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Un Lun Dun

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Endlessly inventive . . . [a] hybrid of  Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz,  and  The Phantom Tollbooth .”— Salon

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.

Praise for Un Lun Dun

“Miéville fills his enthralling fantasy with enough plot twists and wordplay for an entire trilogy, and that is a good thing. A-.” —Entertainment Weekly 

“For style and inventiveness, turn to  Un Lun Dun , by China Miéville, who throws off more imaginative sparks per chapter than most authors can manufacture in a whole book. Mieville sits at the table with Lewis Carroll, and Deeba cavorts with another young explorer of topsy-turvy worlds.” — The Washington Post Book World 

“Delicious, twisty, ferocious fun . . . so crammed with inventions, delights, and unexpected turns that you will want to start reading it over again as soon as you’ve reached the end.” —Kelly Link, author of  Magic for Beginners

“[A] wondrous thrill ride . . . Like the best fantasy authors, [Miéville] fully realizes his imaginary city.”  — The A.V. Club

“Mieville's compelling heroine and her fantastical journey through the labyrinth of a strange London forms that rare book that feels instantly like a classic and yet is thoroughly modern.” —Holly Black, bestselling author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

474 pages, Paperback

First published February 13, 2007

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About the author

China Miéville

152 books13.8k followers
A British "fantastic fiction" writer. He is fond of describing his work as "weird fiction" (after early 20th century pulp and horror writers such as H. P. Lovecraft), and belongs to a loose group of writers sometimes called New Weird who consciously attempt to move fantasy away from commercial, genre clichés of Tolkien epigons. He is also active in left-wing politics as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He has stood for the House of Commons for the Socialist Alliance, and published a book on Marxism and international law.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,993 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
744 reviews11.9k followers
April 27, 2023
If (for whatever strange reason) you ever wondered what a love child of "Alice in Wonderland" and Gaiman's "Neverwhere" would look like if it were raised by the Master of Weird - well, say hello to Un Lun Dun.
'I know you're not a sidekick.'
'No one is!' Deeba shouted. 'That's no way to talk about anyone! To say they're just hangers-on to someone more important.
This is an ode to all the sidekicks out there, those who were 'destined' to be on the sidelines, to be the 'funny one' or 'brainy one' or 'whatever one' to the Chosen One. Don't you hate that trope? I do. I know that in a fantasy setting I'd surely be the sidekick. I do not love that designation, and, apparently, neither does China Miéville. And while he is busy subverting that ages-old trope, he decides to overturn a few more genre clichés (the quests, the prophesies, all that), making it a delightful, fresh read.
'If we planned ahead, sent a few messages', Obaday went on, 'maybe got a gnostechnician to check the travel reports on the undernet, stayed each night with friends in safe places in whatever borough we reached then it would be perfectly safe. Well, reasonably safe. Safe-esque. But, yes, it would be dangerous if we didn't think ahead, and we took a wrong turning into Wraithtown, or met some scratchmonkeys or a building with house-rabies, or, lord help us, if we ran into the giraffes.'
The city-protagonist that CM excels at creating is the titular UnLondon, the 'abcity' (just like "Parisn't, or No York, or Helsunki, or Lost Angeles, or Sans Francisco, or Hong Gone, or Romeless") that can (of course!) be entered by 'booksteps' and 'storyladders', with the parallels to the 'regular' world in the same way as "Alice in Wonderland" has parallels to it.

Miéville lets his boundless imagination run wild. The surreal world of the abcity is fantastic and neatly crafted - the extreme librarians, unbrellas, the living words, carnivorous giraffes, binjas, Black Windows in Webminster Abbey, Puzzleborough, donut-shaped UnSun, bus conductors that also conduct electricity, and even what to me looks like a version of Perdido Street Station... The details are fascinating, the world-building, as usual, mind-boggling. The world that would be amazing and captivating to the eyes of a child and an adult alike - but still, in true Miéville fashion, it has its ugly sides. And now it is threatened and is in need of the (Un)Chosen one.
"In the streets of UnLondon, a group of a girl, a half-ghost, a talking book, a piece of rubbish, and two living words was unusual, but not very."
This book won its way into my heart because of its delightful bizarre weirdness, and stayed in my heart because of its 'sidekick', Deeba Resham. The funny, brash, not particularly sophisticated, snarky young girl with bad grammar, good heart, street-smarts, stubbornness and determination enough for a whole city, with an (Un-)milk carton Curdle as a pet, with complete disregard for tropes and destiny and prophecies and all that fluff. TEAM DEEBA! is the next t-shirt I'm investing in. Seriously.

As for the villain of Un Lun Dun - well, some can call it comical, some - heavy-handed environmentalist message. I found it very creepy, especially after wondering over to Wikipedia to read about the London Great Smog of 1952. With all the recent environmental disasters all over the world, . Thanks to my very liberal undergraduate education, I tend to take environmental message seriously, even though I do stop short of hugging trees. And given the enormity of threat to UnLondon, I'm willing to forgive a very deux-ex-machina conflict resolution - without it, I don't see a way to even a remotedly happy ending.

Miéville wanted to create a modern-day "Alice in Wonderland", to write a fully immersing world for young readers. And, as I came to expect from this incredibly gifted man, he succeeded. I loved it to pieces, and I wish I could go back in time and hand it to my younger self. It is like a younger, less corrupted and more wide-eyed cousin of "Perdido Street Station" (no bug sex in this one, sorry). It's weird to the nth degree, surreal, captivating, stretching imagination to the depths his Chinaness has perfected by now. And with all that, it is refreshingly modern and free of sentimentality and nostalgia for childhood (way too common in books with young protagonists). Please do not be fooled by the "YA" designation - it easily avoids the present-day YA tropes. You will NOT come across insta-love or damsel-in-distress or the too-special-for-her-own-good nonsense here, no ma'am.

Miéville appropriately tones down his dictionary-like baroque language for the younger audience (even though I still consulted a dictionary on a few occasions). Far from disappointed, I was actually happy to see that his prose is just as captivating and engrossing even without his trademark thesaurus-like style. It is simply good, no matter how he chooses to write it.
Oh, and did I mention he illustrated this book, too? Is there *anything* that man cannot do? If I ever meet him, I will be completely awestruck and speechless.

I adored this book. Actually, it's only the second Miéville that I easily and without hesitation give 5 stars to (and I'm actually quite surprised to see that it's not a Goodreads fan favorite). I will add it to the to-read pile for my (future, hypothetical) daughter and add Deeba Resham to the imaginary list of literary heroines the above-mentioned daughter should be having sleepovers with.
In front of 'CHOSEN ONE ROOLZ!' someone had added 'UN-'.
'Look at that,' she said, delighted. 'It's accurate now'.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
May 11, 2011

Let me begin this sadly negative review by saying that I think China Mieville is one of the BEST writers working today. To put it simply…he is THE MAN!! Unfortunately, and it pains me to say, he is THE MAN in this case that wrote a really shitty book. It happens to the best of artists at some point in their career. Al Pacino did Author, Author, Steven Spielberg did Always and even Will Ferrell did Bewitched. Well, I must report that this is Mr. Mieville’s Ishtar, sans Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty.

Now I don’t intend to turn this into a rant of any kind. I just didn’t like the book. Nothing in it particularly offended me, though I will say that I was a little put off by the less then subtle “sledge-hammer” approach Mieville took with the central environmental theme of the story.


Two young girls, Zanna and Deeba, begin to notice strange occurrences and eventually find their way into a bizzaro version of London (the title being an alternative spelling of UnLondon). This version of London is populated by strange people and objects (most of them animate) that have been discarded from London as trash, rubbish or obsolete technology. Against this backdrop, Mieville slices, dices and deconstructs the usual YA fantasy tropes of “young child pulled into alternate world where they are destined by fate to dispatch a great evil and save the day.”

To my surprise, I found nothing in the book that I really liked. Even Mieville’s trademark wordsmithing was absent which I found a huge disappointment. Granted, as a YA book, the vocabulary employed might have required a scale-down, but I didn’t find any of the lush, crisp, hip prose that I have come to expect from him. Add to that my irritation with the environmental message being applied hard enough to risk concussion and I was left feeling empty and a tad grumpy at the end.

Thus, I figured if Mr. Mieville can bathe in the effusive praise that I have heaped upon him for the towering greatness of books like Perdido Street Station and The Scar, then he can certainly take a well-deserved literary scolding for shitting between two covers, wiping his name on the cover and flushing it into the public eye.

By the way, I think the environmental message could have easily been delivered with a few nice ads:


or ....


Bottom-line: I didn’t like it. It disappointed me. It made me sad and cranky. However, I am going to be reading both The City & The City and Krakenand soon and CANNOT wait for Embassytown and I believe that China Mieville’s place on my list of one of the BEST in the business will remain secure. I will simply consider this a speed-bump. 1.5 Stars.
Profile Image for Joel.
554 reviews1,622 followers
December 15, 2010
For the second book in a row, China Miéville's writing has reminded me of nothing so much as one of Stefon's drug-fueled gay fantasies:

UnLondon's hottest club is Smog. This place has everything: naked ghosts, balloon zombies, sentient pollution, buses with lizard feet, spider windows, ninja R2D2s. You know that thing where a trash can has been trained in the martial arts?


This year it was my goal to read 100 books. Which I have accomplished with several weeks to spare!

Number one, read in January, was China Miéville's The City & the City, a new weird fantasy about two cities that are like mirror images of one another and connected in mysterious ways. Number 100, which I finished just yesterday, was China Miéville's Un Lun Dun, a new weird fantasy about two cities that are like mirror images of one another and connected in mysterious ways.

Hmmm. That's... weird. And also totally unintentional. My mind: blown.

Of course, what I should do is read 20 more books before the end of the year (quick, lend me your novellas!) so that China's Kraken, which was book number 60, can sit at the halfway mark, because if you think about it, The City & the City + Kraken = Un Lun Dun (amirite, 12 people reading this who have read all three of those books?).

So, echoing statements in Michael's most excellent review, I kind of don't have a lot to say about Un Lun Dun that I didn't say in my review of Kraken (take a look; there are pictures of cats!). This one is just as jam-packed with absurdities, and just as much fun because of it. Nay, more fun, as this volume is illustrated by the author, which is a big help because China's brain on a normal day is like my brain after I spend an hour painting the inside of a garbage bag while sealed inside of it (see, I can't every come up with a worthy simile).

Like Kraken, Un Lun Dun is a little deficient in terms of characters and particularly story, which is a pastiche of Niel Gaiman, Alice in Wonderland and an '80s Jim Henson movie. But he is aiming for the YA crowd this time, and there is a classic underdog-on-a-quest event-event-event structure that made me ache to go back in time and shove the book into the hands of my 11-year-old self, so I can't complain too much that I'm no longer a pre-teen. That said, I wonder if any kids have actually read this because it doesn't have any dorky wizards or lame vampires in it. Also I think reading this at 11 would have broken my brain.

Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,222 reviews2,052 followers
February 7, 2017
One star off for making this too long Mr Mielville. Towards the end I felt tired and just wanted it to finish despite the fact that I did enjoy the book. The best books are the ones that finish and leave you wanting more. This did not do that! In many ways I was reminded of reading The Golden Compass which meandered along from one danger to another in similar fashion to the point where danger became tedious instead of suspenseful.
Anyway enough of what I did not like and more about what I did. I always love China Miéville's imagination and the fantastic things he does with his worlds. In this book Un Lun Dun is a different kind of London containing places such as Webminster Abby (covered in webs and the home of a kind of spider). As with many young adult books (and this one is for the younger end of that category) the main characters are children who are smarter than the nasty grown ups who are out to get them. That was all good though and Reeba was a very smart, tough young lady.
Not the author's best book but still very enjoyable and I bet he had an absolute ball writing it:)
Profile Image for Snjez.
735 reviews378 followers
December 12, 2021
I don't read a lot of children's fantasy, but this was a gift from a friend and I felt I had to finish it. I did struggle with it a bit and it took some time for the story to pull me in, though my interest wavered throughout the entire book.

That being said, there were a few things I really enjoyed about it. The thing I liked the most was how the author handled the idea of the Chosen One. I can't go into any details to avoid spoilers, but it was a pleasant surprise for me.

There were also some interesting side characters and the world the author created was very imaginative and whimsical. I liked all the made up words and names and the illustrations throughout the book were really great.

I switched to the audiobook a few times and I really liked the narration. It helped me get through the story more easily.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
May 19, 2014
What is it about London that makes it the prime place to create another world, not hidden in the shadows, but accessible through secret passageways that tend to close tight behind those who stumble in? Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere jumps to mind, which China Mieville (I don't know how to do the accents!) credits as an inspiration, and now Un Lun Dun.

Although I guess the other example that I can think of, J. Michael Straczynski's Midnight Nation, is set in the States. Never mind. And in this book, UnLondon isn't the only city hidden behind another city. There's Parisn't, for example. And Lost Angeles.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,644 reviews5,102 followers
September 5, 2013
from English* to Tagalog to Hungarian to Esperanto to Chinese... and back to English again!

It is quite a challenge in front of me, I also played its ideas. Children's Literature in the tradition of Alice in Wonderland, but not for me. I do not usually a fan of fun and good times and random stupidity, I'm not really a fan of word games. I like the rules and logic of literature and children's literature is no exception. Almost stimulate me whiny, uninteresting characters. It really grated. But then I began to grow novels. This is not due to the energetic "fun" on the screen - this is due to the obvious intellectual authors. A moment later, his idea really started to penetrate. They got under my skin, I like that. Despite the antipathy witticisms, continuous commentary language, and more seductive. In this book the nature and power of words, how they are formed and evolve, flexibility and a variety of messages, then you can include some challenging ideas. Oh, Miéville, but convinced. Opposite.
"The thing is," Deeba said, eyeing Mr. Speaker, "you could only make words do what you want if it was just you deciding what they mean. But it isn't. It's everyone else, too. Which means you might want to give them orders, but you aren't in control. No one is."
I really like: half ghost boy half. There Nice description. However, accidentally hitting my dear and courageous six legged baby named Bear utterling Diskin (toilet drowned in the river!) And a permanent bus driver Rosa (starve yourself trapped in another dimension of the room!) expected death brutal death. .. I can not say I did not see it appreciate children's book. Death was no accident and death of children's literature in places, but I think there must be some care and attention when it happens. These deaths feel cheap. Fortunately, despite the anger, what happened to the two, has been a very cute Curdle, development distract me, warm my heart.

thank you, Google Translate!
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,242 reviews2,256 followers
October 28, 2018
Warning: mild spoilers

When it comes to creating weird worlds, there is none to beat China Mieville.

One only has to look at Perdido Street Station, where weird beings from various mythologies join together in a strange world to create a socially incendiary cocktail. However, that novel was rather thin on story, and none of the characters were actually likeable. But in this book, which is meant for young readers, Mieville has overcome the failing on the story front: it contains a story rattling along at the pace of a roller-coaster through a fictional universe right out of a surrealist painting.

'UnLondon' is London's twin 'abcity' in a parallel universe. There are portals between the two, and select people can go back and forth, though it is not easy. UnLondon is peopled by strange beings who resemble earthly flora and fauna, but have got some weird anatomical twists (a tailor who uses his body as a pincushion, a bird-man with a birdcage for a head, sentient trash and umbrellas, to name a few), who live in a reasonable parody of human existence in a big city. As the story opens, UnLondon is in danger from the arch-villain - a chemical smog - and only Suzanna (or "Zanna" as she is called) from London can defeat it, according to the 'prophesy' written in the 'book' (which can talk and quote from itself,BTW!). It is all overseen by the 'Propheseers' located on the magic bridge, the 'Pons Absconditus', which can also act as bridge between the two worlds.

Accordingly, Zanna and her friend Deeba cross over into UnLondon. Zanna is celebrated as the "Schwazzy" (a play on the french word choisi, "chosen"). She is conducted safely to the Pons Absconditus, where she meets Brokenbroll, the man who is recruiting umbrellas as weapons against the smog. But the man in charge is Benjamin Unstible, a scientist who has crossed over from London, who has reportedly defeated it there taking the help of the 'Armets' (apparently a group of warriors) with the help of the weapon, the 'Klinneract'.

So far so good. But with Zanna's first encounter with the forces of darkness, things start to go wrong terribly. She is laid low with the fog in her lungs, and forced to return to London along with Deeba for her own safety. The book is aghast that it has been proved wrong, but apparently there is nothing to be done. Leaving the fight in the hand of Brokenbroll and Unstible, they return.

However, Deeba is unsatisfied about what happened. She does some research, and discovers something shocking. They have to return to save UnLondon: but Zanna has lost all her memory of the parallel world along with her accident. So Deeba must now do it alone...

...and what follows is Alice in Wonderland on steroids.


The two things I really loved about the novel were (1) the totally surrealist world and (2) the subtle social commentary. Mieville is a communist, and it seems he cannot a write a story without commenting on the ills of society. But he does do it in a refreshingly novel way.

In the cause of weirdness, the author has pulled no punches. The world of UnLondon reminded me of the absurd drawings in Codex Seraphinianus. Some of it is funny and some of it is frightening (I don't think any kid can read the passage about the carnivorous giraffes without a shudder). But Mieville has followed the golden rule that it is OK for children to be frightened in the cause of a good story, much in the vein of the Grimm Brothers and classic mythical tales - as long as justice is delivered in the end, it does not matter much.

The puns are wonderful. The junk of London that reaches UnLondon and is used in the construction of houses is called 'MOIL' (Mildly Obsolete in London); the broken umbrellas converted to weapons against the smog are called 'unbrellas'; the martial arts expert waste bins, called 'binjas', the parallel cities of Paris, New York and Los Angeles are called Parisn't, No York and Lost Angeles respectively... I could go on and on. It's sheer pleasure.

The social commentary is subtle, but it is very visible. The ghosts, the inhabitants of Wraithtown, ostracised by the 'normal' people as body-snatchers; the 'slaterunners' who live above the street in their 'Roofdom' and refuse to come down; the all-consuming smog which wants to burn everything and consume the resultant smoke; the people who support it so that they can earn their short term benefits, even if the world goes to hell... they all make a pattern. A pattern of the highly stratified society of today, with its haves and have-nots, where the environment is being mercilessly exploited for the pleasure of the select few becomes readily apparent.

But where Mieville really scores is when he inverts the story of the heroic quest so masterfully. Nothing goes as per prophesy; the dark Deeba (she may be of Indian origin, from the clues Mieveille leaves around) takes over from the blonde Zanna, the chosen one; the tasks of the quests are hilariously screwed up; and in the end, the victory comes through a pun on a supposedly typographical error in the book of prophesy. To say anything further would be a spoiler!

I loved this tale; and also, the illustrations provided by the author himself. They are rather like Tenniel's pictures for Alice in Wonderland.
Profile Image for Michael.
939 reviews145 followers
March 28, 2008
When I started this book, I thought to myself "oh lord, I hope this isn't another _Neverwhere_". I liked Gaiman's novel just fine, but I had in my hand ANOTHER urban fantasy, with a Dave McKean-esque cover, and I didn't think that I could handle it.

Kudos to Mieville for taking my worries and drop-kicking them into the ocean.

There's so much to like about this novel. The protagonist isn't who it seems at first. The level of imagination is astounding (quirky, gentle, but with a definite Mieville flavor). The Norton Juster influence is noticeable but certainly pleasant.

It's just a lot of FUN, without being ponderous or cliche'. I can only really compare it to Clive Barker's Abarat books, which are just as good although pointed in a slightly different, almost parallel direction.

I hope there is no sequel. Let _Un Lun Dun_ be great on its own.
Profile Image for Jonathan Peto.
252 reviews46 followers
April 2, 2021
As I came to the end of Un Lun Dun, I decided that one of my New Year’s resolutions should be to make this story into a script for an animation movie. Maybe I'll Google it and see if anyone owns the rights. It would be a lot of fun, I think, to pare this novel's fantastical events, curious assortment of characters, and diverse settings into a two-hour movie. Not that I'm a movie-maker, I'm just saying there would be a lot to work with.

The story is a wonderful adventure written for children and adults. It manages a large, rotating cast of individuals questing together and includes tight, hopeless situations where the heroes scramble for allies in a place where few people/creatures are what they appear to be. Solutions are always fun and always satisfying, "realistic", mind-blowing and/or witty. The lead is a wonderful, likeable, kick-ass teenage girl who should please anyone looking for a strong female protagonist whose confidence and determination grows immensely.

Animators would have a blast portraying this thing. It would certainly not be a Pixar product though. Mieville's fantasy is not inspired by Tolkien. It's more in Lewis Carroll's wacky vein, which would normally not be a selling point for me but I thoroughly enjoyed what he did here. Neil Gaiman gets a nod and should, but I was relieved that Mieville’s Un Lun Dun was very different than the setting in Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I am shocked - shocked! - that anyone would claim Mieville cut it too close.

The narrative questions authority hilariously, not only in the form of powerful individuals but written prophesies too. I welcome this in children's books and I don't mind saying that you should too.

I’ve noticed some disappointment among adult readers over this one. WTF. Glad I read it first then. I'm very interested in reading more of his work. I may even start with his first, King Rat, under the assumption I’ll eventually read them all. The marketing department must be furious with Mieville. As far as I know, his other books are aimed at adults. I'm not sure how much this book has penetrated the children’s market but it deserves a place, not for lower elementary, but definitely advanced readers in upper elementary and beyond. I'm going to share it with my oldest soon. And the world once my script is turned into a movie.
Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
June 20, 2011
I am not sure what to make of this book or its author.
Considerable time is spent attacking cliches of the fantasy genre, yet Mieville's Unlondon is acknowledged as derivative of Gaiman's Neverwhere. Isn't being obviously derivative of your predecessors both a cliche and the worst crime of the fantasy genre? (I give credit for open admission of the debt, though.)

One of the cliches attacked is that of the the Protagonist with a Heroic Destiny (PHD). Fairy Nuff, but you can see the attack coming from about page 5 and what form it is going to take: a Protagonist Switch (PS). Now for me, at least, the PS is a far worse literary crime than dragging out the PHD one more time. An author can only get away with a PS in a Greek Tragedy (or likeness there-of e.g. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar). Un Lun Dun is not a Greek Tragedy - the Initial Protagonist doesn't die horribly.

There are all sorts of daft elements in the book, such as the Unbrellas that are created when umbrellas are broken or the pet milk carton so it would be tempting to catagorise the book as a spoof on the fantasy genre - but spoofs at least try to be continually funny. Un Lun Dun does not; there are funny incidents and funny puns (Binjas?!) but the humour is sporadic - so this is not Terry Pratchett's Disc World, either. Much of the time it wants to be a straightforward fantasy adventure. Eoin Colfer and Partick Landy have successfully created imaginative, humourous fantasies that are also gripping - but they have a uniform tone - this does not. It's not really comic relief, either - it's just random switches of mood.

It's difficult to accept an author tacitly criticising his peers' use of cliche when he can't manage proper plot construction and use of tone to match situation and intensify reader involvement. Mieville has tremendous imaginative invention but he is not in control of his art.
Profile Image for Ms. Smartarse.
590 reviews248 followers
May 21, 2023
Zanna is a slightly above-average teenager: above-average in height, attractiveness, intelligence and even in all-around popularity. As a matter of fact, her only claim to originality is settling on a rather odd choice for a nickname: Zanna being short for Susanna.
Nothing to get excited about, until of course there suddenly is: random people start to treat her like a celebrity, and animals follow her around. Except for cats, the snooty buggers!

snooty kitty

Even so, Zanna and her friends generally write the adoring fans off as run of mill weirdos. But then one night, together with her friend Deeba, she gets transported into the odd city of Un Lun Dun. Or UnLondon, if you prefer. *roll credits*

Turns out that Zanna is the chosen one, destined to save the fantastic city from the evil powers of the Smog. There's a prophetic book and all, which has long foretold Zanna's - a.k.a the Swazzy's (say it like choisi in French) - deeds... or has it really? Because with all Zanna's mysterious instincts, things suddenly take a truly awful turn.

crying in denial

Do you know those stories where the prophesied hero always swoops in to save the day at just the last minute? The otherwise utterly ordinary kid, who eventually gets dropped into just the right situation where things just click? Well, Un Lun Dun is not that kind of story. As a matter of fact, it does just about anything to become the exact opposite of said story.

Well perhaps not quite the exact opposite. To be fair, there is an otherwise ordinary girl who rises to the occasion, and there is a prophecy... that seems to have completely messed up its predictions. But otherwise, Un Lun Dun is a truly charming and exciting story, that will keep on taunting you with every imaginable cliche, only to veer into a completely unexpected direction at the last minute.

Score: 4.3/5 stars

Following my rather bumpy start with The City & the City I was somewhat reluctant to give yet another one of China Miéville's books a go. Would I be putting my cat to sleep in no time again? Would I, have to fight my way through the first 200 pages, before finally falling into a sustainable reading rhythm?


So, naturally, I went and bought a physical copy... because I obviously have no self-control. Thankfully I had no trouble with language idiosyncrasies this time around. Granted, the book's primary audience is middle grade/young adult, so the writing style was adapted to this target audience. That said, it has way too many short sentences. Often times, it felt like I had finally found my reading pace. Only to get stopped. Every. So. Often.
Profile Image for Hazal Çamur.
172 reviews202 followers
February 18, 2016
Okuyalı bir hayli zaman oldu ve ben okuduğumdan beri çok kişiye bu kitabı tavsiye ettim. Çünkü bu kitap özgün. Çünkü bu kitap çılgın. Çünkü bu kitap fena bir ters köşe. Her tür basmakalıp macera basamağına her adımda bir tekme savuruyor.

China Miéville'in (bildiğim kadarıyla) genç okurlar için yazdığı tek eser. Ancak genç okurlar deyince "sakın" burun kıvırmayın, çünkü Miéville yine her şeyin sonunda, adeti olduğu üzere politik duruşunu gösteriyor. Mesajını yine veriyor. Evet, yine siyasi bir mesajı var.

Yazarın açıkça söylediği ve kitabın sonuna da eklediği gibi, bu kitap aslında Gaiman'ın Yokyer'inden esinlenilme bir eser. Ancak kimi okurlarca Yokyer'i geçen de bir eser.

Klasik "kehanette belirtilmiş kişi gelip bizi kurtaracak" senaryosuyla açılan kitap, Londra'nın bir yansıması olan Londrakis (o kelime oyunu yok mu), ya da diğer adıyla Un Lun Dun'u konu ediyor. Ancak bir şeyler fena halde ters gidecek ve Miéville, oldukça başarılı biçimde, o kehanetlerin önceden haber verdiği kahramanları bir güzel tiye alacak. Sonra bambaşka, uçuk kaçık şeyler olacak.

Hiç merak ettiniz mi çöpleriniz nereye gidiyor? Dünyada 7 milyar insan var. Onca insanın artığı, evsel atığı, çöpü falan filan ne oluyor? Bir şeyler oluyor olmalı. Gerçekten. Ve oluyor da!

Kullanılmış süt kutuları, kırık şemsiyeler, hayaletler, kehanetler, kehanetleri barındıran dev konuşan kitaplar, seçilmişler ve kirlilik son derece özgün bir alt yapıda şekilleniyor. Ben böyle deyince o kadar da özgün görünmüyor. Ama okurken etobur zürafalar sizi dehşete düşürecek. Kimyasallarla bir bilince kavuşmuş Duman her ortaya çıktığında içinizde bir yer bundan çok rahatsız olacak. Seçilmiş kahramana bir haller olacak. Bu sırada Un Lun Dun'un Londra yansıması çarpıklığında daha binbir çeşit şey göreceksiniz. 

Kişisel favorim, kahramanın başarıya ulaşmak için ihtiyacı olan o büyük güçlere sahip (tipik) nesneye giden yolda olanlardı. Güzel alay etmiş diyelim .

Bu kitabın bir başka güzelliğiyse muazzam çevirisi. Kitabın kendine has çok fazla terimi var ve çevirmenle editör Türkçeleştirme işinde harika bir iş başarmış. Bu alanda benim için en başarılı eserler arasında. Mesela karate yapan çöp kutularını "karateneke" diye Türkçeleştirmek çok tatlı değil mi yahu? (evet, karate yapan çöp kutuları da mevcut)

Lütfen bu kitabı okuyun . Dahası, kitap boyunca verdiği mesaja da gerçekten ihtiyacımız var.
Profile Image for Michael.
274 reviews762 followers
June 10, 2010
The thing I DON'T like about reviewing books from my very favorite authors is that I always find myself praising the same things like a broken record. So, by the time I'm writing a fourth review for an author, I barely talk about the book at all, and instead keep myself entertained by writing something ridiculous. (See my review of Blood Meridian, which I would link to if I weren't technologically handicapped.)

So let's get the boring part out of the way right now: in this book, Mieville is every bit as inventive as usual, with fantastical ideas lying all over the place like you're wandering a junk shop in the Twilight Zone. His prose is always terrific, and this book is no exception. The characters aren't as developed as they were in The Scar or Perdido Street Station, but they're stronger than the characters in The City and The City.

That's my review of Un Lun Dun. Now we're gonna talk about what you REALLY want to hear about: cage matches. First up is the middleweight match between Joe Abercrombie and R. Scott Bakker for the New Gritty Fantasy Belt. Our second match will be Jeff Vandermeer and China Mieville, battling for that New Weird Belt. Then, in a totally politically incorrect move, we have a match for the Epic Belt between George R R Martin and zombie Robert Jordan.

Match 1

Bakker is in the red corner, looking pale, devilish and Canadian. Joe Abercrombie is bouncing, his fists up, looking like he was out too late last night at the pub.
Bakker rushes in, swinging his big badass barbarian character with all he's worth. Abercrombie is too quick, and, using his equally-nuanced barbarian that actually has a complete character arc, pitches Bakker across the ring. Bakker, gritty as always, tries to climb to his feet. Abercrombie, not quite matching Bakker's grit, tries to elbow-drop Bakker and misses, rolling around and clutching his arm.
Bakker climbs to the top of the ropes and, flying through the air with his excellent war combat scenes ready to crush Abercrombie, suddenly realizes that Abercrombie's combat scenes move too quickly for him! Now, it's Abercrombie who is rolling out of the way, and Bakker is on his face again. Abercrombie stands up and starts stomping the back of Bakker's head with the stark and grim conclusion of The First Law Trilogy, knowing Bakker doesn't have any resolution to defend himself with...
But, oh, snap! Scott Lynch is running in from the sidelines with a chair! He's coming, he's coming, he's...oh, he made a strong start, but now he just stopped and unfolded the chair, sitting down in it.
Abercrombie has Bakker pinned....one, two, three! This match is over, Abercrombie jumping up and down and shouting something cockney.

Match 2

Jeff Vandermeer is in the red corner, looking small and pear-shaped in comparison to the buff, pierced and bald Mieville in the blue corner. Mieville lets out a fierce war cry, rushing in with Perdido Street Station's melding of sci fi and fantasy, brutally knocking Vandermeer against the post. Jeff Vandermeer raises gracefully to his feet and pommels Mieville about the chest and neck with a clever contrast of fantastic elements in City of Saints and Madmen. Mieville laughs and shouts, "Bullocks, little man! I've got TWO cities in one title!" Then he headbutts Vandermeer back to the mat purely on the strength of The Scar. Vandermeer isn't even moving! Uh, oh, now Mieville is stomping again and again on on Vandermeer's chest with a barrage of novels and novels and novels in every concievable genre...OH, NO, it's The Sex & The City & The City! It's UnLondon Calling, his spoken word punk poetry album! It's 3:10 to Perdido Street Station, a fantasy western musical!
Vandermeer is dead! Mieville is drinking his blood! Where did this guy come from? Is he human? Well, either way, he's still the New Weird Champion.

Match 3

Martin is in the red corner, looking like Gimli the dwarf, his jolly beard sitting upon his pot belly, which shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly. Zombie Jordan is walking slowly across the mat, generating some energy with Conan spinoff novels. He's moving in..slowly...slowly...
Martin doesn't look like he knows where he is or what he's doing! Ohmigod, he's writing mediocre science fiction! He's spending too much time at cons! Doesn't he know this is the Epic Fantasy Belt on the line? What's going to happen?
Jordan attacks with his vicious spin-kicking Eye of the World! It's a weak strike, but Martin's just taking it! Oh, The Great Hunt bodyslam! Martin's just lying there, writing episodes of "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Twilight Zone"! What's wrong with him? He's not even moving! Another dropkick from Jordan! He's grabbed Martin's beard and he's swinging him around by it! He's tossed him into the ropes, and now, with book 5 in the series, Jordan's still drubbing him about the face and neck but can't seem to finish this thing off! He's just going on and on redundantly!
Out of nowhere, Martin knees Jordan right in the magical items! Oh, he's clubbing him with A Game of Thrones again and again! Jordan doesn't know where he is! He's writing a whole book without including the protagonist! What on earth is he thinking?
A Storm of Swords! A Feast For Crows! What's Martin doing? He has zombie Jordan on the mat, almost re-deaded, and now he's just running around the ring and editing collections!

18 years pass...

Finally, Martin is climbing up to the top rope, about to premier his new signature move, The Dance With Dragons! Here it comes...Oh, no. Martin had a heart attack and has fallen to the mat, motionless. Neither one of them is moving. This can't be happening! Oh, they're putting the Epic Fantasy Belt back in Tolkien's coffin! I never saw that one coming.

Profile Image for Ivan.
417 reviews279 followers
December 1, 2017
A year late review but my impressions didn't fade, that is why this books is on my favorites shelf.I read Mieville's book recently, and ended thinking about his other works and decided to write something about this book too.Of course one might argue that I am doing it only because if I didn't I would be cleaning house, getting ready for work and other adult stuff I avoid doing.Yeah I suck at being adult.

If you haven't read Mieville's books before I would describe Un Lun Dun as Alice in Neverwhere.If you have read his books you know it will be lot weirder than that.This book is targeted at younger audience so Mieville's usual language is toned down.No need for constant use of dictionary.Of course just because it's children's book it doesn't mean it lacks Mieville's edge.It might start as classical cliched story in weirder setting but you soon find out that normal and usual is not way Mieville does things.This is cleaver book, in a way most Mieville's books are, that plays with quest, chosen one and sidekick tropes and twists them. Protagonist of this books is also not clueless and naive like most children's book protagonist, she is rather smart and resourceful and bit crude and not very subtle young girl.It's hard not to love her.I also loved the illustrations.

Whether you are child or adult Un Lun Dun is place worth visiting and possibly best place to start if you are interested in strange works of China Mieville.
Profile Image for Trin.
1,782 reviews558 followers
March 19, 2008
A sort of kiddie Neverwhere (and Miéville does indeed credit Neil Gaiman in the intro), this is one of those books that’s packed with cleverness—and really, really aware of it. I like some of Miéville’s attempts to turn the typical quest-y fantasy on its ear—The Chosen One turns out to be fairly useless! The “tasks” one must complete to defeat the bad guy are highly skippable!—but UnLondon never felt like a real place to me, or its denizens real people. I’m still really not sure who Deeba was supposed to be—she was just the girl who was in this story. (And whose relationship with grammar was most puzzling—why is she portrayed as wildly articulate and proper one minute, and all dialect-y the next?) Likewise, the journey from one look! look! how clever! bit of UnLondon to the next didn’t help build a portrait of the character of the city—it just felt self-conscious.

I read Neverwhere when I was eleven or twelve, and wasn’t wildly traumatized by it—quite the opposite, in fact. I think kids are much better off just reading that. (Though I did like Miéville’s illustrations.)
Profile Image for Elena Petrache.
464 reviews32 followers
May 3, 2023
A fost cu siguranta diferita si in general o lectura placuta. 😊

Interesanta ideea de a introduce un manifest ecologic intr-o poveste fantasy pentru copii - ilustratiile sunt si ele potrivite. Personajele sunt usor de indragit, iar actiunea si dialogurile au de multe ori note comice, dar au fost si suficiente situatii serioase sau triste.

Sigur, uneori povestea pare ca este tratata superficial sau grabita, insa universul imaginat a compensat din plin. 😊
Profile Image for Tanabrus.
1,840 reviews160 followers
April 28, 2023
Lo ammetto, la prima volta che ho scoperto dell'esistenza di questo libro mi sono spaventato.
Voglio dire, un libro fantastico dal respiro "classico" (ragazzini che dal nostro mondo vanno in un mondo differente a vivere strabilianti avventure, la letteratura ne è piena) in mano a Mieville, il weird per eccellenza?
Ero sicuro che il risultato sarebbe stato sorprendente, ma l'autore sarebbe riuscito a adattarsi al nuovo target di riferimento? Avrebbe limitato la propria fantasia lasciando il testo comprensibile ai ragazzini?

Incredibilmente, la risposta è affermativa.

Voglio dire, si vede che il libro è scritto da Mieville. Ma le assurdità meravigliose che tira fuori dal cilindro, nel contesto della Non Londra, appaiono dopo le prime pagine ovvie e completamente naturali.
Così non ci stupiamo del segreto della tribù che vive sui tetti, ci emozioniamo per il viaggio in autobus attraverso la città, accettiamo il Lordobranco e i rifiuti randagi che girano per i vicoli.
Non ci facciamo problemi con il ponte in movimento, né con gli ombrelli senzienti, o i vestiti di pagine.
Ci esaltiamo, però, per i bidoninja. Questo è ovvio.
O per Webminster, per le Black Windows, per l'arma della profezia...

E si, chiaramente ci sono loro.
Il Libro Magico del titolo, un libro senziente custode di una profezia che prevede l'arrivo della Salvatrice da Londra (una salvatrice descritta alla perfezione sia fisicamente che a livello di amicizie, anzi, di comprimari come è scritto nel libro) e tutto ciò che dovrà fare per sconfiggere il nemico.
Zanna, la prescelta.
E l'amica Deeba, la non scelta, la spalla di Zanna.

Ma che succede quando in questa città dove finiscono tutte le cose dimenticate di Londra, la profezia si rivela sbagliata e nuove minacce si profilano all'orizzonte?

Un libro scorrevole, zeppo di meraviglie, con una trama intelligente che gioca sui concetti stessi di profezia e di prescelto. Un po' prevedibile in alcuni punti, ma visto il genere è comprensibile.

Promosso a pieni voti!
Profile Image for Fuchsia  Groan.
162 reviews196 followers
September 5, 2018
Quizás quien sea ya lector de Miéville y se encuentre con esta obra pueda salir de la experiencia un poco decepcionado, y es que para leer Un Lun Dun creo que conviene cambiar un poco el chip.

No es una de sus novelas redondas y abrumadoras, como La estación de la calle Perdido, La Cicatriz, Embassytown, La ciudad y la ciudad... pero aunque sea bastante diferente, sí encontraremos aquí muestras de su imaginación desbordante, y los momentos en que describe este nuevo mundo son lo mejor de la historia: Alondres, los pasaguas, los pronúnditos, las Viudanas Negras... solo por esto es ya una obra recomendable y altamente disfrutable. Un poco menos llamativos me han parecido los personajes, exceptuando quizás a la protagonista, ya que aunque todos son grandes ideas, les falta el carisma que hace que un personaje sea memorable.

Es lo que es: una buena novela juvenil, de aventuras, original y entretenida, con buen ritmo, capítulos cortos, un importante trasfondo ecologista, con ecos de autores como Lewis Carroll y su Alicia o de Walter Moers. Creo que el Locus a mejor novela Young Adult es merecido.

El original está ilustrado por el propio autor, con pequeños dibujos intercalados en el texto, pero en la edición de Oz en castellano los han eliminado de un plumazo.
Profile Image for Paul Sánchez Keighley.
149 reviews92 followers
September 30, 2019
This is a hard book to rate. I hadn’t read a children’s book in a long time and most of the listlessness I felt while reading this one was due to the dumbed down language and on-the-nose exposition. Still, had I read this when I was 12, I probably would have thought it is the best thing ever.

As whimsy followed whimsy, I kept having this nagging feeling that UnLondon needing better defining. So eventually I found a formula that, in my mind, helped explain the abcity’s (un)logic. For every un-X I’d encounter, I’d tell myself “It is X... but it isn’t”. So, for UnLondon, “It is London... but it isn’t;” unbrellas, “They are umbrellas... but they aren’t;” the UnChosen One, “She is the Chosen One... but she isn’t.”

When I understood this, all the subverting of quest fantasy tropes upon which the story is built suddenly made a lot more sense. At first I thought Miéville was just trying to be cool, but when you think about it, the tropes he subverts are only valid qua tropes in the real word, whereas in UnLondon, the tropes necessarily have to be subverted in some way or another in order to be valid. They are untropes: it is a trope... but it isn’t. It’s actually rather clever.

Miéville does get carried away in certain parts - the whole section in the Talklands added literally nothing to the story and felt like a homage to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I could have done without - but overall this was a fun, light read I wish I had stumbled upon at an earlier age.
Profile Image for Amber.
992 reviews
May 20, 2015
What do you get if you cross one of Hyao Miyazaki's animated films with Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, the imagination of Clive Barker, and Alice in Wonderland? You get this book: Un Lun Dun by China Mieville. When young friends Zanna and Deeba follow a broken umbrella down to a sewer with a steering wheel, they turn it and enter the world of Un Lun Dun. Un Lun Dun (or UnLondon) is an urban wonderland where things that are thrown away in regular london are found and given a new purpose there. Upon entering the strange new land, Zanna and Deeba encounter a variety of strange creatures from an animated milk carton who acts like a puppy, ghosts, carnivorous giraffes, a man who when he speaks creates his own creatures, a flying british bus, garbage can ninjas, and a whole lot of other creatures who believe that Zanna is the one to save them from the dreaded smog. Can the friends save this new land from the smog? Read on to find out.

I thought this story was wild. The illustrations were incredible as well. Fans of Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, and Hyao Miyazaki will enjoy this Young adult whimsical fantasy tale! I reccomend this book to all ages. Be sure to check this book out. You'll enjoy it. This book is available wherever books are sold and at your local library.
Profile Image for Azumi.
236 reviews167 followers
October 4, 2017
Cada vez que hago una reseña de un libro de China Mieville, lo sé, me repito como el ajo. Y es que creo que nunca dejará de sorprenderme con su imaginación, con los mundos que crea y las criaturas que se saca de la manga, como ventanas araña, Jirafas carnívoras,un tetrabrik de leche muy achuchable o cubos de basura ninja.
Este tiene un tono muy juvenil y me ha recordado mucho a Neverwhere. Es una historia sencilla y con un final muy abierto y aunque no va a ser de mis favoritos su lectura ha valido la pena.
He echado de menos una edición ilustrada, hubiese quedado chulísima y se hubiese ganado una estrella más.
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,150 reviews1,119 followers
October 11, 2019
Plus: It's China Mieville, of course it's weird. Chimeric monsters and all that jazz. The subverted trope and the wordplay galore were utterly, absolutely delightful.

Minus: The book could shed, some, I dunno, two hundred pages? It takes almost 100 pages for the plot to move from the start, then some chapters could be tighter. I was really impatient to get to the end.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,598 reviews191 followers
October 12, 2019
I totally enjoyed this story! I liked central character Deeba Resham a lot, and how well she handled herself when interacting with all the weird and really wonderful people and creatures she encountered in unLondon.
Though a little draggy in a few parts, I enjoyed the plot, and the sheer fun of the names of creatures and people, and the many differences between our reality and that of unLondon, and how our reality seeps into theirs.

This is the first story by Mieville that I have enjoyed so much; I so wanted to return to unLondon with Deeba at the conclusion of this story and explore more of its strange and intriguing neighbourhoods.
Profile Image for Susan.
148 reviews18 followers
May 15, 2007
A poor man's Neverwhere. I'll admit that I stopped reading after 115 pages.

I read several glowing reviews of this, saying it was going to rescue us in this, the time of no-more-harry-potter. And lookee! It has female protagonists! But no. A typical adventure/sci-fi premise: someone from our world gets transported to a different world and must save something/do a quest.
a) It is, at least in the first 115 pages, entirely plot-driven. I know nothing about what separates the two main characters from one another--they're both young girls from London, and other than physical differences, they talk alike and seem to think alike. The other characters are defined for you; they do not have characters and backstory, they just are. Sometimes their "properties" and abilities are defined, but that's about it. The 115 pages I read were propelled entirely by one plot point after another. One of the great things about The Golden Compass series is that the characters are so rich and familiar--there is love and compassion and yearning--those are what drives the narrative.

b) Sadly, I think this book suffers from "sci-fi syndrome". Given that I have no personalities to sink my teeth into, I need to be able to grab onto some part of this world. In many sci-fi books--and this is no exception--the author is so busy cleverly creating new creatures, new worlds, and new vocabularies, that they don't notice they've given readers a whole lot of homework. When a paragraph contains 5-6 made up words describing scenery, characters, or the quest, the reader (me) gets bogged down. I felt like I was slogging through a foreign language.

Neil Gaimen's Neverwhere treads similar territory--London, but not--and does it in a much more character-driven, riveting, terrifying way. If you're looking for an un-London experience, go read that instead.
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
576 reviews214 followers
September 9, 2010
I don't know what I expected when I picked this up for a group read, but it certainly wasn't what I got. This was like a blending of different things. Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (which the author admitted to having inspired him) for its setting in an alternate London hidden from the regular one. Rowling's Harry Potter for the whole way the London children are discovering this world within our world, full of magic and wonder, as well as a double decker bus that has unusual properties. There was also a touch of the drab witty pessimism of Lemony Snicket's Unfortunate Events series. Throw in some Alice in Wonderland and you're close.

But still, this may have elements of all these other stories, but it is its own as well. It's hard to talk about this without spoilers.

I've seen it classified as "YA" or "middle reader" or "juvenile", but I didn't have any problem becoming interested. There is plenty of dry humor that adults will catch (and some that they might miss).

One thing that Miéville has going for him are the absurd creatures and characters and landmarks in UnLunDun. Some are funny, some are somewhat creepy, and some are positively brilliant. I could list some, but I don't want to take any of the delight away from discovering them by reading it.

I'll close with: I want to see Tim Burton adapt this as a film!

That is all.

Profile Image for Lars Dradrach.
807 reviews
December 9, 2020
4.5 Stars

It's not Perdido Street Station but it's still Miéville and even when he's doing YA he's still awesome.

It's not like we haven't seen it before, a kid from our world discovers he/she is the Chosen One who's destined to save the world in an alternate reality, there's a quest to recover some items needed to challenge/beat the bad guy and a group of characters who supports the hero on the way.

Only in Mieville's version there's some changes to the original formula:
- The chosen one is sent home early on and one of the companions (the funny sidekick) has to take over as the un-chosen one.
- The un-chosen one abandons the quest after the first task and skips directly to retrieve the final item.

Though an alternate version of London (un lun dun) which at times feels like Roald Dahl on acid, our un-hero struggles to overcome various challenges, like in Mister Monday there's also the constant threat of being forgotten by parents and friends in their own world.

There's a lot of associations to other similar novels like Neverwhere The Wonderful Wizard of Oz but as usual Mieville's unique style shines though.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Terence.
1,160 reviews387 followers
July 21, 2008
I wasn't sure whether or not to give this book a 3 or a 4 (if we had a more refined rating system, I'd give it a 3.7/3.8) because it started out a bit slow but as soon as Mieville focused on Deeba, the story picked up its pace and became much more interesting.

Short plot outline (which doesn't contain spoilers): Like many young-adult & adult fantasies, there's another version of London (and the world) that exists just "around the corner" or in between the stacks in a library that it's sometimes possible to get to. In this case, it's the city of UnLondon, where the trash and the obsolete (like old-style double-decker buses) and lost laundry wind up. Everything there is alive, so Deeba winds up with a pet milk carton named Curdle.

Zanna and Deeba are two young girls from London. Zanna is the Chosen One (the Shwazzy, corrupted French "choisir") prophesized to save UnLondon from the Smog (the sentient detritus of the pollution generated by our own world). Unfortunately, when they arrive, it turns out the prophecies were wrong and Zanna is dispatched (no, not killed, just "neutralized") rather easily by the Smog's minions. Fortunately, it appears that the Unbrellisimo, the ruler of the Unbrellas (no, that's not a mispelling, it's what broken umbrellas are called) has a plan to fight the Smog and everything looks like it will be all right so Zanna and Deeba return to London.

In the process of being saved, Zanna forgets everything that occurred in UnLondon but Deeba remembers and stumbles upon the fact that the scientist Unstible, who created the formula by which the Unbrellas became effective weapons against the Smog, died in London so she knows something is wrong, and manages to return to UnLondon to find out what it is and save her friends.

The rest of the novel is taken up with Deeba and her UnLondon friends' effort to save UnLondon.

I wound up really enjoying this book. The moral of the book is that a person's fate is not set in stone, that people make their own fates. It also stresses the importance of friendship, and manages to get in lessons about recycling and preserving our environment without being preachy. It also displays Mieville's usual inventiveness.

I'll be passing this along to my nieces, who may be a few years too young yet to appreciate it but will enjoy it eventually.
Profile Image for Frances.
106 reviews41 followers
January 29, 2016
This was great! A gritty, Pratchetty, deceptive, in control Dorothy type fairy tale with a satisfying end. Only my second Miéville but I want to read everything he's written right now. Review to come
Profile Image for Robert Beveridge.
2,402 reviews156 followers
August 19, 2008
China Mieville, Un Lun Dun (Ballantine, 2007)

I have written many times (more than I can count, certainly) about the dangers of message fiction. Chief among them is that the author gets so wrapped up in the message that he forgets he's first and foremost supposed to tell a story. When I realized that Un Lun Dun, China Mieville's first childrens' book, was of the “message fiction” stripe, I quailed in despair, thinking I might have encountered my first Mieville book (and I've read 'em all) I wasn't going to like. I should have known better.

Message-fiction writers, listen up: the vast majority of you have a lot to learn from China Mieville. This is how you tell a story. Not just a message story, but any story. (Which is the point, really.) Perfectly-created characters that are rich and deep, a strong plot in which to set them (with no end of surprises-- Mieville is also poking some fun at the traditional fantasy-novel setup here), a setting that manages to both be original and wear Mieville's debt to Clive Barker on its sleeve, and a message that, yes, still manages to poke its head through! Believe it or not, you can have all these things in one book! Don't believe me? Read this one.

Un Lun Dun is the story of Zanna, the Shwazzy (I'd explain that, but catching the many puns in this book before Mieville reveals them is a lot of the fun-- and he still nailed me with Klinneract), and her friend Deeba. The two of them live in a block of apartments in London. Strange things start happening to them-- animals trying to communicate with them in sign language, odd-shaped clouds, being followed by a broken umbrella. Then Zanna goes into a basement, turns a wheel, and everything changes. I wish I could tell you more. I want to tell you more. But I don't want to spoil anything, anything at all, about this book. You deserve all the surprises, and all the delights, awaiting you when you read it for yourself.

If you've encountered China Mieville before, you should know what to expect, except on a more YA level than you're used to. If you haven't experienced China Mieville before, hie thee to the library or the bookstore yesterday, if not before, and pick yourself up a copy of Perdido Street Station, one of the best books that's been published in the past decade in order to get acquainted. Though actually, I have to say, Un Lun Dun is the first book of his I've thought would also make an excellent entry point into Mieville's alternate universes (while most of his books are set in the invented world of Bas-Lag, his first novel King Rat and many of his shorter works are set in an alternate London somewhat similar to the one he uses here). One way or the other, though, I will not stop in my quest to get everyone I come into contact with to read China Mieville's stuff until, well, everyone has. And that includes you, so hop to it. **** ½

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