Tuesday, 2 July 2013

China Mieville's "Un Lun Dun" (book review)

Occasionally, I come across a book that absolutely reaffirms my love for reading and reminds me that it is not only an awesome hobby, but one that has the ability to completely transfix and commandeer my regular life while I'm in its sway.  To the dereliction of duties like keeping the house.  Or showering.  Or eating.  Or sleeping...

China Mieville's Un Lun Dun is one of those awesome books.

Creepy cover though.

I had been waiting for a while to read Un Lun Dun, which was hanging out on my "to read" list, and finally got around to it just recently.  And I am so incredibly glad I did.  This book absolutely pulled me in; it was one of those books that I quite literally had difficulty putting down. It seemed that no matter what I was doing, I was thinking of ways to solve the problems of its characters and anticipating storyline twists.

What I think is so enchanting about Un Lun Dun is that the story is based around familiar tropes, but goes a completely different route with them.  The so called "chosen one" (shwazzy!) and her best friend are pulled into an alternate world, where the chosen one is expected to save everyone from a maniacal, conscious mass of pollution known as the Smog.  But when Zanna the chosen one falls flat on her face almost immediately out of the gates, and it becomes the task of her "sidekick" and best friend Deeba to become the un-chosen hero and save the parallel world of UnLondon.  I loved this because it is so relateable for the main audience of this book, younger teens.  These teens can very much understand the position of someone who feels overshadowed by their peers, and feel powerless to change their situation.  It is really refreshing to get to enjoy this special adventure from the perspective not of that special, singled out individual (think Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, etc.), but of a very normal and ordinary girl. Many tasks and exciting adventures later, it is Deeba's brain and her quick thinking that save the day, adding yet another layer of appeal as she did not require any special supernatural powers to succeed, only her own wits.  These features add greatly to the realism of what is definitely a fantasy work.  The character of Deeba is so realistic and maintains her normalness despite keeping company with a diverse cast of oddities including half-ghosts, personified words, killer giraffes and animate milk cartons. 

The book might be perhaps a bit too scary for a younger crowd, under the age of about eight, but the length of the work (about 220 pages) might also be prohibitive for that age group.  This read is ideal for the younger teen, and for anyone who really likes a good adventure with a healthy slice of nail-biting suspense and the occasional bit of humour.  I'm really looking forward to reading some of China Mieville's other works, and hope they are as wonderful and exciting as Un Lun Dun.

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