Friday, September 11, 2009

Un Lun Dun Review

Un Lun Dun is China Mieville's first young adult novel. As indicated by the title it is set in an alternate version of London. It has been compared to Louis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, though I can not speak directly to this as I have yet to read that work, I can see why the comparison has been made based on the movie adaptations.

The tale begins in London, with our main characters Zanna and Deeba. They begin to notice that strange occurrences are happening, things like a fox watching Zanna during recess. Zanna is attacked by a dark cloud, and stays several nights at Deeba's house. The girls are awoken by the sound of something scratching at the window, it's a broken umbrella. Zanna decides to follow it, dragging Deeba in her wake. They end up in Un Lun Dun with no way home. Needless to say, the girls are scared and confused.

Upon their arrival they are chased by a pile of rubbish and promptly rescued by a boy named Hemi. A friendly tailor notices that the girls are new in town, and chases Hemi off. He's half-ghost, and the living don't trust the ghosts. Zanna then learns that she is the "Chosen One" and is meant to save Un Lun Dun from the Smog. But Obaday, the tailor, won't say anything else. He insists on taking her to see the Propheseers, who will tell her what see must do. Zanna and Deeba meet the Propheseers, but things do not go as predicted. The "Chosen One" is injured in the first battle. We learn that people, things, and ideas can travel between our world and the world of Un Lun Dun. There are several other plot twists, which would be quite surprising to the young readers that are the intended audience. They are handled very well, even if as an adult you can guess that they are coming, they do not feel forced or artificial.

The world of Un Lun Dun is full of unique creatures and objects, as are Mieville's other worlds. I admit I was a bit concerned about Mieville's vocabulary when it came to writing a young adult novel. He is quite fond of big words that make educated adults reach for a dictionary, so I wasn't sure if he could pull back and make his wonderful prose accessible to children. He did so superbly. He gave us several emotionally touching scenes throughout the book. There was a lot of focus on the value of friendship in this story. There was particular good-bye scene which reminded me very much of Dorothy's farewells in The Wizard of Oz.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone that enjoys fantasy, or is looking for a book to share with a young person in their life.

Good reading everyone.