Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Un Lun Dun

I think I may be on a young adult fantasy kick. Recently I read the first and, so far, only two books in Ursula Le Guin's new fantasy series and right now I am reading Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. I'm intrigued by Mieville's writing. He writes urban/modern fantasy. Generally that is fantasy outside of what you may consider traditional fantasy. I would group him in with Michael Swanwick, Sean Stewart and Kelly Link. I own his short story collection Looking for Jake. I have not finished the book but the stories I have read have really impressed me with the pure imagination that went into them.

Un Lun Dun is the story of two teenage girls who live in London and have adventures in a city that is a magical mirror of London called unLondon (hence the title). unLondon is not merely a reflection of London, it turns out the two cities exchange everything from clothing styles to garbage to enemies. The abcity (as it's called in the novel) is filled with as many variations of talking animals, bizarre humans or hybrids of the two that Mieville could dream up.

The city is being threatened by what is left of the Great London Smog of 1952. The girls appear in unLondon apparently to fill long kept prophecies. Instead of following what could easily be the usual journey of a hero in fantasy story Mieville starts throwing curveballs immediately. Nothing is as it's supposed to be and that's where the fun starts. Mieville directly attributes Lew Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as an inspiration. Probably because the debt is so obvious that he wanted to be the first to make the comparison.

He obviously had a lot of fun writing this. Some of the citizens of unLondon are fantastic enough to almost be beyond words. He's not afraid to go on little rampages of description when going on about the many strange denizens of unLondon. He also has the ability to give a place the right amount of strangeness with just a few words like this scene witnessed by the two girls in an unLondon open market, "They ran...past what looked like an argument at a honey stall between a bear in a suit and a cloud of bees in the shape of a man." At this point in the book there are two drawings, one of the bear in a suit and the cloud of bees in the shape of man. Throughout the book there are many inspired drawings of characters we encounter and they are all drawn by Mieville. There's a particularly great illustration of a carnivorous giraffe that you really should see.

I hope to have this book finished by tomorrow night so I can move on to the new Anchee Min book called The Last Empress. It's a sequel to Empress Orchid, a book I loved when I read it a couple of years ago.

Monday, March 26, 2007

An experiment

Starting on the 27th of March there should be a link to this page from the Morrsion Regional Library section of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County page. I decided to try and get this to happen after I decided to starting updating this page recently. I mean, a guy can never have enough blogs can he? Mainly I'll be using this blog to cross post something from my personal blog that has to do with reading, writing or library work in general. The reason I haven chosen not to link to my personal blog is because that particular blog uses dirty words now and then. I guess there is nothing particularly wrong with dirty words as a whole, they've done nicely for George Carling, but I assumed that the library would prefer to link to an employee's blog that didn't drop certain bombs now and then. OK, all the time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I think I read my first noir fiction over the weekend. I read "Driver" by James Sallis. I had never heard of Sallis until I read the comic by the Unshelved guys. I had been thinking about reading a piece of noir fiction for a while ever since Pollack mentioned the genre in his blog back when he was reading and editing noir fiction.

Not only was the novel noir it was Hollywood noir. Have I written the word 'noir' enough yet? The scene you seen in the Unshelved comic strip is the opening scene of the book. From there you follow the fascinating life story of the character just known as Driver from teenage runaway to respected stunt driver and getaway driver. Three story lines are weaved together in this clever novel. The story of his early life as a child and runaway, his day to day life as a stunt driver and L.A. resident and the story of the robbery gone wrong that we are in the middle of when the book opens.

This jumping around in time and place can be a little confusing at times but it really all ties together nicely because Driver is on just about every page. Only near the end when the main plot is tying up do we lose his viewpoint for a few pages here and there. By that time Driver is stuck so firmly in your head that he's there with you as your are reading.

The best book are the ones you wish hadn't ended so soon.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pass the paper

One of the exercises the kids in my writing group most enjoy is the one where we pass a paper around and each person takes a turn adding a line to a story. There is a website attemtping to become the internet version of that. You can check it out here. It's called Ficlets.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Free! Audio! Books!

Yes, they are free. Yes, they are in public domain and yes, they are read by volunteers. Still, free audio books.