Three Moments of an Explosion: stories

Always delightfully weird, Mieville takes a jaunt into the horror genre

China Mieville contains multitudes. I first read his fantasy-noir The City and the City, and was taken by his incredible imagination and terse, stripped-down prose. But in his Bas-Lag trilogy (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council), which I flat-out love, his writing is Baroque, even purple, as wildly extravagant as the monsters he creates. Some things never change: his unabashedly Left politics, his staunch feminism, his dedication to the weird. These are why I love him so.

His new short story collection, Three Moments of an Explosion, is a stylistic departure: neither brusque nor effusive, his prose tells a story and does it well, fading into the background to let you focus on the monsters scaring you witless. As far as I’ve read in his oeuvre, Three Moments contains Mieville’s first jaunts into straight-up horror, and he pulls them off admirably. He excels at creating an atmosphere of dread in everyday situations, often with a shocking payoff. My favorite story here might be “Sacken,” about a young couple on a research trip in Bavaria who uncover an obscure and persistent evil. It’s a ghost story, which is about as mundane as Mieville gets here, preoccupied as he is by mysterious icebergs floating over London and sentient oil tankers that rise from the ocean and walk ashore. It’s a terrifically entertaining collection, one to be read breathlessly, late into the night.