Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville is an urban fantasy written for young adults. This is not to say that there isn't any fun to be had for the older set though! In fact, there are some clever bits that might go right over the heads of the younger crowd; rather like some of the old Looney Toon cartoons ... enjoyed by the kiddies, but the jokes were more fully appreciated by those a bit older.

I've already tried, and failed, to write a synopsis for this wonderfully bizarre book so I thought I'd include the quite well done blurb from the back cover of the book:

"What is Un Lun Dun? It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights 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."
- blurb from book cover

Mieville turns upside down the rather cliche storyline of prophecies and heroic quests. Just about the time I was saying to myself, "Not another book with a several hundred page quest," the author caught me out and turned all of my expectations on their metaphoric heads. And that bit in the above blurb making a wee comparison to Alice in Wonderland? It is true. The story is that strange. In fact, don't the following illustrations by Mieville himself make you think of Wonderland?

One version of a bus in Un Lun Dun.

Meet Mr. Speaker.

Mieville has a grand time playing with words throughout the book and even includes a fantastic little "treatise" on the meaning of words. You will find that in the chapter with Mr. Speaker, of course.

If you like urban fantasy with a fun twist, you should thoroughly enjoy Un Lun Dun!


  1. I did thoroughly enjoy Un Lun Dun, as I thoroughly enjoyed your review. It is a tough book to summarize, but you have done a great job here. I LOVED THE MR. SPEAKER EPISODE!!!

  2. I love this book. I got my mom to read it and she didn't love it. I was too bummed to ask her why. :)

  3. This sounds like a great book, Terri. I especially love it when a book surprises me and takes a turn I wasn't expecting. I haven't read anything by Mieville, although I have one of his books around here somewhere waiting its turn.

  4. The Mr Speaker bit was probably my favourite :) And I loved how he subverted all the stereotypes. For me the book only started for real when the prophecy turned out to be wrong!