Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
Random House Publishing Group, copyright 2007
Trade Paperback, 496 pages
Young Adult Fantasy
Trade Paperback, 496 pages
Young Adult Fantasy
What is Un Lun Dun?
It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.
When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.
Un Lun Dun by China Miéville is young adult fantasy novel set in London, initially, and then mainly in Un Lun Dun (un-London). In Un Lun Dun, two young friends, Zanna and Deeba, notice that things seem amiss in their world. They stumble into another world by accident (or prophecy?) where Zanna is the "Shwazzy," or, as they learn in French class choisi, or the "chosen" one. But after their first visit, Zanna is sidelined, all the prophecies appear to be wrong, and Deeba, the sidekick, is the one who finds a way back to Un Lun Dun to save them from the evil, black smog.
Un Lun Dun is a richly imaginative work that, although it can be dark with a building sense of foreboding, also allows Miéville to explore his sense of humor and show a whimsical side. It is well paced and the action moves right along. And, it isn't so dark that it would give it's intended readers nightmares. The predatory giraffes are contrasted with Curdle, the loyal milk carton. There is a good balance. This is successful world-building that will remind readers of Lewis Carroll and Madeline L’Engle stories or Neil Gaimen's Neverwhere. It even foreshadows Miéville's own The City and The City.
For adults there are themes that will be very apparent, for example corruption in government, the problems in disposal of obsolete technology and trash, and abuse of power, to name three, but you need not worry that the message is heavy handed. It's completely woven into the plot.
I enjoyed Un Lun Dun, but I caution adult readers that it is a YA novel. If I were to directly compare it to Miéville's other novels, it would not rate as high as the ones I've read. However, it's a very enjoyable well-written YA novel that has a complex plot and many imaginative characters.
very highly recommended - as a YA novel.
There was no doubt about it: there was a fox behind the climbing frame. And it was watching.
“It is, isn’t it?”
The playground was full of children, their gray uniforms flapping as they ran and kicked balls into makeshift goals. Amid the shouting and the games, a few girls were watching the fox.
“It definitely is. It’s just watching us,” a tall blond girl said. She could see the animal clearly behind a fringe of grass and thistle. “Why isn’t it moving?” She walked slowly towards it.
At first the friends had thought the animal was a dog, and had started ambling towards it while they chatted. But halfway across the tarmac they had realized it was a fox. pg. 3
The fox finally moved. Still looking at Zanna, it bowed its head. It did it once, then leapt up and was gone.
Deeba watched Zanna, and muttered, “This is just getting weird.” pg. 5
It was hard to say exactly when it all started. Things had been getting strange for at least a month.
"Remember when I saw that cloud?" said Deeba. "That looked like you?"
"That was weeks ago, and it didn't look anything like anything," Zanna said. "Let's stick to real stuff. The fox today. And that woman. What was on the wall. And the letter. That sort of thing."
It had been early autumn when the odd events had started to occur. pg. 7
Wafts were rising from he gutters. The smoke was a horrible dirty dark. It emerged in drifts and tendrils, reaching through the metal grilles of the drains like growing vines or octopus legs. Ropes of it tangled and thickened. They coiled around the wheels of vehicles and under their engines. pg. 13
"The smoke, the car, everything? It was all thick around me. It was trying to get me." pg. 14
Shaking with effort, the claw-wing-thing hauled itself through shadows, spidery and bedraggled. It approached Zanna's house. It huddled in the dark by the wall, leapt suddenly up, and hung below the window.
The two girls gasped. The thing was just visible, now, in the faint lamplight.
It was an umbrella. pg. 17
Zanna was turning off the traffic. The spigot turned off all the cars, and turned off the lamps.
It was turning off London. pg. 23