Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville
Posted September 15, 2010on:
With reviews of Kraken and the City and the City floating around all over the place, and YA being all the rage, I figured it was time to pull my review of Un Lun Dun out of the archives. This was probably the funniest, goofiest, and most fun I’ve had in a while.
* * * *
Un Lun Dun.
In Mieville’s first Young Adult novel (he did the illustrations, too), we get his modern fantasy version of Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz, meets The City of Lost Children, complete with Binja warriors (garbage bins that are ninjas), flying unbrellas who answer only to their master, the Unbrellissimo, trash that stalks you, talking books with guilt complexes, man-eating giraffes, magic bridges, and all other manner of punny good guys and bad guys. It all starts because Deeba is most certainly not the Shwazzy. It is her friend, Zanna; tall, blonde, beatiful Zanna who is the Shwazzy, the chosen one to save UnLondon from The Smog.
UnLondon is under attack from within, where all it’s pollution, and the pollution from London feeds The Smog, making it stronger, and smarter. Smart enough to start fires, or get people to start fires for it, so The Smog can feed off the smoke and acrid fumes from the fires. The Smog burns everything in it’s path, and once it gets The Shwazzy out of the picture, it can destroy UnLondon one moily block at a time.
To save her friends, Deeba jumps back down the rabbit hole (in this case, climbing a cliff of books) to return to UnLondon and join the fight against the Smog. She exposes the conspiracy to friends she thinks she can trust – a half ghost, a tailor with a pincushion head, and a deep sea diver. Things become decidedly unfunny however, when her friends start dying as they are protecting her. She must become the Shwazzy (or in her case, the unShwazzy), find out if anything in the book of prophecy is indeed true, and find the UnGun, the ultimate weapon feared by The Smog. Imagine if the Scarecrow really did get set on fire, and he really did die. That would change the feel of The Wizard of Oz, now wouldn’t it?
I can just see Mr. Mieville working on this novel, maybe at a bistro somewhere, sipping coffee, laughing his head off. Un Lun Dun is adorably, infectiously laugh out loud punny. Even Deeba laughs at the things her UnLondoner companions tell her, such as “The Black Window lives in the Webminster Abbey”. I’m biding my time until I can find the perfect environmental opportunity to use the words smogosaurus, smogzilla, smogenstein, and other funnies. Maybe for Halloween this year, I will dress us as Deeba, complete with the UnGun. If all Young Adult fiction were this good, I’d never leave the “teen” area of the library.
If you like YA, you’ll like this. If you like cute and funny, you’ll like this. If you like weird, you’ll like this. If you like YA, and cute & funny, and weird, you’ve scored the trifecta, and will adore Un Lun Dun. Read it, enjoy it, then read it a chapter at a time to your kids at bedtime.