Third Time’s the Charm

by China Mieville

I’ve tried to read Mieville’s books before. Twice. Couldn’t do it either time. (Same thing with Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. Two strikes. There won’t be a third pitch with that bloated sack of wood pulp.) Admitting that makes me feel like less of a fantasy reader, as everyone seems to just love China Mieville’s work. He”s one of the stars of fantasy fiction of the last ten years. What kind of a twerp can’t appreciate his writing?

So that feeling of inferiority, that niggling voice that tells me that everyone else is right, and I’m just not reading this stuff the right way (Must be because I’m not smart enough?), made me go back a third time to try Mieville’s work. I tried to read Perdido Street Station and couldn’t; I tried to read King Rat and couldn’t — maybe this one will be better.


You know what? This one was better.

In fact, I loved this book. I loved the two heroines, the pair of school-age tween girls from the council flats (British version of the projects) who find their way to UnLunDun; I loved the Wonderland feel of the anti-city that these two girls go to; I loved the characters they meet there, particularly the bus conductor, the strong man in the diving suit, and the rooftop Parkour gypsies. I loved the humor of the book, the sheer joyful whimsy of it. I loved the bad guy, the patsies, the thugs and monsters on both sides. I loved the ladder-tower of books — and I know what my UnLunDun job would be. I loved the morals tucked away here and there between the puns, and how they didn’t rise up and slap you in the face, but just sat there, quietly, waiting for you to notice them: books are a path to wonder. Destiny doesn’t matter as much as choice. Courage and loyalty can win the day — sometimes. Corruption is everywhere — but it can be fought.

This is a book I would strongly recommend. I would recommend it to people who love fantasy, to people who love humor, to people who want to see the world in a new light. I would highly recommend it to young women looking for fantasy books with female heroes, as this may be one of the best examples I’ve read of that particular under-represented character in the fantasy/sci-fi world: girls who kick ass.

And I’d recommend it to people who want to read China Mieville but just can’t get into his books. This one worked for me.

Maybe I’ll give another of his books a try.

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