Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rules? What rules?

If you have a goodish memory and you are planning to read China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, you may wish to skip this post. The bit I want to quote is from near the end and the book is extremely plotty. I have redacted some especially spoilerish sentences in the middle of the quote, even at the cost of rather spoiling its effect, but you should consider yourself warned.

The reason I so want to quote it is that it takes aim at a piety of children's fantasy that used to annoy the hell out of me back when I was in the target age-group: the touching final scene where the hero or heroine is informed that, because they have successfully completed their heavily symbolic rite of passage, they must leave the world of the imagination behind, with the compensatory promise of returning to it after death (if this is a Christian-apologetic fantasy) or having lots of sex (if it's a hippy-liberal one).

Mieville's heroine, perhaps because she is small and dark and round-faced and would have been a comic sidekick if destiny had had its way, has an answer:

'The stuff that happened here,' Deeba said, 'I'll never forget. What we did. I'll never forget you. Any of you.' She paused, looked at each of them in turn.

'And part of the reason I won't forget you,' she said, 'is cos I'll be back all the time.'


Mortar and the Propheseers - the Suggesters - looked up, startled.

'Come on,' she said, smiling. 'What are you even talking about, Mortar? It's easy to get from London to here [...] People are always going between, and you don't see either universe collapsing, do you?

'You just think it's hard to go between the two cos you've always thought it must be. You're just saying that cos you sort of think you should.'

Deeba's friends stared at her and at each other. 'She has a point,' Mortar said eventually.

[Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville, 2007. Systematic dismantling of the cliches of the children's quest novel, funny but with serious intent, characterisation and narrative drive, set in an alternate London that entails particular thanks to Neil Gaiman in the acknowledgments. It compelled me to read it in a sitting, which is not considerate behaviour in a 500-page book, even one with relatively large print, but is impressive. Author's own illustrations.]

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