First things first: I need to mention I received this book from Goodreads giveaways.
There are popular writers and there are good writers. These two while intersecting are not equal. For this reason I avoided reading China Miéville before.
I have a feeling like I attend a high-class cocktail evening party, the one where the ladies wear evening dresses, the gentlemen wear tuxedos, and the waiters with trays full of cocktail glasses navigate through the crowd of guests.
Suddenly I say aloud something really stupid and embarrassing, “I did not like a book by China Miéville”. My voice carries and almost everybody hear this. The resulting silence if deafening; it is only interrupted by a sound of a dropped cocktail glass shattering against the floor. A kind old gentleman comes up to me and says while try to maintain forced cheerfulness, “A strangest thing just happened to me, old chap. I imagined you said you did not like a book by China Miéville; must be my old age playing tricks with me.” If this occasion had taken place a couple of centuries earlier, I would have had a bunch of gloves thrown at me in duel challenges. In modern times I only have to assure the kind old gentleman that his hearing was fine – to even greater embarrassment of everybody in the room: myself first and foremost.
The only story I really like was The Dowager of Bees. It might be explained by the fact that I love stories with unusual deck of cards in them (I blame Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny for this). Anyway, this one really clicked with me.
I formed an impression the author does not know how to write a good ending. This is actually nothing to be ashamed of as some very well-established writers had this same problem, just take a look at Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. For people thinking that a good book is about the journey only and not the final destination this is fine, but I really appreciate a good ending, no matter how ambiguous.
The stories varies from horror to fantasy to bizarre; from one-page observations to scripts of trailers for imaginary movies; from intriguing to outright gross (by the way gross is not equal to horror in my book). If you want weird, Kelly Link out-weirds him by a mile - and this comes from somebody who found her works to be hit or miss, but I still have to admit this.
In defense of the book I have to say that if I understand correctly these are early stories of the author and his writing abilities might have improved a lot since then. For now the only two reasons this one avoided two-star rating from me are the following: the aforementioned story The Dowager of Bees and my desire to avoid the embarrassment admitting I do not like a popular writer. It does not mean I removed his other books from my to-read shelf as I am curious to see his other works.