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02 August 2010 @ 07:12 pm
#32  
Un Dun Lun, China Mieville



Okay, so - you know the fantasy-by-numbers where there's a Quest and a Grail and a Hero and a Maiden and a Bad Guy? And they don't have emotions or motivations outside the narrative imperative? Un Dun Lun is like that - only backwards. There's a lot of focus on how Deeba isn't the Shwazzy and her decisions not to follow the route laid out by the prophecies. Yet I still came away without really knowing why she did any of it. Liking UnLondon and hating the Smog don't seem terribly good motivators, especially when UnLondon read as a freakish, scary and dirty place. I'm sure I was supposed to think Curdle was cute, but I've lived with the smell of old milk cartons when I'm too lazy to wash them out. Newsflash: not cute.

UnLondon was extremely clever and Mieville has a fantastic imagination. Mr Speaker was terrifying. It can be difficult to convey with standard-size human characters how frightening they are on first look, but a mouth that size? I'd be running.

"Zann," said Deeba, "that makes sense. All those animals, they knew who you were ... whatever you are."
"The Shwazzy," said Zanna.
"But no cats," Jones went on. "Too busy trying to look cool."

I was lol. And slightly affronted - cats are cool! They don't have to try! It was also the first instance of deliberate cliche-flipping I saw.

"UTTERLINGS," said Mr Speaker. "MY WORDS MADE FLESH."

Oh, I LIKED that.

"The window doesn't just kill you," the book said. "It takes you right out of the world. No body left, no clothes, no trace. Swallows up whatever comes close. It's the perfect predator."
"I thought that was a shark," Deeba said.


See, she was supposed to be the 'funny one', per the conveniently all-knowing book. Yet this is the only time she's funny, and even then it's not on purpose. She just doesn't seem to have much of a personality. And the other characters have quirks - needle hair, diving suit etc - rather than personality traits. I suppose I'm more interested in seeing people fight each other than giant spider-windows. However, I have to give Mieville top marks for invention.



Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov | I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates | Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides ♥ | The School for Husbands, Moliere | On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks | The Famished Road, Ben Okri | Lord of the Flies, William Golding | Moby Dick, Herman Melville | A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway | Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell ♥ | The Sea, the Sea, Irish Murdoch ♥ ♥ | Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad | Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy | The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman | The Sea, John Banville | paddy clarke ha ha ha, Roddy Doyle | The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough ♥ | The Godfather, Mario Puzo ♥ | The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, Philip Pullman | Possession, A.S. Byatt ♥ ♥ ♥ | Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales | The Mysteries of Pittsburg, Michael Chabon | Dragon Haven, Robin Hobb, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon ♥, Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby, Life of Pi, Yann Martel | Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier | At Swim, Two Boys, Jamie O'Neill ♥ | The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt |
 
 
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Kat: [bandom] gerard + bookskyasuriin on August 2nd, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)

I just purchased this for my library actually, after someone requested it but it hasn't come in yet. It seemed Phantom Tollbooth-esque, so i thought I might be charmed. Is it worth a read? Or is it more of a pass?
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on August 3rd, 2010 11:23 am (UTC)
Phantom Tollbooth! Awesome name! I've never heard of it though so I can't justifiably compare.

Oh, in this era of Twilight-esque Doomed YA Romance it's extremely refreshing. I just found it emotionally cold. Like, it would have made a better comic/movie. That's not enough for me to utterly condemn it though.
cleodoxacleodoxa on August 2nd, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
I read that a while ago and liked it well enough but it didn't really leave a lasting impression. I think he's maybe just too earnest and deliberate with the whole flipping conventions thing. It can easily seem like a convention in itself. I read a few interviews with him recently, and he seems to think about ethical issues like sexism and racism in his stuff which is nice, but his ideas on writing kind of explained why I didn't take to him as much as I might - he hates whimsical things and anything that doesn't take the fantastic seriously.

I had to give up on Iron Council recently, though it may have been a poor choice of book - the subject matter was interesting, his world building is definitely constantly imaginative. But it was kind of like reading nonfiction about fiction, in a fairly dull style. I just didn't see why I should care.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on August 3rd, 2010 11:27 am (UTC)
Yes! It's like he had a checklist of conventions that he carefully ticked as he overturned them. A little ... dull.

As for his writing, what I noted was "he writes about extraordinary things in an ordinary way." We seem to be brain twins. :)
Scarletscarletscarlet on August 3rd, 2010 07:28 am (UTC)
I was frustrated by this one, actually. I really like the author, and he changed his style *so much* for the change from adult to young-adult that it was rather jarring.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on August 3rd, 2010 11:25 am (UTC)
I've only read a bit if Perdito Street Station and found it ... tough going. This was far from tough going. I'll come back to you when I manage to get back to PSS!
Scarletscarletscarlet on August 3rd, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
PSS is the classic, but I found Iron Council a more engaging read. Civil unrest and some more interesting characters.