GROUP READ: Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
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What is Un Lun Dun?
It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.
When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.
From the Hardcover edition.
China Tom Miéville (born 6 September 1972) is an English fantasy fiction author, comic writer and academic. He is fond of describing his fiction as "weird fiction" (after early twentieth century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird.
Other work by the author.
Perdido Street Station (2000)
The Scar (2002)
Iron Council (2004)
Stand alone works
King Rat (1998)
The Tain (2002)
Un Lun Dun (2007)
The City & the City (2009)
Please don't forget to mark your ***SPOILERS***
Claire - I'm interested in your thoughts as well.
Benita - I'm reading The Circle for the book group too. I haven't even started. I have library books to finish first. I'll get to Un Lun Dun in December but I wanted to post the thread up sooner rather than later. I'm glad you will join us.
Paulina - Which three have you read? I want to read The City and The City next.
read the city and the city without reading ANYTHING about it before hand - it'll be better if you do!
Pete - Hooray! This little party is getting better and better. Well I must confess I've read a little summary about The City & The City but my monkey brain will have forgotten before I start the book.
Paulina - Too late on reading up about The City & The City but real life has me exhausted and my brain really is a monkey's, flitting from tree to tree. I am not going to think about the book except to request it from the library early next year.
Mamzel - I heard about Un Lun Dun from Valerie (jolerie) last year. Then when I put it in my challenge you had some very nice things to say about it. Now that I have followed you for a year I know your recommendations are right on the money.
So far I am enjoying Un Lun Dun.
I haven't started the book yet because I am still trying to finish my real life book discussion book for December. It reads fast so I should start reading sometime this week.
What are you reading for your RL book group?
That said, I am actually enjoying the book a lot more now! (I've read through chapter 63 at this point.) Things have picked up a lot, and the quest has gotten more complicated and interesting. So I may end up eating my words from earlier. :)
We are reading In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White. It is about the last leper colony in the U. S. It is reading fast, but I find I don't much like Mr. White. He is selfish and shallow. But I like the book - so far.
In my opinion the world of YA books is going upper and lower at the same time. Most YA books are now intended for an audience of people 18 - 25. This is evident by the length of the books - they keep getting longer and longer. The content is also getting more and more adult. Sex, violence, etc. are ram pent in YA books. In fact there is probably not much difference between the content of a YA book and that of an adult book. At the same time this is happening the authors of adult novels are trying to "cash-in" on the lucrative children's and young adult novel market by writing for that market. It is easier for an adult author to write down than it is for a young adult author to write up. (Think J. K. Rowling.) If you don't count the money machine of the Fifty Shades of Grey series the big blockbuster books in the last ten years have been young adult books. Starting with the Harry Potter books and moving right on to Twilight and to the biggest money maker of all Hunger Games. Not only are authors interested in writing for young people the publishers probably are pushing authors in that direction because the market is so good. A few weeks ago the sales figures for books were released and for the first time in six months a paper hard copy of a book outsold the digitized version of the book even though they were released at the same time. The title of the book - House of Hades by Rick Riordan. It is the fourth book in The Olympians series. Publishers and authors make more money off of hard copy books than they do off of digitized copies for many reasons, but it is interesting that a YA book sold more hard copies than digitized. You would think it would be the other way around. Surely young people are more comfortable with digitized books than with paper books?
It is also noteworthy that it was not young people alone who made Twilight and Hunger Games such big hits. Look at the number of adults who have read those books. These are cross over hits. (I have read all of the Percy Jackson series and intend to keep reading more by Riordan. His books are great good fun.) If a book can be read by young people starting about age 8 and by people aged 80 you have multiplied your potential market by a huge number.
Aside from readers - who really don't care about genre - most of them are just looking for a good book, who benefits from a wider audience? Mostly it is the publishers (who are owned by the huge entertainment conglomerates). Traditionally, YA and children's authors are paid much less than adult authors. That is beginning to change, but it is still true that YA and Children's authors get paid less. Contrary to popular opinion, most modern day authors don't get paid royalties. The royalties get paid to the publisher. The authors get a flat fee up front. They tend to not get a percentage of the sales. But that pendulum may swing the other way as well.
All of that is the long way of saying that there will probably be more and more of the crossover writing going on in the future.
As for China Meiville - he seems to be somewhat of a rebel in the book world. He is radical politically and he refuses to be locked into any one genre. He says that he writes weird fiction. His goal is to write a book that fits into every genre. I wonder what genre Un Lun Dun fits into? Now I am curious and can't wait to finish the book I am on and move to the next one.
He is heavy on style though and I think this could be a turn off for some people, for example the exact thing I love about Embassytown, the alienation that the reader feels after being thrown in the deep end, being hammered with invented words and jargon with little explanation, and having to flail in the dark for something solid, something to get a grip on, this works perfectly in a book trying to talk about language, trying to describe how alien the aliens are in it. It makes for a hard first 100 pages, and many would say not so accessible. I loved it. And felt rewarded for my hard work later on in the book.
For those wanting something more accessible Un Lun Dun or King Rat are good choices. They would both be good for Neil Gaiman lovers.
Whilst The City & The City is a typical enough crime story wrapped inside a unique world that plays on the ludicrous nature of manmade borders. Whilst also saying something about white tape & bureaucracy. There was something about it that reminded me subtly of Kafka's Trial. The idea in this book whilst a good one, sometimes seems to get more attention from the author than the actual story. Still loved it though, so unique & interesting.
Railsea is basically Mobydick inserted into the Miéville-verse.
Kraken is also in the Neil Gaiman Neverwhere vein, but it's unique ideas and characters again seem to be given more attention than keeping the plot moving at times. I'm willing to put up with this however for the fact that it is refreshing to see an Author put so much effort into trying to break convention & create something new. And he doesn't dally too much.
If you enjoy these titles, then I'd say you would be keen on the mammoth trilogy that is Perdido St Station, The Scar & Iron Council.
Just my 2 cents.
#37 Christina I am about halfway through the book now. I'm enjoying the direction the story is going. Even though it is geared to a younger audience it does give you something to think about in regards to societies willingness to discard so many things regardless of the consequences.
Some of comments above talk about Miéville's other works which seem to be more mind bending and alternative. I would like to explore some of his other works.
#38 Mamzel in regards to adult authors writing for a younger audience I'm hoping their motive is not purely commercial but to get readers hooked at an early age to read their adult titles when they get old enough. I hope so too.
#39 Benita thank you so much for your comments on the publishing world and the popularity of YA books. I had no idea it was so difficult to switch genres. I suppose that is why authors write under different names. You are correct that adults have made some of these series bigger hits than young readers. I think with the movies franchises even more is riding on these series.
This book reads like a children's book to me and as I delve further in I am really enjoying the story.
In The Sanctuary of Outcasts sounds intriguing. Did Mr. White have leprosy or was he just sentenced to work at the facility?
#41 Kiwi Jim thank you for all the background on the Miéville universe! Your 2 cents is very much appreciated. I plan on reading The City & The City in 2014. I love police procedural novels and I am gaining appreciation for fantasy and alternative fiction. It seems like the logical next choice.
Mark - No worries my friend. I think this is geared to children although it's labeled YA. I can enjoy it very much in that context.
Also, I finished the book yesterday! I really liked the way in which everything was resolved, although Miéville did leave a pretty huge clue in the middle of the book as to how things would end.
The book is definitely a children's book. I would love for my great nieces and nephews to read this. I will recommend this book for kids and adults who love children's literature. I thought Deeba was very relatable and I found myself rooting for her.
I haven't read any Jasper Fforde but now I think I need to look into his work.
I'll comment more as others posts.
What would you recommend as my next Miéville?
ETA: Paulina I scrolled back up and found your thoughts on Miéville's other works. Hmm...
The illustrations remind me of drawings by somebody else - but I can't remember who, or what book. In that book at the beginning of each chapter was a little drawing that had something to do with the chapter. This reminds of the same thing. I may have to go check my book notebooks to find out which one as thinking about these drawings will drive me crazy.
Have you seen the binjas yet? I love the binjas!
I was laughing at lunch and somebody asked me what was so funny. I said Romeless. Sans Francisco. Lost Angeles. Parisn't. Hong Gong. How does this guy think of these things?
Judy - I hope your Granddaughter enjoys it.
Christina - It was very obvious the author's thoughts on environmentalism. It would make a great teaching tool for children. I have not read anything by Miéville but from what I have read about him, his point of view comes through his work.
The version of the book I am reading is designed for use in the classroom and comes with a classroom guide complete with projects.
In-my-opinion, this is a very good book to use in the classroom. I work with undergraduate education majors and could easily see this being used in the classroom. I told somebody about it yesterday and said that it would work well in grades 5 - 9, but probably not much higher than that. Or lower either, as the wordplay is fairly sophisticated and younger or less able readers might have trouble picking up on that. The message is very clear, but for classroom use I think it would work.
I have not read any other work by Mieville, but have had his books on my to read list for some time. From what I have read about him as a person he makes no bones about his political views. He is a very active socialist. What I have read about him as an author is much the same, but since I have not read his adult work I can't address that as readily. I would like to hear what others who have read more of his work have to say on this subject.
Every book Iv'e read of Miéviles has had something to say other than the story. There has always been multiple layers, different depths to dive into.
I don't think he writes with it in mind but it probably comes out subconsciously.
Yes, the binjas were fun.
Roni, I'm enjoying the wordplay in Un Lun Dun as well. I'm on chapter 62 now. I'm a huge fan of Scrabble, crossword puzzles and other word games, and I absolutely loved chapters 59 and 60. Even the chapter titles were hilarious. I won't say more, for fear of spoiling it for readers who've not come this far yet. :)
I love all the side characters in this one - the binjas, the evil giraffes, and especially Curdle. :)
Klinneract = Clean Air Act.
I suppose the only possibly controversial aspect of the plot (the details of which are already fading so I hope I'm remembering right) is
#69 Benita - How very fortunate you have a classroom copy of the book. I would love to get a peek at that version
#70 Carrie - I think some kids are pretty savvy and would realize there is a message but a lot of children's literature has a message.
#71 shurikt - Thanks for that tip! I took a quick, very quick, peek on the web and I will be tracking this down for a sample.
#72 Kiwi Jim - I think every author's point of view comes across in their work whether they want it to or not. Very good point but I think in Un Lun Dun it was more obvious. As I said above to Carrie a lot of literature aimed at a younger audience does have a strong message or POV. I am really looking forward to reading something else by him. (See below Judy's comments. She said what I wanted to say perfectly.)
#73 Judy - I think when the author decided to write a book that was aimed at a younger audience, he chose to be more forthcoming on his pollution message. In his other work, although I am far from familiar with most of it, the message is more layered and subtle. Perfectly put.
#74 Benita - I may really look into a binja costume if LT has another literature costume contest for Halloween next year. :)
#75 Roni - The word play was fantastic!
#76 Paulina - All this gushing about his other works really makes me want to read something else by him right now! If you saw the books on my nightstand you would realize that it would be dangerous for me. I think I'll slot another one of his in for Fantasy February over in the 75ers. He should fit that category well.
#77 Eva - I honestly think that it was written "preachy" because most books for a younger audience are written that way. Curdle just melted my heart.
#78 gennyt - You have given me something to think about. Very true about the pollution being written about in earlier works. I will have to look at The Tiger in the Smoke.
Here is a link to the story http://news.yahoo.com/chinese-government-tries-to-spin-smog-as-a-healthy-benefit...
I would have really loved this book if I had read it as a child.
Thanks so much - I would never have thought of the Clean Air Act. How clever of Mieville! In this respect this book reminds me of some of the stuff in Connie Willis.
I am not sure how our library got this copy but it is quite well done - complete with suggestions for classroom activities. It is a paperback and I think it might be available to order. It has a green bar across the top that says it has a Reader's Guide in the back. The reader's guide is really a teacher's guide but the cover doesn't say that. The teacher's guide might also be available on the publisher's web site. The short chapters would make this a perfect read aloud book to use with 5th or 6th graders (children 11-12 years old). The structure would mean that it could be read in-between other classroom activities and not take up a whole period.
However, there were two aspects to the reading of this book that I liked very much. First, the illustrations were great. Second, it was fun reading this as part of a group read and hearing everybody's thoughts on it as I made progress through the book. Thanks, Roberta, for organizing this!
Lori - I am really looking forward to reading an "adult" Miéville. As for the message, gennyt's post in #78 really made me rethink that this message has been around for some time. I'll have follow up on some of the works she mentions. Merry Christmas!
Benita - When you are done please share your thoughts. Your comments have been informative, and interesting. Thank you for participating in the group. You elevated our discussion. Merry Christmas to you!
Paulina - I agree with you on the illustrations and most definitely about the discussion. We have had some wonderful participants, including you.
This is my first time "hosting" a group read. I had a great time and now I am ready for the next one. ;-) Merry Christmas!
I don't think I'll be joining that read but now I am curious so I will ask you your thoughts about it after you post your reviews.
There are parts of the book I really like (the bookshelves, the Forest and the Black Windows etc) but I feel that the author has crammed too much into the book, maybe I feel he has tried a little too hard. I expect others might feel differently, so maybe this just wasn't a book suitable for me.
Do you plan to read any of Miéville's other work?
Happy New Year!
Lori sent me a copy of Perdido Street Station so that is the next one I will try. I'll pop over to your thread and let you know what I think.
Webminster Abby and the Black Windows was the best part of the book. The Bishops were great fun. Who would have thought of Alan Bastor and Ed Bon? Those are great literary puns - but I think the fun of that would have been lost on children, unless they were highly sophisticated readers. But for me, it was great fun to see those puns in print.