Un Lun Dun - China Mieville

Where would you find rubbish-bin ninjas, sentient milk-cartons and an evil Smog that must be defeated? In UnLondon of course - where the lost and broken things of London end up. Unfortunately for the poor citizens they've got no defense against the Smog. Except of course the prophesied Chosen One - who isn't in condition to do anything, let alone save an entire civilisation.

I picked up Peridot Street Station (also by China Mieville) about four years ago and decided that I didn't like the writing style - and thus I should avoid the author in future. Un Lun Dun has convinced me that I was completely and utterly wrong.

When you're a Chosen One there's usually a series of quests to go on to get the tools you need before you beat the evil bad guy. You get support in the correct places, and generally an army to beat back the minions while you take on the head villain.

When you are the Chosen One's best friend, things are a somewhat different. This is where Un Lun Dun diverges from the typical "it's your destiny" story and starts getting really good. Mievelle's protagonist Deena is trying her best to save the world, since her friend Zanna (the Chosen One - also known as "Shwazzy" to the UnLondoners) is out of action due to the evil Smog. However since Deena doesn't appear in any prophecies, no-one (except possibly the villains) believes she can do it. She's also racing against the clock because if you spend too much time in UnLondon, the people in London forget that you ever existed.

In a world that features characters with the power to control umbrellas, half-ghosts and men with birdcages instead of heads, it's difficult for Deena to figure out what is going on - let alone pick the good guys from the bad (except for the obviously evil carnivorous giraffes). Again, Meieville's story deviates from the norm as he describes Deeba's unique approach to problem-solving in this fantasy realm.

If you've got some knowledge of London then you'll recognise a lot of references used in the book such as the questing area of Webminster Abbey (watch out for the spiders), and the failed attempts to stop the Smog using the Klinneract.

This book is marketed for young adults, but I'd invite anyone to read it. It's dark but funny and a lot deeper than it seems.

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