Publisher: Del Rey (February 13, 2007)
Kindle: 448 pages / 1504 KB
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
I just finished reading Un Lun Dun, By China Miéville, and I found it to be very much fantastic. It definitely reminded me of the whimsical style of The Phantom Tollbooth, and made me want to pick up that book again.
Un Lun Dun is a story about two cities—London, and its “abcity,” UnLondon—in the midst of a brewing war with a foreboding enemy: The Smog. No, not Smaug, the Dragon. Smog the substance, sentient smoke that can rain down deadly chemicals, raise the dead, and essentially raise holy hell. Two Londoners, unaware of the existence of the abcity, mistakenly stumble into UnLondon and are forced to participate in the battle against Smog. Their coming, apparently, was long foretold in a persnickety old book—who is quite a character—by a group of Prophets. Zanna (short for Susanna) & Deeba must take up arms against the Smog and help the UnLondoners, lest the Smog makes its way across the “odd” and into London itself.
Anyone who read and loved The Phantom Tollbooth will adore this book. I suppose it’s technically a YA or even independent reader story, but it’s an awesome one nonetheless. It’s the kind of book you really just want to lose yourself in. My reading (read: devouring) of this story reminded me of the pull I felt when a new Harry Potter had just come out. It’s the kind of pull you feel when you’re reading in the bathtub and suddenly realized that a few hours have slipped away without you even noticing.
This is the first book I’ve read by Miéville but it will most certainly not be my last—the man seems to have so much fun with words. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi to the storytelling that really ensnared me—the characters were batty and imperfect and wonderful, and the adventure put a really amusing twist on the classic “chosen one” style of fantasy quest story. The chosen one in this novel is referred to as The Shwazzy (think: the French choisir: to choose).
This book is hilarious, sparkling, dry, fanciful, youthful, sad—and at times legitimately terrifying. For instance, one of the creatures the protagonist encounters in UnLondon is called a Black Window—and it is indeed a window spindly spider legs. This in itself isn’t very scary, but each window opens up into a small world, and the spider traps you by making you forget you want to leave. And then you’re gone. Legit terrifying.
I don’t want to give too much away but seriously, how can you go wrong with a story that has Spider windows, predatory giraffes, sentient garbage, ghosts & flying busses? You’re right. You can’t.