Monday, August 1, 2011

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

The Book Talk:

The Review:

It almost seems redundant to write a review of this book after the book talk, because I loved it so much that I think all of my opinions come across pretty clearly in the video.  However, I'll try to add a little more to this written review to express why it was that I loved Un Lun Dun so much (seriously, probably the best book I've read this year so far).

I am not quite sure how the author managed to cram every page so chock-full of imagination.  If anyone else had tried, I think it would have seemed cluttered and disorganized, but Miéville somehow manages to fit imaginative world-building, over-the-top characters, and wordplay onto every page without it seeming forced or overdone.  Whether he's writing about the silly Slaterunners, the fearless race of Binja (garbage cans who also happen to be ninjas), or his sassy main character Deeba, Miéville's genius and wit and creativity shines through.

One criticism I have seen of this book is that the villain/environmental message seems a bit heavy-handed.  I actually completely disagree with this -- while there is an environmental message (the villain is a giant cloud of Smog), this book isn't about environmentalism really at all.  It's about taking the real world and its problems, and turning them on their heads.  Miéville uses the Smog not in a preachy way, but as a way to get the most of his characters and teach them that that the real world does not work in a fantastic way.  Of course it would be nice if we had a hero who had been destined to come to power and thwart the evil in our world, but that's not how it works!  In the REAL world (as in Miéville's fantasy world), REAL PEOPLE have to STEP UP and DECLARE themselves heroes.  Take responsibility and march into action, instead of waiting for someone the world has "decided" is going to save everything.  That's the real message of this book, not that pollution is bad.

I could go on and on about the characters and the wordplay and the world, but I think that everyone should just pick this book up right now and go read it, instead.  For fans of steam punk and Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth and The Chronicles of Narnia who want to be blown away by the power of the human imagination.

Anyone else read this?  What do you think?