If you have ever read a China Miéville book, you have probably noticed that the man has a thing for prefixes, two in particular. Un Lun Dun. UnLondon. Unsun. Unchosen. UnGun. Abcity. Abnauts. Un-this. Ab-that. Un-un-un. Ab-ab-ab. Who put on the techno?
Well, it turns out that China Miéville has a sense of humor. It turns out that a man with the kind of control over his style that Miéville has notices how often he ab-s and un-s, and in Un Lun Dun, bundled with all of the pun-y (that is pun-filled) inventions too absurd for the more serious books, he uses them to make us laugh and to lightly poke fun at some of the tricks he uses with a straight face in books like Iron Council and Perdido Street Station.
Un Lun Dun was good on its own—and it wins many awards from me for turning a couple of particularly annoying fantasy tropes inside out—but the things it does and says and makes fun of have made me love the rest of his books even more. If I ever doubted that Miéville was fully in control of his voice, I do not now. If I ever thought he was using all that heavy vocab and those pre-fixes willy nilly, I have seen the light. The more of Miéville I read, the more impressed I am with the range he is capable of, the intention, the flexibility, and, now, the humor.
Thanks, Un Lun Dun, I really like you. Do you want to go out sometime? Please check the box next to yes.
Un Lun Dun was published in 2007 by Pan/Macmillan, the very same year that the final Harry Potter book hit shelves and the collective reading world was frothing over The Boy Who Lived. So when Un Lun Dun started out looking like just another messiah/chosen one story line, I was all loud sighs and seriously, Miéville?s. Ye of little faith, Future Nikki says to Nikki Just Starting to read Un Lun Dun. Of course Miéville didn’t write a fucking messiah story. He wrote a fucking anti-opposite-upside-down messiah story. With a female lead(s). And he takes a big shit on the prophecies while he’s at it. It is wonderful. There are women being things like school girls and librarians and bus drivers and adventurers and seers and heroes and idiots and aids to villains (translation: human women! in a book! WOW). It even passes the Bechdel.
Despite its place on the list of “times China Miéville rewrote Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere,” Un Lun Dun is less Neverwhere than King Rat. Miéville’s UnLondon bears many similarities to Gaiman’s London Below, but there were not enough (literally) underground scenes to seal the comparison for me. We’ll see how Kraken fares in the Neverwhere equation next month.
Also: this book is illustrated. By Miéville. Though they are not quite as awesome, they were extremely reminiscent of the illustrations in Walter Moers’ books, and you know how much I love Walter Moers. Their presence added a fun, light element to the story that I appreciated.
Also also: killer giraffes. Ninja trash cans. Moving bridges. Spider windows. ENOUGH PUNS TO KILL A MAN. I loved all its silly, absurd, weird, light-hearted strangeness.
Un Lun Dun is, allegedly, YA. So you can rest assured that I will be buying it for all the pre-teens I know for their next birthdays because if I’m going to rope new people into this fandom, I’m going to have to start young.