Saturday, November 8, 2008

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville


I recommend this book for: 6th grade and up

Wow. Un Lun Dun takes the prize for the best fantasy I've read this year. It's unlike anything I've read before, and that's a good thing!

Zanna and Deeba are best friends who begin to notice unusual things happening around them. They soon find themselves in UnLondon, an alternate version of the city where buses fly, garbage comes to life, and the inhabitants are the oddest assortment of creatures imaginable - ghosts, tailors with pins for hair, and various animals who have adapted to live in humanlike bodies, to name a few. This strange city is under attack from the Smog, pollution that has gained consciousness and wants to burn everything to incorporate it into itself. The girls find out that Zanna is the Shwazzy, the chosen one who has been written about in prophecies, destined to save UnLondon from the Smog.

And then, this already slightly deviant fantasy gets really interesting - she fails. Zanna is knocked out and the girls return to London. She doesn't remember a thing about the whole adventure, leaving Deeba to decide whether she can forget - or should she return to do what she can to fight the Smog, prophecies or not?

I loved this book. The world-building is amazing, and after so many "chosen one" fantasies, it was refreshing to read a book where the heroine triumphs not because of prophecy, but because she makes the choice to do the right thing and is able to think on her feet. The secondary characters were fascinating as well - Hemi the half-ghost boy, Curdle the milk carton, and the book of (sometimes correct) prophecies were all fantastic allies. Oh, and did I mention how cool the librarians are in UnLondon? Let's just say that it's a dangerous job that requires spelunking equipment. Read this one!

Other thoughts.