Before Un Lun Dun, the only China Miéville I’d read was May’s Kraken. That was a damn good read so understandably I was looking to explore more of Mr. Miéville’s work. The questions though was which to choose. The City & The City looked like a pretty good contestant, as did his very first, King Rat. It was the premise to Un Lun Dun - his first and only novel intended for younger readers - that caught my eye. It was a good choice too. Un Lun Dun is a wild romp through a world vast in imagination and is utterly absorbing, if not without its flaws.
Stumbling through a secret entrance, Zanna and Deeba enter the strange and wonderland of UnLondon. Here all the lost and broken things of London end ip, and some of its people too - including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas, and Hemi the half-ghost boy.
But the two girls have arrived at a dangerous time. UnLondon is a place where words re alive, where a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary hose, where carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets... and a sinister cloud called Smog is bent on destruction. It’s a frightened city in need of a hero...
A world where a wacky pastiche of another, real, city exists is not something unheard of. Gaiman did it in Neverwhere and Miéville himself does it again in Kraken where London is infested with all sort of cults which hold actual power. The concept behind Un Lun Dun hinges on the existence of abcities, which are the counterparts to real cities and serve as the destination for all sorts of broken or forgotten things coming from the real cities. So London has UnLondon; Paris has Parisn’t; Los Angeles has Lost Angeles, etc.
Miéille mixes in to this setting a prophecy which states that the Shwazzy (deformation of the French ‘Choisi’ for chosen) will come from London to save the citizens of UnLondon. Zanna turns out to be the one identified as the Shwazzy and she, along with her closest friend, Deeba, gets thrown into the turbulent world of UnLondon where they have to quickly make allies and learn to fend off those elements of the abcity which are dangerous.
From there on Un Lun Dun takes on the very classical form of the quest, if we the usual flourish associated with Miéville. The plot then, overall, is quite entertaining, though it lacked a certain something that I can’t quite put my finger on. That the book is aimed at younger readers didn’t really lighten up the mood nearly as much as one would have thought but the book contained plenty of humor and wit that younger readers should have no problem approaching it.
I really don’t think that at this point anyone needs to flaunt China Miéville’s skill with the written word. He’s garnered enough awards and praise for that. It’s always grand though to be able to read a book from such a praised writer and be able to identify with the praise-giver, to be able to understand - and agree - with why the book or the writer has been acclaimed so. For me, Un Lun Dun was one of those reads. If, like me, you’ve read Miéville’s last few books (or any of his other books) and wish to pick another one of his up then Un Lun Dun is certainly one I can recommend. Or you can wait until next year when his new novel, Embassytown, is set to be released.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 14 and up
China Mieville's website: http://www.chinamieville.co.uk/
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