Have I told you how much I love China Miéville? So much that I am willing to overlook the unevenness of this anthology of short stories. Some of the stories are Miévillian gems; accounts of the bizarre in his exceptional and characteristic style. Others were skim-worthy at best. The titular work did nothing for me. In this story, the narrator looks in vain for a missing friend after some dystopian event has emptied London. This was a little too sentimental for the likes of me.
There were several pieces that I really enjoyed. The Ball Room is an eerie (and very effective) tale about strange goings-on in a children’s playroom at a department store. Reports of Certain Events in London is an investigation into some enigmatic feral streets (they appear and disappear). In this story, Miéville appears as himself and is co-opted into the mystery when he receives a package addressed to someone else and finds himself intrigued by a society established to study the phenomenon. I wasn’t quite sure about Familiar – a male witch uses his own flesh to craft an amoeba like familiar which he gets rid off, only to have it grow in both size and sentience. Two satirical inclusions that I loved were ‘Tis the Season and An End to Hunger. In the former, Christmas is trademarked and available only to those who pay ... that is until some who think otherwise decide to take the festivities into their own hands. An End to Hunger describes a seditious hacker who endangers his life after running a cyber crusade against a hypocritical philanthropic organization. The Tain, the longest of the stories (I suppose a novella at 70 plus pages) was interesting with its imagos – vampirical creatures borne out of our mirror reflections – but didn’t have the oomph to take it beyond a short story.
What I appreciated about all these stories, even the ones I didn’t particularly care for was the lack of explanations, justifications or annotations. The stories, along with their inscrutable endings, stand on their own merit without the need for any affirmative action from the author through the narrative or any other means. The stories in Looking for Jake are unquestionably superlative models for anything I may churn out.