A Wonderful Place To Visit...

I've nearly finished China Mieville's Un Lun Dun. It's taken quite a while to get through, which shouldn't, of itself, be taken as a criticism (it's quite fat). There's lots to admire in this book, and I do admire it greatly. It's incredibly inventive, dazzlingly so, and the central conceit is brilliant -- that there exists a kind of mirror London, the "abcity" UnLundun, made up of scraps and discards from the other place. This is the place broken umbrellas, obsolete computers and lost socks go. The umbrellas become, naturally, unbrellas, under the command of Brokkenbroll, the Unbrellissimo. There are characters composed of schools of fish, who wear suits of words and use their heads for pincushions, who are half-ghost, half-human, and best of all, the binja -- martial arts-fighting rubbish bins. There is a reluctant heroine, Deeba, the UnChosen, who has to save the city from its deadly enemy, Smog, and its minions, the stink-junkies and smombies. The story rollicks along at tremendous speed, with fresh explosions of invention on every page. And he's done all his own illustrations, damn his gifted hide!


UnLundun falls into the category of books for kids that stretch your imagination in unexpected directions, that play hard with words and ideas -- like The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice in Wonderland. And I must confess that much as I enjoyed and admired those books, I didn't fall in love with them either. Maybe the pace is a shade too hectic. The cataract of wondrous inventions almost drowns you.

But the books that I loved most as a child were the ones that I could imagine living inside, taking my place beside the characters, becoming their friends. UnLundun is a fabulous place to spend some time, but I can't imagine living there.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Alice, but I think for the same reason I liked animal books (we've talked about this before) - because I related to that sensation of being adrift in a big strange adult world that I didn't understand, with lots of arbitrary rules. I didn't especially relate to Phantom Tollbooth though, and certainly the logic, mathsy-trickery part of Alice didn't draw me in, it was the journey - my favourite part of Through the Looking Glass (the superior of the two) was when she went into the forest with the deer and forgot her name.