Book Review: Three Moments of an Explosion

A med student finds intricate etchings on a cadaver’s bones.

A poker-player’s game expands when he gets handed the Dowager of Bees—one of the occult hidden cards.

Societies form on a space elevator.

Floating icebergs appear in the sky, prompting exploration.

The twenty-eight pieces of China Miéville’s collection cover a broad range. Not all writings will please all readers, but he certainly displays originality and range.

Title: Three Moments of an Explosion

Author: China Miéville

First published in August 2015.
ISBN-10: 110188472X
ISBN-13: 978-1101884720
Available from,,, and as a kindle.


Genre-warping author China Miéville collects twenty-eight writings—most short stories of some description—in an explosive collection.

High Point:

The collection’s strongest works reveal unimagined things just below the surface of the normal world—such as the hidden suits of “The Dowager of Bees” and the impossible artwork of “The Design.” Even the most mainstream tale, “Dreaded Outome,” examines a therapist whose techniques involve something entirely unexpected, though disturbingly plausible-sounding. But Miéville also pens something akin to conventional horror in “Säcken,” creates a plausible SF society in “The Rope is the World,” and gives us mind-expanding, plausible speculation in “Rules.” His imagination and style draw us into his writing, even when the work feels strangely incomplete. “The Rope is the World,” for example, feels like the prologue to a novel I’d like to read.

Low Point:

As a result, I felt about this book the way George Martin felt about the Beatles’ “White Album”—he thought it would be better as one disc. Paul McCartney retorted, “it’s the bloody Beatles’ White Album!” and China Miéville may have a similar response to criticism. Nevertheless, a number of the twenty-eight stories feel like clever journal entries and thought experiments that don’t really go anywhere or, at least, feel like they should go somewhere more satisfying. “The Condition of New Death,” as one example, features an unexplained horror, a changes in the nature of reality, but the story does little more than describe the situation. Some readers will feel like they wanted more from some of these pieces, or fewer pieces.

The Scores:

Originality: 6/6 Miéville remains one of the most original writers alive today…

Imagery: 5/6 …able to evoke a dark thing that stalks an academic who hears in its voice “a predator’s growl,” “a woman vomit old water,” “spatter on the inside of the skin”(136), and “tachyon-buggered MDMA kicks in at just the right moment and takes you out of time” (4).

Story: 4/6 It is difficult to rate the plots of so many different pieces, some of which eschew conventional plot development.

Characterization: 5/6 Miéville is a great writer and his characters are believable, but not always developed.

Emotional Response: 5/6 This collection doesn’t match Miéville’s best novels– Embassytown, The City and the City, or The Scar— but it includes some beguiling reading.

Editing: 5/6

Overall Score: 5/6

In total, Three Moments of an Explosion receives 35/42