Book reviews

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Format: Paperbackun-lun-dun

Buy From: Amazon

Borrow: UK Libraries

Summary: Stumbling through a secret entrance, Zanna and Deeba enter the strange wonderful wonderland of UnLondon. Here all the lost and broken things of London end up, and some of its people too – including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas, and Hemi the half-ghost boy.

But the girls have arrived at a dangerous time. UnLondon is a place where the words are alive, where the jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, where carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets…and a sinister cloud called Smog is bent on destruction. It’s a frightened city in need of a hero…

Review: I love the idea of hidden worlds. In the past, I have read Gaiman’s Neverwhere and vastly enjoyed the imaginative way he fit another world into a vast city like London. I had heard that Mieville had also written a novel about an alternative London, so I thought I should check it out.

Un Lun Dun is definitely an adventurous book. The world of UnLondon is magical, surreal and a little hard to comprehend. There are animated umbrellas, words that come to life after being spoken, and a man dressed in clothes made from books with pins for hair. Luckily, Mieville has a way with words and is a master of description. He is able to articulate exactly what is happening in the story, making it easy to visualise.

The plot of the book takes an unexpected twist about 1/3 of the way in (I’m not spoiling anything as you can see it coming from a mile off!) It starts in the way of a clichéd trope, someone is prophesied to take on and defeat the big bad (the big bad in this story being the smog). However, not everything goes according to plan. This is great as we immediately know we can’t take anything for granted. It brings a lot of tension to the story which keeps you wanting to read more.

Although I appreciated the twist and the play on an already over-used trope, I did feel like this damaged the pacing of the book. In certain points in the story, I found myself drifting as the pace had slowed down to a crawl and that tension disappeared. I thought the story could have used some good editing, especially as it a YA novel and some readers might find the word count of 110,000 daunting.

There is an interesting array of characters, some more developed than others. I loved Fing, Jones and Demi. These characters felt well-developed meaning their reactions to the world around them felt genuine. However, I felt that Deeba was a character with a lot of potential, but was under developed. At the beginning of the story, Deeba is under-confident and not sure in her role within the group. During the story, she ends up taking a leadership role, but this is done without much trouble and not much emphasis on her previous self-doubt. I felt the story missed a chance to show Deeba gradually becoming more confident in her own decisions and self-worth, which would have given the character more depth,.

TLDR: Un Lun Dun is a fascinating, and ambitious book. Its descriptive style is its biggest strength, enabling the reader to fully imagine being in the wonderful, weird world that is Unlondon. Due to the nature of the book’s plot, the pacing does suffer and it could have done with a little bit more editing. Although the last section of the book was thrilling, I found myself wanting it to end; it felt too long, especially for a YA book. I also felt that Deeba’s character could’ve been better developed, and more emphasis could have gone on her overcoming over her own self-doubt and gradually becoming confident in her own decisions and abilities. However, the colourful array of characters does make up for this and I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different.

 

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