Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy
After Action Report:
When last we left Dial H, Miéville was busy adding weird fiction and horror tropes to a little known corner of the DC Universe. The events of the last volume have raised the stakes and opened the door to a multiverse of possibilities. Unfortunately, while Dial H was an incredible critical success, its sales numbers left something to be desired and DC ended the run at issue 16. True to form, Miéville seems to treat the cancelation as a challenge and crashes through two storylines to bring readers a climax worthy of this creative adventure, and a thoughtful coda that hints that we might not have seen the last of the Dialers.
Issue #7 picks up a few weeks after Nelson’s fight with the villain Ex Nihlio and her pet Abyss. In light of the new threat of the Shadow on the Line, Nelson and his new partner Roxie, set off to uncover more secrets of the dials. But their leisurely globetrotting quickly turns scary as they catch the eye of a Canadian super-agent who knows more about what they are than they do.
Profile: Young Adult, Fantasy, Weird Fantasy
After Action Report:
‘China Miéville’ and ‘children’s book’ are not, at first glance, two things that would appear to mesh. Miéville, who I have described in previous reviews as being macabre, dense and sometimes overwhelmingly complicated (in an enjoyable way), is hardly the first person I’d pick to write a book for older kids and young adults. Nevertheless, Un Lun Dun is a triumphant piece of fiction. It taps into the fundamental truths of adventure stories, uses them where appropriate and turns them on their head when necessary. Miéville’s singular ability to deconstruct genre and trope help create an earnest adventure for those of us who were never singled out for greatness.
Un Lun Dun follows two London girls, Zanna and Deeba who stumble onto a pathway into UnLondon, an abcity behind and beyond London proper. Suddenly dropped into a world of magic, animate garbage, carnivorous giraffes and a never ending parade of strange sights, the girls are desperate to find their way back home. But Zanna is the subject of an ancient prophesy. Called ‘The Shwazzy,’ she is destined to save UnLondon from the malicious cloud of toxins known as the Smog.
Profile: Comics, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy
After Action Report:
Like many of China Miéville’s novels, Dial H tries to alter the way readers look at its genres. It uses the tropes of superheroics to tell an entirely different kind of story with a lot of style and unique take on the world of DC Comics. It is a quintessentially Miéville story, where the rules have to be learned, or re-learned at the very least. And in spite of all that, it stays true to the comic book canon and is a huge breath of fresh air in a space that has been stagnant for a while.
I am a huge fan of Miéville’s ability to turn the boundaries of genre into creative playgrounds and Dial H doesn’t disappoint in this respect. It is a brilliantly rendered series that taps into the ‘weird’ space that DC has been attempting to capitalize on in their ‘New 52’ reboot. It isn’t as grand in scope or story as some of the great graphic novels, like Sandman, but it bridges the gap between a superhero story and a ‘larger’ adventure.
My friend Crystal over at Geek Outsider was kind enough to ask for my thoughts on the recent media coverage of Star Trek’s progressive legacy. So I whipped up this little Op-Ed (basically just an excuse for me to be exceedingly contrarian) that ended up being equal parts criticism and justification. Here’s a quick look…
This week’s Star Trek hype started me thinking. How does a series that we in the Geek community so singularly associate with progressiveness become what it is today? It’s shockingly easy to criticize later iterations of Trek for their failure to live up to the original’s legacy of equality. But maybe we’re coming at this from the wrong direction. Maybe it isn’t about what Star Trek became. Maybe the question should be, ‘what was Star Trek in the first place?’ And to answer that, we need a little context.
For starters, what does ‘progressive’ mean anyway? Is it just being politically liberal? Does it have to do with technological progress? Is it about being ‘edgy?’ What made The Original Series (TOS) progressive? There isn’t a quick and easy answer to any of these questions, but they lie at the core of what TOS was and why it remains iconic today. These are also questions that have very different responses today than they did in the 1960s. And that is my argument in a nutshell.
Now don’t get me wrong. My argument isn’t that TOS isn’t progressive, just that it was progressive in the context of the 1960s. It’s not that the ideals of TOS aren’t progressive anymore; it’s that the forefront of being progressive has changed. So when The Next Generation (TNG) tried to capitalize on the progressive success of TOS by featuring, among others, a blind, black helmsman and a female chief of security, it didn’t manage to resonate the same way that Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura or George Takei’s Sulu did.
You can read the rest of the article over at Geek Outsider. It’s also a pretty great place for getting some alternative perspectives on SF, fantasy and comic culture.
Profile: Speculative Fiction, Weird Fantasy, Politics, Bas-Lag
Summary: From the hardcover edition, “It is a time of wars and revolutions, conflict and intrigue. New Crobuzon is being ripped apart from without and within. War with the shadowy city-state of Tesh and rioting on the streets at home are pushing the teeming city to the brink. A mysterious masked figure spurs strange rebellion, while treachery and violence incubate in unexpected places.
In desperation, a small group of renegades escapes from the city and crosses strange and alien continents in the search for a lost hope.
In the blood and violence of New Crobuzon’s most dangerous hour, there are whispers. It is the time of the Iron Council. . . .”
Profile: Speculative Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Weird Fiction
Summary: From the Back Cover, “When a murdered woman is found in the city of Besźel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Besźel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Besźel and in Ul Qoma – and most terrifying of all, that which lies between the two cities.” Read the rest of this entry
Profile: Speculative Fiction, Weird Fantasy, Pirate Adventure, Bas-Lag
Summary: From the Back Cover, “Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to a fledgling colony of New Crobuzon. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. When the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are executed. The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of stolen ships – a floating, landless mass whose bizarre leaders harbor a sinister agenda.” Read the rest of this entry
Profile: Speculative Fiction, Weird Fantasy, Psychological Horror, Bas-Lag
Summary: From the Back Cover, “Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies the city of New Crobuzon, where the unsavory deal is stranger to no one – not even to Isaac, a gifted and eccentric scientist who has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as a Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges the has never before encountered. Though the Garuda’s request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. Soon an eerie metamorphosis will occur that will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon – and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it evokes.” Read the rest of this entry
And what better way to ring in the new month than with a terrible pun?
It’s been a long time coming but the time of rejoicing is finally here. A month of nothing but China Miéville. Your mileage may vary. When I read Embassytwon back in June of 2011, I made a quiet vow to start gathering Miéville’s novels for the next Cannonball Read. I’ve had a few of them sitting in a box thanks to the bargain basement prices of Borders’ burnout, but I was missing a copy of Perdido Street Station which was where I really wanted to start the marathon. And now I have it!
So I’m declaring March to be Miéville Month, if only so I can have the Miéville March Madness Marathon while the rest of the country is busy with regular March Madness and all the bracketing that entails. More alliteration is always better. The reading order will look something like this: Perdido Street Station, The Scar, The City & the City, and Kraken. I’m holding off on Iron Council for a number of reasons, but if I’m ahead of schedule I might add it just to keep the month purely Miéville.
See you on the other side,