I LOVE China Mieville. I want to make that clear. The end of Perdido Street Station ALWAYS makes me cry. Plus, he’s a smarty-pants who’s also written a book on Marxism and international law. All this gave me VERY high hopes for Un Lun Dun, Mieville’s foray into young adult fiction. Plus, I wanted find some decent young adult books after seeing the downer that is Harper Collin’s recommended summer reading list.
I totally succeeded. This is such a keeper. Basically, it’s about Deeba Resham and Zanna Moon, two BFFs who find themselves surrounded by a series of mysterious events. Soon, it becomes clear that tall, pretty, blonde Zanna is the Schwazzy, the Chosen One who will save UnLondon, the secret city behind London. Deeba, her browner, shorter, chubbier friend, is mentioned in the prophecy as well. To her chagrin, she’s the “Funny One,” one of Zanna’s sidekicks. The girls are a symbol of hope to UnLondon, and Zanna, at least, feels ready to take on the city’s nebulous, powerful enemy — Smog.
But then things go awfully wrong. Zanna is taken out in her first battle against the Smog. The Unberillismo, the boss of all the unberellas in UnLondon, has, however devised a clever plan. He insists that they no longer need a Chosen One, and for Zanna’s safety she and Deeba are sent back to their home-world.
Deeba, however, starts to suspect treachery. The prophecy can no longer be fulfilled, but isn’t Un Lun Dun still in danger? Deeba leaves Zanna, her family, and the rest of London behind in order to embark on a perilous journey to save two worlds. She’s the UNCHOSEN One, and best believe she’s looking to kick ass and take names.
There are multiple layers of awesome to this story. First, Deeba. She’s a smart, clever, wise-ass of a girl, who works as a character because she grows in believable ways. Like, there’s no random sequence where she suddenly intuits what she needs to do. She works it out using the information provided her, and it’s this intellect that ultimately saves the city. She’s not an agent of prophecy. She’s a stubborn problem-solver. The other character grow to respect not because she’s the Schwazzy but because she’s willing to take risks on their behalf. Their belief in her is hard-won and well-earned.
Second, Hemi. He’s half-ghost, and while I normally detest mixed-race fantasy characters, Hemi is so charming. Both ghosts and full humans distrust him, because he doesn’t really belong in the worlds of the living or the dead. I appreciate this, since if you believe Tanis Half-Elven, only half of your heritage is ever angsty about the purity of your bloodline. :eyeroll:
Third, UnLondon, as a world, is made of win. It’s a place where words can literally come to life and where secret weapons are protected by the mysterious Black Window of Webminster Abbey. It’s punnish, like old school Xanth, but without the gratuitous panty-talk or the cutesy reliance on feminine wiles as a major plot-point. In UnLondon, the Propheseers are guardians of prophecy, and bus conductors are the knight errants of land in turmoil.
Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable. This would be a great book to give to a younger sib, especially if you’re looking to ween them away from the sometimes emotionally over-wrought world of Twilight or needed something a bit more adult than The Phanton Tollbooth.