p. 127
  • Smoke and grime built up in the air until the train seemed to ride on a smog tide. The sounds of industry increased. The train flew through clutches of vast, sparse chimneys like blasted trees as the train passed through Sunter.
    • p. 128

The Scar (2002)

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey Books
  • Tearfly looked at Bellis curiously, bewildered by her ignorance. She did not care. What was important to her was where she was fleeing from, not where she was, or where she was going.
    • Part 1 “Channels”, chapter 2 (p. 21)
  • I’m not waiting to die, I don’t believe I’ll die, I am waiting for something else.
    To arrive. To understand. To be at my destination.
    • Part 1 “Channels”, Interlude II (p. 65)
  • She felt so alien, bowed under culture shock as crippling as migraine.
    • Part 2 “Salt”, chapter 6 (p. 78)
  • Neither dust nor light stirred. It was as if time had been bled dry and given up.
    • Part 3 “The Compass Factory”, chapter 20 (p. 241)
  • For every action, there’s an infinity of outcomes. Countless trillions are possible, many milliards are likely, millions might be considered probable, several occur as possibilities to us as observers—and one comes true.
    • Part 6 “Morning Walker”, chapter 34 (p. 394)
  • We say what happens now. We’re taking control. We’re turning around; we’re heading home. Your orders to proceed...are in-fucking-validated.
    • Part 7 “The Lookout”, chapter 47 (p. 557)
All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Del Rey Books ISBN 978-0-345-45842-1
  • She shouted, “Arms and tongues, Spiral?” and waggled her arms and stuck out her tongue, and the old man crowed and did the same. “He’s for the first, against the second, as I recall,” she said to Ori. “Has he chanted for you? ‘Too much yammer, not enough hammer.’”
    • Part 2 “Returns”, chapter 8 (p. 85)
  • The chief was a thuggish man: nervous, Cutter saw, because he knew he was a mediocrity become by kink of history a ruler.
    • Part 3 “Wineland”, chapter 12 (p. 130)
  • Judah knows the trow will be eradicated and their homes lost to history, but he will not be party to it, and he has tried to stand in its way.
    • “Anamnesis” (p. 191)
  • I want to know everything, he says.
    • “Anamnesis” (p. 202)
  • When the rich grow afraid, they get nasty. We say: A government for need not greed!
    • “Anamnesis” (p. 222)
  • Ori supposed there were as many unspeakable stories as there were men come back from war.
    • Part 4 “The Hainting”, chapter 15 (p. 314)
  • “History...” Jacobs spoke with terse authority. Brought Ori to a hush. “Is all full. And dripping. With the corpses. Of them who trusted the incorruptible.”
    • Part 4 “The Hainting”, chapter 15 (p. 319)
  • “We’re all racing,” he said.
    “Yeah, but some of us in the wrong direction.”
    • Part 6 “The Caucus Race”, chapter 20 (p. 364)
All page numbers from the hardcover American first edition published by Del Rey Books ISBN 978-0-345-49516-7
  • “My dad hates umbrellas,” said Deeba, swinging her own. “When it rains he always says the same thing. ‘I do not believe the presence of moisture in the air is sufficient reason to overturn society’s usual sensible taboo against wielding spiked clubs at eye level.’”
    • Chapter 3, “The Visiting Smoke” (p. 11)
  • Throw something away and you declare it obsolete.
    • Chapter 12, “Safe Conduct” (p. 52)
  • There are no cats in UnLondon, for example, because they’re not magic and mysterious at all, they’re idiots.
    • Chapter 12, “Safe Conduct” (p. 53)
  • It had some allies. Believe me, there’s nothing so terrible that someone won’t support it.
    • Chapter 22, “History Lessons” (p. 90)
  • “Destiny’s bunk,” said the book. “That’s why this lot aren’t the Propheseers anymore.”
    “From here on in,” said Mortar, “we’re the Order of Suggesters.”
    • Chapter 98, “Fit for Heroes” (p. 419)
All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Del Rey Books ISBN 978-0-345-49752-9
  • There is no theology so desperate that you can’t find it.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 38)
  • “She probably used proxies and a cleaner-upper online too, because there was bugger-all of interest in her cache.”
    “You have no idea what you’re saying, do you, boss?”
    “None at all. I had the techies write it all out phonetically for me.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 139)
  • It is more foolish and childish to assume there is a conspiracy, or that there is not?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 141)
  • He tried to grin but it did not go well.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 297)
All page numbers from the American first hardcover edition published by Ballantine Books ISBN 978-0-345-49749-9
All italics as in the book
  • Folklore was self-generating.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 29)
  • “I’m asking you all to have faith. Don’t be afraid. ‘How could it have gone?’ people have asked me. ‘Why aren’t the gods doing anything?’ Remember two things. The gods don’t owe us anything. That’s not why we worship. We worship because they’re gods. This is their universe, not ours. What they choose they choose and it’s not ours to know why.”
    Christ, thought Billy, what a grim theology. It was a wonder they could keep anyone in the room, without the emotional quid pro quo of hope.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 101)
  • “I know, I know,” Moore said. “Mad beliefs like that, eh? Must be some metaphor, right? Must mean something else?” Shook his head. “What an awfully arrogant thing. What if faiths are exactly what they are? And mean exactly what they say?”
    • Chapter 17 (p. 105)
  • It should be illegal to be so much younger than me.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 121)
  • That was why this congregation protected him. He was not just another saint. Billy was the preserver. Giant-squid John the Baptist. The shyness he saw in the Krakenists was devotion. It was awe.
    “Oh for God’s sake,” he said.
    The men and women stared. He could see them attempting exegesis on his outburst.
    • Chapter 20
  • Why wouldn’t the gods of the world be giant squid? What better beast? It wouldn’t take much to imagine those tentacles closing around the world, now would it?
    • Chapter 24 (p. 145)
  • Word got around. It does that. A city like London was always going to be a paradox, it’s so very riddled with the opposite, so Swiss-cheesed with moral holes. All those alternative pathways to the official ones and to those that made Londoners proud: there’d be quite contrary tendencies.
    There, there was no state worth shit, no sanctions but self-help, no homeostasis but that of violence. The specialist police dipped in, and were tolerated as a sect or offhandedly killed like the cack-handed anthropologists. “Oh, here we go, FSRC again,” wink wink stab stab.
    Even absent a sovereign, things in London chugged on effectively. Might made right, and that was no moral precept but a statement of simple fact. It really was law, this law enforced by bouncers, bruisers and bounty hunters, venal suburban shoguns. Absolutely Fanny Adams to do with justice. Have your opinions about that, by all means—London had its social bandits—but that was fact.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 181)
  • We want the same thing, you and me. If we can mess with them, everyone’s happy. Except them. Which is the point, right?”
    • Chapter 32 (p. 185)
The London Stone. That old rock was always suspiciously near the centre of things.
  • In the emptied remains of a foreign bank was a sports shop. Below posters of physically adept men was a glass-front cabinet and iron grille, behind which was a big chunk of stone…The London Stone. That old rock was always suspiciously near the centre of things. A chunk of the Millarium, the megalith-core from where the Romans measured distances…This had been the seat of sovereignty, and it cropped up throughout the city’s history if you knew where to look…the Stone was the heart, the heart was stone, and it beat from its various places, coming to rest at last here in an insalubrious sports shop between cricket equipment.
    • Chapter 33
  • The Londonmancers had been there since Gogmagog and Corineus, since Mithras and the rest. Like their sibling chapters in other psychopoli…they had always been ostentatiously neutral. That was how they could survive.
    Not custodians of the city: they called themselves its cells. They recruited young and nurtured hexes, shapings, foresight and the diagnostic trances they called urbopathy. They, they insisted, were just conduits for the flows gathered by streets. They did not worship London but held it in respectful distrust, channelled its needs, urges and insights.
    • Chapter 33
The Londonmancers had been there since Gogmagog and Corineus, since Mithras and the rest.
  • There are people out there who’d rather be tools than people.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 252)
  • That was how he did it. He was never just a thug. Just thugs only ever got so far. The best thugs were all psychologists.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 253)
  • The tricky bit with this technique was not getting the summons to work: it was to not summon too much.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 254)
  • “Whether you agree with the bloody predicates or not, Constable Collingswood, you should consider the possibility that faith might be a way of thinking more rigorously than the woolly bullshit of most atheists. It’s not an intellectual mistake.” He tapped his forehead. “It’s a way of thinking about all sorts of other things, as well as itself. The Virgin birth’s a way of thinking about women and about love. The ark is a far more bloody logical way of thinking about the question of animal husbandry than the delightful ad hoc thuggery we’ve instituted. Creationism’s a way of thinking I am not worthless at a time when people were being told and shown they were. You want to get angry about that bloody admirable humanist doctrine, and why would you want to blame Clinton. But you’re not just too young, you’re too bloody ignorant to know about welfare reform.”
    They stared at each other. It was tense, and weirdly slightly funny.
    “Yeah but,” Collingswood said cautiously. “Only, it’s not totally admirable, is it, given that it’s total fucking bollocks.”
    They stared some more.
    “Well,” Vardy said. “That is true. I would have to concede that, unfortunately.” Neither of them laughed, but they could have done.
    • Chapter 42 (pp. 257-258)
  • The sea. I bet you the sea might have ideas. Wouldn’t surprise me if the bastard ocean might have a little something to do with all this. Stands to reason, right? Taking back what’s its? Render unto sea, sir.
    • Chapter 44 (p. 268)
  • “And for what it’s worth, which in my professional opinion isn’t a bloody lot, I’ll pray for you.”
    “Pray to what?” Marge said. He smiled. The jukebox played “Wise Up Sucker” by Pop Will Eat Itself.
    “Fuck it,” the man said. “Tell you what. What’s the point collecting stuff you don’t use? I’ll pray to all of them.”
    • Chapter 44 (p. 268)
  • In London, Heresiopolis was always the draw. Some midnight-of-all or other was predicted every few days or nights. Most came to nothing, leaving relevant prophets cringing with a unique embarrassment as the sun rose. It was a very particular shame, that of now ex-worshipers avoiding each other’s eyes in the unexpected aftermath of “final” acts—crimes, admissions, debaucheries and abandon.
    Believers tried to talk the universe into giving their version a go.
    • Chapter 58 (p. 353)
  • London is an endless skirmish between angles and emptiness.
    • Chapter 61 (p. 377)
  • Could you really feel the hand of destiny while pointing a Glock?
    • Chapter 62 (p. 385)
  • Byrne was good, her expertise indispensable, her commitment to the project swiftly personal, but she could not unwind death itself. Only filigree it, in certain ways.
    • Chapter 67 (p. 420)
  • He planned his funeral, his oration, the invitations, the snubs, but that, death itself, was always Plan B. How, he would have said to his specialists, might we bypass this unpleasantness?
    • Chapter 67 (p. 420)
  • This was the remnant of honour, nostalgic for spurious legendary times.
    • Chapter 67 (p. 421)
  • “Paul knows where we are.”
    “What are you talking about?” Billy said. He gestured beyond the trailer. “I don’t know where we are and I’m there.”
    • Chapter 69 (p. 429)
  • So long as it fated, fate didn’t care what it fated.
    • Chapter 80 (p. 496)
  • He had remembered Vardy’s melancholy, the rage in him, and what Collingswood had once said. She was right. Vardy’s tragedy was that his faith had been defeated by the evidence, and he could not stop missing that faith. He was not a creationist, not any longer, not for years. And that was unbearable to him. He could only wish that his erstwhile wrongness had been right.
    • Chapter 80 (p. 497)
All page numbers from the American first hardcover edition published by Ballantine Books ISBN 978-0-345-52449-2
All spelling and italics as in the book
The chapters are numbered idiosyncratically in the first three parts of the book, and are so listed here. From chapter 9 on the chapter numbering is normal
  • “It’s beyond words,” indeed. “There’s no such thing.”
    • Chapter 0.3 (p. 29)
  • “And there aren’t any.”
    “Mmm,” I said. “Awkward.”
    “That’s defeatist talk. I’ll cobble something together. A scholar can never let mere wrongness get in the way of the theory.”
    • Chapter 0.3 (p. 37)
  • A classic unspoken agreement among escapees from a small town: don’t look back, don’t be each other’s anchors, no nostalgia. I wasn’t expecting any of them to return.
    • Chapter “Formerly, 1” (p. 53)
  • It felt like being a child again, though it was not. Being a child is like nothing. It’s only being. Later, when we think about it, we make it into youth.
    • Chapter “Formerly, 2” (p. 66)
  • “Oh, bullshit,” Wyatt said. I blinked. “This isn’t one of those stories, Avice. One moment of cack-handedness, Captain Cook offends the bloody locals, one slip of the tongue or misuse of sacred cutlery, and bang, he’s on the grill. Do you ever think about how self-aggrandising that stuff is? Oh, all those stories pretending to be mea culpas about cultural insensitivity, oops, we said the wrong thing, but they’re really all about how ridiculous natives overreact.” He laughed and shook his head. “Avice, we must have made thousands of fuckups like that over the years. Think about it. Just like our visitors did when they first met our lot, on Terre. And for the most part we didn’t lose our shit, did we?”
    • Chapter “Latterday, 6” (pp. 111-112)
  • I suspect there was a power struggle in the Embassy, that some would have tried, out of habit, without rationale, to wall up information. They didn’t win.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 172)
  • I suppose there were other institutions in Embassytown where the dynamic of the quotidian sustained—some hospitals, perhaps some schools, perhaps houses where shiftparents most deeply loved the children. Whenever any society dies there must be heroes whose fightback is to not change.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 213)
  • It wasn’t a city anymore, it was a collection of broken places separated by war without politics or acquisition so not war at all really but something more pathological.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 238)
  • What theology that would have been, a god self-worshipping, a drug addicted to itself.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 239)
  • There wasn’t even any reasoning. Secrecy was just a bureaucrats’ reflex.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 276)
  • “I don’t want to be a simile anymore,” I said. “I want to be a metaphor.”
    • Chapter 24 (p. 296)
  • Their minds were sudden merchants: metaphor, like money, equalised the incommensurable.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 312)
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