three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Un Lun Dun"Moils" (Mildly Obsolete in London), which are outdated, slightly eccentric people, animals, and objects—from vinyl records to black-and-white television sets, broken umbrellas, lost gloves, streetcar conductors, carnivorous giraffes, and an empty milk carton nicknamed Curdle—populate a surreal, alternate Unlondon. The city may be unfashionable to some, but it’s also being threatened by the Smog, a poisonous smoke emanating from London’s industries. When 12-year-old Zanna finds a magical bookcase leading toward this city, she soon discovers that she is the Chosen One, prophesied to lift the smog and save the city. But as circumstances grow more urgent, Deeba, her best friend, steps forward instead.
Del Rey. 448 pages. $17.95. ISBN: 0345495160

Salon 4.5 of 5 Stars
"It hardly seems possible I didn’t read this novel and love it at age 12, it brought back so vividly the long, book-drunk days of my late childhood. Like the best children’s fiction, Un Lun Dun seems to have always been there, waiting to be discovered." Laura Miller

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"A story of heroism, self-discovery and environmentalism, Un Lun Dun is peppered with moments of extreme humor. … Once Deeba takes control of the plot, Un Lun Dun becomes a multifaceted romp through a world many of us would love to visit—once the evil smog is defeated, of course." Karen Brooks-Reese

SFF World 4 of 5 Stars
"Like the best Young Adult novels, Un Lun Dun holds much appeal for its intended young audience and Adults. There is a smartness to the characters and dialogue the adults will enjoy and the younger set will appreciate should they return to the novel later in their life, as well they should." Rob H. Bedford

Wired 4 of 5 Stars
"Un Lun Dun isn’t perfect; it often mistakes wordplay for imagery and feels a little pat. But give it to a kid (and borrow it when they’re done). It just might help them grow up into the kind of nerd we need a lot more of—one who thinks they can save the world with sheer ingenuity." Adam Rogers

Philadelphia Inquirer 3 of 5 Stars
"Many young readers will no doubt find the adventure compelling, but it was a bit too drawn-out for my taste. In a way, the novel feels like a screenplay, ready to have its delightful ideas translated to the purely visual, and the action condensed." Katie Haegele

Los Angeles Times 2 of 5 Stars
"What can one say of a book where the most compelling character is not a human protagonist, but a kvetching book of prophecies? Given the heartbreaking figures that have populated Miéville’s other novels … it’s surprising that Un Lun Dun’s main characters are so flat." Edward Champion

Critical Summary

Award-winning author China Miéville (King Rat; Perdido Street Station; The Scar; Iron Council, 4 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2005) claims that he meant Un Lun Dun for younger readers, but, like the Harry Potter series, the novel will appeal to a wide range of ages. While it includes the basics of the genre—magic, monsters, quests, heroes—it breaks the mold in many ways. An urban adventure with a strong environmental message, the novel harkens back to London’s Great Smog of 1952, which bridges the real and the fantastical. Miéville’s playful, clever language and plot, reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s, also impressed most critics, though a few thought them contrived and tedious. "Finding it as a grown-up may not be the optimum way to stumble into UnLondon," concludes Salon, "but it’s pretty miraculous all the same."

Cited by the Critics

Neverwhere | Neil Gaiman (1997): When Londoner Richard Mayhew saves Door, a beautiful, mysterious young woman, he embarks on a journey to London Below, an alternate—and dangerous—shadow world.