I haven’t read all that many new writers within this genre in recent years, and I’ve been impressed by even fewer, but China Mieville is exceptional. His first book is not great, but the next two, Perdido Street Station and The Scar, are magnificent. They’re set in the same world, an extraordinary creation teeming with fresh and striking ideas, written with prose that approaches that of an obvious inspiration of his, M. John Harrison (my vote for best SF prose ever, and one of the best living prose stylists), with whom he also shares that New Wave interest in the likes of social outsiders and artists.

The thing that astonishes me is the way he combines the classic literary virtues – the beautiful sentences, complex characters, use of motif, substantial and subtly explored themes – with the most insanely rollicking adventure and excitement. Perdido Street Station is set in the world’s biggest city, under threat from some genuinely scary moth-monsters, more from what they do to people’s dreams than their physical threat. The city throws everything at them, and nothing works. He piles up the odds brilliantly – the scenes around their offering the ambassador from (the literal) Hell absolutely anything to save them is particularly daring; and he is only their second-last resort…

The Scar is a high-seas adventure, with a climactic battle in which the world’s greatest martial artist with his quantum sword joins the pirates against vampires and sea monsters. The combination of dazzling imagination, terrific writing by any standard and really exciting plotting makes him, for me, one of the greatest new talents of recent decades, and I am not restricting that to SF, or genre writing more generally.

Don’t bother with his first, but the third, The Iron Council, also set in that world, is very good too and highly political, though it does build on the first two rather than add a lot to his creation; and there is a collection of short stories, most of it more reflecting his earliest work, but some of it is tremendous.