Monday, July 09, 2007

Un Lun Dun

I spent the weekend reading China Mieville's Un Lun Dun.

(Hey! Cool! Look at that! I figured out LINKS!)

I've been wrangling with Mieville's work for half a year now -- started with Iron Council, circled back to Perdido Street Station, made a valient rally on The Scar. He's some writer. I'm planning another attack in the fall, when the days are cooler. I might get through a whole book of his then. (I keep staggering to a halt in the forests of language and characters and lying in bed around ten some vastly hot evening saying now what now? Now who is this again? I mean, I like these books. And I like the worlds he's built here. But shit would I like an index or maybe some hot links to go with.)

But this one is his first book for YA readers, so I thought I might could handle it.

I wasn't wrong, either. (Though, yes, here too hot links would have helped!)

This is a fine book (nice pictures too -- I kept snortling over them in delight, so that the kid kept saying, what? what? and I would have to say, well, it won't be funny, because you're not reading it, but look! The evil giraffe! The black window! Snrf! Snrf!) that makes me happy on so many levels.


First, it's a fine story.

I was a bit taken aback when what appeared to be the main character drops out halfway through -- but that turns out to be the central point, as is soon made clear.

I love how the distrust of the text becomes central to the text, and how casual Mieville is about this. (Heh! The text itself doubts itself. It's lovely! A book with a crisis of faith!)

And all the un-puns! Which work! Which become part of the point!

And then (this is a major spoiler, sorry!) how, over and over, it is not being chosen that gets our band through; it is their wits, their loyalty to one another, their own courage: their humanity. In other words, not the finger of fate or god or predistination laid on them, but their own decision to do the right thing. Human behavior wins it, not received valor. It's not because of the sword in the stone; it's because Deeba decided to make the journey, and because she uses her sense. (I love how she tosses the epic conventions out the window -- too dangerous, too stupid, will kill off too many of my friends. Screw that, she says. Screw the text! Let's do it this way. Heh! You won't catch the Hobbits doing that.)

The Kid is a little wary of reading it -- she thinks the giraffes look too scary. But all y'all folk who aren't scared of fierce giraffes should feel free. It's a fine book.

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