Stacie Morrell, July 21, 2014 (view all comments by Stacie Morrell)
Alice in Wonderland for the X, Y and Z generations, or Oz for the modern age. Fantastic wordplay and masterfully written, with images and imaginings Lewis Carroll would be proud of. Zanna and her friend Deeba are whisked away to a fantastic mirror image of London (only one of many mirror cities in existence, such as Romeless, Lost Angeles, Helsunki, No York) where items Londoners are done with end up to be used again (in very different ways) and giraffes are flesh-eating fiends. While a thick book, the pacing is brisk and lively, with great characterization, and the thrill to see what the author will imagine next. Great fun for teens on up.
Serene, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Serene)
I just loved the wordplay in this delightful YA novel. Even more appealing to me is the way it skewers (and puts a fresh face on) the usual sexist tropes found in YA girl-hero books. It's one of those books I found really hard to finish, because I didn't want it to end.
Dead Air, October 1, 2008 (view all comments by Dead Air)
China Mieville's first foray into young adult literature is one part Oz, one part Neverwhere, one part Monty Python's Holy Grail and one part Gulliver's Travels for the cell phone generation.
If you are expecting a kids' version of his Bas Lag novels, this is not even remotely similar to that. If you've read King Rat and some of his more horror tinged stories set in London, that's getting closer, but don't expect that level of edgy darkness. This is satire and often rather whimsical, though not without Mieville's decidedly leftist political agenda as an undercurrent. He takes a swipe at some of the mythical cliches of the very type of story he's telling too. The "chosen one" may not be the hero(iene) in the end when China's spinning the yarn.
Does this stand up as a read for adults as well? Certainly if you're willing to ride with China through a very different world from his other works.
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Del Rey Books -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Mieville (King Rat) presents a remarkable bit of world-building.
London teenager Zanna (short for Susanna) starts to experience odd occurrences: clouds that resemble her, strangers who call her the 'Shwazzy,' and graffiti that reads 'Zanna For Ever!' Zanna, it turns out, is the Shwazzy (choisior 'chosen one') of the people of UnLondon (the Un Lun Dun of the title), a surreal mirror-image of London ('Abcities have existed at least as long as the cities,' a book of prophecy tells her, 'Each dreams the other'). Together, Zanna and her friend Deeba wind up in UnLondon, a Gaiman-esque wonderland of ghosts, zombies, walking garbage cans and sentient umbrellas. (Its people have a sense of humor, describing how they disposed of pre-euro currency, and other parallel 'abcities' such as 'Parisn't' and 'No York'). The Smog, a beast borne of London's 'smoke from chemicals and poisons' haunts UnLondon, and it seems that Zanna is the one designated to defeat the Smog. But a twist of fate unleashes unforeseen events and the UnLondoners wind up pinning their hopes on Deeba.
Mieville employs a few tricks from the experimental novelist's bag (five-words-long chapters, others that end mid-sentence, puns and wordplay galore) but by and large relies on his formidable storytelling skill for this lengthy yet swift-moving tale that, with a wink and a nod, cuts through archetypal notions of fate and prophecy. Highly recommended for Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker fans especially." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day"
by Doug Brown, Powells.com,
"Un Lun Dun doesn't have the breathless otherness and depth of Perdido Street Station, but it isn't intended to....Un Lun Dun is a nice little morsel that makes a great chaser after a dense nonfiction book, and is a good recommendation for someone who has already read Philip Pullman's fabulous His Dark Materials series (and those books about the boy wizard)." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"[A] dark, charming, robust, comical adventure played according to new rules."
by Library Journal,
"The characters are well realized and the book has a fair amount of sociopolitical subtext, mostly about questioning the status quo and thinking for oneself."
by Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners,
"A book which shows the world as it truly is: full of marvels and monsters and unexpected opportunities for heroism and magic. Un Lun Dun is delicious, twisty, ferocious fun, a book 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."
by Philadelphia Inquirer,
"Many young readers will no doubt find the adventure compelling....In a way, the novel feels like a screenplay, ready to have its delightful ideas translated to the purely visual."
by Holly Black, bestselling author of the YA novels Tithe and Valiant,
"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."
Un Lun Dun is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things end up — including people. When 12-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance into this strange city, it seems that an ancient prophecy is coming true. Illustrations.
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.