Book Review: Three Moments of an Explosion

Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville

London awakes one morning to find itself besieged by a sky full of floating icebergs. Destroyed oil rigs, mysteriously reborn, clamber from the sea and onto the land, driven by an obscure but violent purpose. An anatomy student cuts open a cadaver to discover impossibly intricate designs carved into a corpse's bones—designs clearly present from birth, bearing mute testimony to . . . what?

Of such concepts and unforgettable images are made the twenty-eight stories in this collection—many published here for the first time. By turns speculative, satirical, and heart-wrenching, fresh in form and language, and featuring a cast of damaged yet hopeful seekers who come face-to-face with the deep weirdness of the world—and at times the deeper weirdness of themselves—Three Moments of an Explosion is a fitting showcase for one of our most original voices.

I am a long time fan of China Mieville's book every since reading Perdido Street Station. He Describes his writing as weird fiction, not making it sound like it sucks being weird no, more the contrary, it is not your average fiction. In short: China Mieville has a very creative mind which he expresses through his writing, coming up with idea's that no one else have though of. Just last year I read many a book that had a lot of influences of China Mieville's earlier stories, you can already see that he isn't a writer anymore but also an inspiration for others.

It has taken a while since we last heard from China Mieville, back in 2012 he wrote Railsea, in those three years he has been tightly involved in writing comics and producing various short fiction pieces. The result of those three years of hard work can be found in this anthology: Three Moments of an Explosion. The short fiction stories that are featured can be found below, numbered in order of appearance. And yes you are reading it correctly, there are an amazing twenty-eight (28) stories to be read. What I always do when I review an anthology is to highlight a few stories that I enjoyed the most. 

  1. Three Moments of an Explosion
  2. Polynia
  3. The Condition of New Death
  4. The Dowager of Bees
  5. In the Slopes
  6. The Crawl
  7. Watching God
  8. The 9th Technique
  9. The Rope is the World
  10. The Buzzard’s Egg
  11. Säcken
  12. Syllabus
  13. Dreaded Outcome
  14. After the Festival
  15. The Dusty Hat
  16. Escapee
  17. The Bastard Prompt
  18. Rules
  19. Estate
  20. Keep
  21. A Second Slice Manifesto
  22. Covehithe
  23. The Junket
  24. Four Final Orpheuses
  25. The Rabbet
  26. Listen the Birds
  27. A Mount
  28. The Design

Polynia is the second story of the anthology and it got my full attention very early on. This story taken place in an every day London where one day out of the clear blue sky icebergs start to appear. Not falling like hail to the ground but staying float amongst the clouds. Soon theories start to arise of what this could be and research teams are sent out to investigate this strange phenomena. Each iceberg creates something of a microclimate underneath it and the theories go towards the greenhouse effect and global warming. The iceberg aren't posing a direct threat to the people of London but totally accepting them and learning to live with it will take a lot of time. The story of Polynia is told from an interesting point of view that is directly in the lines of a great sense of wonder. With the lead of the story being drawn in the magic of the icebergs it really helped me to achieve the same thing. There is so much mystery going on in this story that you will be sitting in your reading spot wondering about the whats, the whys and the hows. 

The Dowager of Bees
Last year I read the Dead Hands Man anthology and there was one story that really got me excited, Card Sharp. A wild western story about cards. The Dowager of Bees, is China Mieville interpreation of a card story. It begins fairly simple with a high stake card game that soon turns into something more, something supernaturally more. When ever cards are played in any variant of a card game, the cards seem to take on different forms, not the usual suits in a deck. Our protagonist narrates the story from his earliest encounter to his latest encounter. Showing that he has had plenty of encounters with the supernatural and that such a card is played a lot of things change. What I liked most about this story that with the element of cards anything is possible, given the interaction with other players, calling bluff etc just produces something wonderful. out protagonist doesn't always play by the rules and the ending shows this in full detail, though the ending can be considered closed to a certain extent, China Mieville also leaves plenty of room open. 

The Rope is the World
The Rope is the World is a very itnerseting story when you compare it to the current Science Fiction ideas. There have been a lot of space elevator stories over the last years. Space elevators that provide a way of plant Earth and into space. These machine if you can call it that feature every thing that is required to live. But even after a long time in the running they can decline and even structural failures can play part in the decline. And this is precisely what Chine Mieville shows in The Rope is the World. An evocative story that forces ytou to think further that just having space elevators as an escape he wants you think to the long term, failures and isolation. When you are as a community living on an elevator and suddenly cut off for not a day, week or year but longer centuries. Things change. It comes to show that in other stories they provide a way of escape but in this story they are a prison...

Now this is a creepy story. The books that I have read so far from China Mieville feature horror to a certain degree but with Säcken he writes pure horror. The story picks up very relaxing with two young girls Joanna and Mel visiting Germany. Mel soon starts to experience some weird things, she hears creepy sounds and when she tells that to Joanna, Joanna explains that she isn't hearing anything. More and more of these creepy sounds and other things appear around Mel and she no longer can handle it all and she returns back to England. This split up between Mel and Joanna isn't a mutual one. And once Mel is back in England she tries to reconnect with Joanna but with a lot of problems. After a few attempts Mel suddenly receives terrible news... Now Mel desperately wants to find out just what is going on and she soon stumbles upon something horrific. the Säcken. The ending of this story is one that will keep you up at night. Added to this comes once you venture on a lake in a boat. It will never be the same again. This horror story has the perfect build up of tension, the reaction of the protagonist to the events that occur, it's natural and a whole lot of scary! As I said this is a story that will truly scare you. 

The Crawl/Escapee/Listen the Birds 
These three stories are far from ordinary they are short read with only a few pages but offer some much in terms of letting your imagination play. They are movie scripts. well to be more precise they are like a movie trailer broken down into timeframes of a few seconds. Saying that some events happen in between 01-05 second etc building up the story like that. By this China Mieville breaks down a complete movie into a trailer, this once again inspires you think just what the whole movie could be about. Pretty cool, and that with there different themes! 


The stories mentioned above are just few examples of the wide diversity of stories that await you in Three Moments of an Explosion. I just named a few of them to keep the review compact. But this truly is China Mieville once again at it's best. Every story be it from the science fiction standpoint or that of the horror once has the definite voice of him ringing through them from start to finish. I do have to confess that with China Mieville writing style you can and most likely will encounter a certain degree of "heavyness" to the stories. He doesn't make it very to sometime understand the story on the first read. I encountered this with the writing of Hannu Rajaniemi as well. I like these challenges, it is with such stories that authors really come to think outside the box. If you are looking for an anthology that will keep you entertained during the reading and awed much longer after, Three Moments of an Explosion is the book for you. 


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