Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville

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Author’s website
Publication date – January 29, 2008

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) By every indication, Zanna seems to be the Chosen One, the girl who is destined to set things in order and lift the evil smog. Even foxes and umbrellas pay her tribute. So when Zanna and her friend Deeba are magically transported to another realm, Un Lun Dun seems headed toward the moment of her triumph. But then, as readers of China Mieville may have already suspected, things happen that were not mentioned in prophecy — and suddenly, 12-year-old Deeba is thrust into a world-saving situation.

Thoughts: While everyone around me is talking about Mieville’s books and how great an author he is, I’m sitting back and hoping that nobody notices me not joining in the conversation, because until picking up Un Lun Dun, I had not read a single one of his books.

I’m happy to say that, obviously, this has changed. I don’t know if this was the best book for me to start with, but it was one that the library had readily available, and I was curious, so I wasn’t going to turn down my chance.

While the story at first seems to be shaping up to be a standard “chosen one” prophecy surrounding Zanna, not too far along it’s revealed that Zanna’s not going to actually be of much help in saving the abcity of UnLondon, and her best friend Deeba steps up to the plate instead, relying not on the vague power of prophecy but instead on her own brains and brawn to get the task done. I loved seeing this, since while it can be fun to read about a very typical destiny plot, stories in which destiny is bunk and the people who do everything are not the people who are supposed to do everything are not as common as they could be, so it was a nice change of pace.

Mieville demonstrates a remarkable talent for wordplay and creativity, turning the French choisir into Shwazzy for a somewhat silly term for the chosen one (this is, after all, a book intended for a young adult audience, so a little silliness is perfectly fine), making a group of garbage can martial artists (the binja), or the Black Windows inhabiting Webminster Abbey. There were times where the quick wit and fantastical elements made me think of a ramped-up JK Rowling.

One thing that stuck with me throughough the entirety of the novel is the way I pictured the whole thing done in Studio Ghibli style animation. Honestly, I think Un Lun Dun as a movie done by that studio would be amazing to see, and would do the feel of the novel, as well as the plot, the justice it deserves.

I can’t say for sure whether this was a good first taste of what Mieville can do. I can, however, say that I enjoyed it enough to know that I’ll be making a point of giving one of his more adult novels a try in the future. I’d definitely reccommend this one to people who are looking for a good story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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