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 |