King Rat by China Mieville
His first book, and not the type of thing I was expecting. It's fairly good overall, but a far ways short of the quality of the Bas-Loq books of The City and the City. Partly because he goes for a fairly claustrophobic atmosphere rather than his usual intense activity, partly because the interweaving of the politics never felt quite deft enough and the main narrative lacked the measure of complexity I was expecting.
Nevertheless there is a lot of appeal to this story. It offers a fun adventure, first and foremost--energetic and refreshingly unique political intrigue, beautiful prose, continual movement of the story and protagonist, effective buildup and a powerful dramatic climax. Beyond that, the book is almost worth it for the atmosphere, the presentation of a dark urban undercity dripping with strange creatures and intelligent rats. In the presentation of horror and the sheer strangeness of the environment Melville's out-Gaimans Neil Gaiman, presenting an intense and memorable atmosphere. Never have I seen a book get more effective dramatic and fantasy mileage out of rats.
Worse than: Iron Council by China Mieville
Better than: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman