Charles's Reviews > Un Lun Dun

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
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's review
Dec 25, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: 2015-challenge, fantasy, stat_3, reviewed

Stuff I Read - Un Lun Dun by China Miéville Review

This is my first time reading a novel by China Miéville after having heard many good things about his books (mostly from my partner). This just so happened to be the book of his I found in the stores first, but it rather right up my alley, a young adult or even middle grade book that takes on the traditions of Narnia and Oz and even more adult fantasy works that revolve around a Chosen One. The story focuses at first on Deeba and her friend Zanna, who seems to be someone important, someone destined for something. But the book does an excellent job of using reversals. The book is Un Lun Dun, a variant of UnLondon, where the book is set, and the idea of Un- becomes incredibly important.

The book has a charming voice and a great sense of life that it infuses into UnLondon, into the city on the otherside of the coin, where forgotten tech and trash gather, where one of the most powerful creatures around is a man who controls Unbrellas and where the buses run as long as they can avoid the blood-thirsty giraffes. When Zanna and Deeba arrive it is with a mixture of dread and also wonder. They are in a magic place, and one where Zanna is the Schwazzy, a hero destined to save UnLondon from the Smog. The book, for all its cute flourishes, does get to some important concepts, mixing more adult literary devices with a plot and story that is sure to delight younger readers of the work. Everything goes about how you'd expect for a little while, until it doesn't, until Zanna is attacked and becomes unable to help and it's up to Deeba, the UnChosen One, to step in.

The characters of the story are great, from a half-ghost boy who's tired of his people being voiceless to a gaggle of sentient words to a bus driver who's been through a lot to a man with a pincushion for a head to a talking and moody book of prophecy. People are memorable, and the villains only more so, the smog with its smoglings and smombies and smogglers. There are plots within plots and lots to see as the characters move through the City, and the action is tight and gripping. More impressive is how Deeba captures the idea of the UnChosen One, refusing to follow the conventions of prophecy and instead valuing her friends, valuing life and simplicity.

There are a lot of ideas in the book that are just really neat, and things are foreshadowed very early that pay off in amazing ways. The UnGun is definitely one of my favorite weapons in fantasy lit now and it all just works. I think the book could certainly have gone even further than it did in challenging tropes, and it walks a fine line between honoring the genre and throwing out what doesn't work. There were a few times it is a little guilty of falling into convention, but by and large it does a great job of breathing some new life into a genre that can feel fairly insulated, fairly "safe." The book does take chances, and most of them pay off. It's definitely a lot of fun, with some great imagery and an entertaining and endearing voice. An 8.75/10 for me.
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Reading Progress

December 25, 2014 – Shelved
December 25, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
December 25, 2014 – Shelved as: 2015-challenge
October 5, 2015 – Started Reading
October 5, 2015 – Shelved as: fantasy
October 5, 2015 – Shelved as: stat_3
October 5, 2015 –
page 22
5.09% "Part one done and quite weird so far. But definitely interested to see where it's going. The mystery already pulls at me..."
October 20, 2015 –
page 254
58.8% "This is doing an interesting job subverting the Chosen One narrative and how it marginalizes certain kinds of people. Quite good so far."
October 24, 2015 –
page 432
100.0% "Definitely unbad, and currently not unread."
October 24, 2015 – Finished Reading
November 10, 2015 – Shelved as: reviewed

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