The Nameless Horror

The City and the City

I finished reading China Mieville’s¬†The City and the City¬†yesterday. Frankly, it’s a wonderful book and you should all go and buy it right now, if you haven’t already.

To go into it at slightly greater depth, the central conceit (that of two cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma, sharing largely the same geographical space due to some long-past dimensional weirdness, in which citizens of one must “unsee” citizens of another in shared areas not wholly in one or the other for fear of bringing the mysterious and terrifying Breach down on them) is brilliantly handled, interesting, and entirely believable, while the central characters and the storyline are top notch. If I had to nit-pick it would be that the villains of the piece get very little screen time so you never really see/understand/go “Aha! I knew it was them!” about their villainy, but it’s a piffling thing. (And one that I’m very familiar with - both Cregan books suffer/ed from it to one extent or another.)

Go and buy it.

On TV, you currently have more chance of spotting a pair of morbidly obese conjoined twins on a log flume than of seeing one articulate, intelligent teenager exploring any subject other than sex or tattoos in any depth whatsoever. Little wonder they’re abandoning ship.


Went to see Alice in Wonderland last week, and while I know it’s too late for Vince, it’s worth pointing out to others that it’s not very good.

It suffers, in fact, from the same things that plagued Avatar - a lack of character development or engagement in the plot. In this case it’s more the latter than the former; Alice does have a bit of an arc, even if she apparently only follows it because that’s what the script says, as does the Hatter. But quite what’s supposed to be going on is a bit of a mystery.

There’s apparently a prophecy saying that a girl with wavy hair will kill the jabberwocky on “the Framptious Day”, and the suspicion is that this girl is Alice. The Red Queen owns the jabberwocky (not that you see it until the end) and doesn’t want it to die. Which, you’d think, she could achieve by keeping it locked safely away until the day was over. Why she and the White Queen were at war is never explained (except as that she’s the baddie and the immensely irritating White Queen is, equally vaguely, the goodie), nor the significance of the Day, why everyone’s doing everything they are, etc. ad infinitum.

The whole thing’s very pretty, but it’s terribly disjointed. It watches like a four hour movie cut to two hours, with most of the character interaction and development being the bits cut. So you end up with ridiculous situations like Alice getting all weepy because blue caterpillar Absolem is going away into his chrysalis, despite the fact that they’ve said literally half a dozen lines to one another on the two tiny occasions they’ve met (and the first of those was just him telling her she “wasn’t hardly Alice”). Ditto just about every other character interaction; rescuing people from the Red Queen because… what, exactly? They’ve formed a terribly close bond over their thirty shared seconds of screen time? Thirty seconds in which Alice largely hated them? And so on.

Like Avatar, it’s spectacle over content, only instead of James Cameron’s “look at all the pretty stuff I can make” it’s Tim Burton shouting “look at all the Lewis Carroll I’ve read”.

On the upside, Danny Elfman’s score is really good; not his usual Burton collaboration tinkly-tinkly-tinkly, but a bit more substantial. That I recommend. The film, though, is guff.