Challenges - Support Your Local Library Challenge, Young Adult Challenge and Once Upon a Time Challenge
Published in 2008 by Macmillan Children's Books.
In an unremarkable room, in a nondescript building, a man sat working on very non-descript theories.
The man was surrounded by bright chemicals in bottles and flasks, charts and gauges, and piles of books like battlements around him. He propped them open on each other. He cross-referred them, seeming to read several at the same time; he pondered, made notes, crossed the notes, went hunting for facts of history , chemistry and geography.Un Lun Dun is a young adult fantasy set in an alternate London. The book begins with two young girls called Zanna and Deena noticing a change in their normal reality. Things seem to be watching them and following them. They cannot control their curiosity any more and they follow a spying broken umbrella down into a basement, where they find an entrance to Un Lun Dun. Un Lun Dun is an unusual mirror image of London, but with some very strange inhabitants and buildings. Zanna discovers that she is supposed to be the chosen one to help save Un Lun Dun from the Smog, an evil cloud of pollution based on the real smog of the 1950's. However, Zanna's role as the chosen one is short lived and Deena steps forward to help to save Un Lun Dun from the evil Smog.
For some reason and I have absolutely no idea why, this book seemed to take forever to read. It wasn't boring or full of difficult passages that needed to be thought over. It wasn't even an adult book. I think the reason it took so long, was because the book basically took London, turned it upside down, shook it around a bit and made the impossible possible. Thus taking longer to absorb as I tried to make out and visualise London's alter ego, Un Lun Dun. The book concentrated so much on the setting, that I felt quite lost as to what was going on in the beginning. At over 500 pages, it took the first 100 to set the scenery and character descriptions straight in my head, before I then hungrily devoured the story. After that I really loved it, but it did take a long time to read.
Some of the characters were just so unbelievable that they were believable. My favourite were the binja's, which were ninja bins. I want one as a bodyguard. It was almost as if Mieville let his imagination get carried away and wrote down everything that came to mind and put it all in the book. I got confused at the beginning as the story seemed to be following Zanna as the main character, only to find a quarter way through that Deeba was actually the main character and Zanna no longer even featured in the book.
Deeba is a very strong main character and doesn't seem to lose her nerve or suffer from fear or disillusionment. A lot of the other characters appeared to be nondescript and I found I had no feeling for them. The only ones I liked were the cute Utterlings, who came into being by the sound of a voice.
The descriptions of Un Lun Dun were amazing and rather hilarious. They would definitely make good visuals in a film production of the book. The book has rather a dark storyline and I found a couple of bits in it quite sad when innocent creatures died - I really am a woose. It reminded me a little of Alice in Wonderland,as the story is full of nonsensical characters and settings and I have to admit that this type of book would not normally attract my interest.This book has been compared to the J.K Rowling books, but I really couldn't see the connection. A friend of mine mentioned that it sounded similar to Neil Gaiman's 'Neverwhere', but as I haven't read it, I can't comment. I understand Mieville to be a great adult fiction writer, so I will definitely look out for more of his books.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book once I got into it, so I would recommend it highly and advise you persevere through the first hundred or so pages until Deena goes back to Un Lun Dun, then the story really takes off. The first part with Zanna in the role of Chosen One did leave me feeling like it was a false start, but after that I loved it.