oddmonster (oddmonster) wrote in bookish,

Review: Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville

# 90: Un Lun Dun by China Mieville:
The Black Windows were not only clambering over every surface, raising their segmented legs high, through every loop and hole of webbing. They were clambering in and out of each other

...All sorts of complicated maneuvers occurred. Windows that had just ingested others themselves climbed into yet others. A window opened and emitted three of its siblings, one of which then climbed into another, while the third spat out a fourth. Deeba saw one window emerge from another, then eat its own regurgitator. It was endless.

The web was dim. Noises were hushed. There was a soft clicking from countless wooden limbs.
Synopsis: Under London lurks another city, a city in grave danger. One that can only be rescued by the heroine of a prophecy...right up until that totally doesn't work.

I really, really like clever. Like a lot. It's possibly my biggest ticklespot, so if you toss a book at me in which the majority of the characters are ideas based on a long series of puns, I am pretty much going to be in heaven. That and because Mieville sat down and channeled the spirit of Joan Aiken's Armitage Family stories.

Zanna is tall, blond and beautiful, and it's very little surprise to her short, dark friend Deeba when she turns out to be the chosen heroine of an ancient prophecy. It's a little more surprising that the prophecy involves a hidden city under London, but if you've ever been to Camden Market, come on. Is it really *that* surprising?

So off they go, for Zanna to fulfill the prophecy and save the netherworld and then everything goes terribly wrong, leaving Deeba to try to figure out how and why, and totally save the city of Un Lun Dun.

I actually picked up this book because of that article on 20 fictional librarians who saved civilization; one of them was Margarita Staples, extreme librarian and bookeneer. (Get it? She's an adventurer who specializes in books? A book-aneer? Buccaneer? ...Buehler?) If that just made you groan, you'd hate this book. It's chock full of clever language and puns and wonderful fun ideas, my favorite of which were the trash cans who were actually ninjas, and thus were called yes, binjas.


Plus on top of that, it's a book about adolescent girls who save the world, a topic which, I confess, I will happily evangelize on. We need more books in that vein. Like entire shelves full. Go ahead. Ask me if this book passed the Bechdel Test.


There are the binja. There's the library adventures. There's a pet milk carton named Curdle. There's a talking book. There's Skool, who I'm not going to tell you about except to say OMG AWESOME.

(I strongly suspect catyah would snarf this book right down, were it not for the fact that she is currently a novel-writing MACHINE.)

Anyway. The combination of magical realism and bittersweet adventures really did make me think Mieville had stumbled across a trove of lost Armitage Family stories, and considering that I still have my very heavily cellotaped A Small Pinch of Weather paperback carefully ensconced in the childhood books of awesome shelf*, was a very welcome find. Seriously, I would not be surprised if Mieville invoked some type of weird ritual with one of Aiken's stolen finger bones. And honestly, that would not make me like this book any less.

I'm really hoping there's going to be a sequel, so do what you need to do, Mr. Mieville, to make that happen.

*Complete with psychedelic 70s pink-and-mauve swirled cover.

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