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Literature / King Rat

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For the James Clavell novel, see Asian Saga.

King Rat is a 1998 novel by China MiévilleAnansi Boys on more crack and a lot of downers,

King Rat is about Saul, an average guy who has had a bad few days. First his dad dies. Then he's arrested for killing him. And then he's broken out of a holding cell by a ratlike man who can climb up walls and squeeze between the cell bars, and things get a little strange . . .


Features the Pied Piper of Hamelin from a rat's perspective and plenty of Blue-and-Orange Morality.

Includes Examples Of:

  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: A small segment from near the end of the story is from the perspective of one of the rats Saul dispatches as scouts. Described as one of the strongest and bravest of the Rat nation he follows his mission long after all the others had given up or forgotten. He even succeeds in finding the Piper and the kidnapped Natasha and Fabian... and then is promptly and unceremoniously squished by the Piper.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The Piper is a lunatic who thinks people and animals exist only to dance to his tune. King Rat is, well, a rat—with all the Blue-and-Orange Morality you would expect from an actual rat.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Saul and Anansi have a conversation about it, in fact, where Anansi admits that he will never understand basic human concepts and visa versa.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Anansi and Kay are dead, Loplop's deaf and insane, King Rat is a pathetic recluse who's out for his son's blood, and it's not entirely clear whether or not the Piper is dead or just wounded. Saul and his friends, however, are still alive and the cops are likely going to fall off of Saul's tail. Saul ends the story rejecting the title of King Rat and instead giving the rats freedom to do as they will to prove they earned it — because dead or not, the Piper isn't coming back and it's because of Saul and the rats.
  • Building Swing: Anansi travels across the city this way, which is absolutely terrifying for saul when he's Bound and Gagged and hauled along for the journey.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Loplop was driven insane by the Piper in the past and isn't wholly recovered. he reverts after Saul has to burst his eardrums to save him from the Piper's control - he spends the rest of the book screeching and screaming, unable to even rally his birds for the final battle
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  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Tied in the middle of a train tunnel and left there . . .
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: All of the various Kings' fights with the Piper in the past as they literally are unable to fight him once he starts a tune happens literally to Anansai in the final fight, the Piper makes him lie down then stomps on his skull
  • Dirty Coward: All of the animals and Kings have a little of this at heart as they have a strong urge for self preservation. Saul falsely paints King Rat as one of these when telling the rats of the battle with the Piper to strip King Rat of any chance of regaining his power.
  • Driven to Madness: The Piper did this to Loplop in the past.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: The Pier Piper is fucking scary for a rat. As if it wasn't bad enough already!
  • Inspector Javert: DI Crowley
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: King Rat is batshit insane and a murderer, but he does genuinely seem to care for his son Saul within the boundaries of his own Blue-and-Orange Morality, enough to want to make him his successor as King Rat. The legacy is all King Rat cares about, and when Saul learns the circumstances of his conception, he turns against his father, leaving King Rat as the snarling, remorseless scumbag he really is.
  • Magic Music: The main type of magic, aside from the animals' magic—which is just being what they really are.
  • Neck Snap: The Piper snaps the neck of a police officer around 180 degrees.
  • Past Victim Showcase: A variation; the victims showcase themselves.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Played with. Saul thinks so, and it's why he won't give King Rat his throne back. King Rat, being essentially a smart rat in human shape, is bewildered and enraged by this.
  • Super Strength: Saul gains this after tapping into his rat side, King Rat, Anansai and Loplop possess it to a greater degree. And the Piper is stronger even than them.
  • Uncertain Doom: The Piper manages to escape back to his home realm, but in a state so badly damaged he may well be fatally wounded. He's gone before we can find out.


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