Thursday, July 8, 2010

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

“What is Un Lun Dun? It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.

When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.”

~Description taken from GoodReads

Un Lun Dun is essentially split into two parts; the first hundred pages which follow the a girl named Zanna, and the next three hundred which center around her friend, Deeba. In Zanna’s narrative the two girls travel to UnLondon for the first time, experiencing a fantastic new world unlike anything they’d ever seen.

If this sounds like the start of one gigantic cliché, that’s because it is. The thing is, though, China Mieville realizes this and turns his work into one part fantasy another part satire. He makes fun of enormously overdone plot devices such as prophecies and the ‘one person who must destroy the super evil antagonist’. The talking book of prophesies in UnLondon claims that Zanna is the ‘shwazzy’ or ‘chosen one’, but she loses her memory before the book is even half way done. This leaves Deeba, which the book originally deemed ‘the funny sidekick’ to take over and save UnLondon from the Smog.

Overall, it took me a while to get into Un Lun Dun. Zanna’s narrative was burdened by too many explanations and descriptions with not enough focus on the plot. There were also far too many characters introduced too quickly and then dropped for long periods, making it hard to figure out who the author was talking about at some points. However, by the second half of the novel the events did pick up and it became a lot easier to follow. I enjoyed Deeba’s ‘takeover’ as protagonist and how Mieville poked fun at the fantasy genre while still paying an excellent tribute to it.


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