Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Un Lun Dun review

Have you ever wondered what happens to unwanted items that get left on the curb?  Sometimes they get picked up, but sometimes they end up in Parisn't, or Sans Francisco, or UnLondon.  UnLondon is a land full of objects and technologies that are Mostly Obsolete In London and peopled by characters who aren't always actually people at all.  In a land where giraffes are feared predators and words quite literally come alive it isn't surprising that prophesies aren't always entirely correct.  But prophesy or no, someone still has to save UnLondon from the Smog.  Will a young girl, a half-ghost, a word-tailor, a bus conductor, and an empty carton of sour milk be able to get to Webminster Abbey in time to find the UnGun, or will their plans go up in smoke and feed the Smog? 

I liked Un Lun Dun from the moment I read the note to the reader at the beginning explaining that even though British and Americans sometimes use different words they can usually understand each other just fine, so British slang was left in for the American edition with a small glossary added to the back to refer to if needed.  I still think it's ridiculous that any book would feel the need to translate a British book into American English, even for juvenile fiction.  News flash: children pick up on new languages faster than adults anyways!

This note is typical of this novel in that it does not talk down to children or oversimplify things to make it more accessible.  I particularly enjoy the fact that this book plays around with the Prophesied Epic Quest trope which is something few adult books even attempt.  This book wasn't the most well-written or thought-provoking I've ever read, but it is certainly well above average writing and more thought provoking than many adult novels I've read.  Mieville's imagination in the creation of UnLondon is also so charming that I found the book well worth the read just for the ideas introduced: extreme librarian bookaneers, trash can binjas, smog-possessed could I not love it?  I've heard the book compared to Alice in Wonderland and Neverwhere, but it reminded me most of Phantom Tollbooth.  If you like any of those books, however, I'd give this one a try.

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