Review: Un Lun Dun

Un Lun Dun
Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After reading the bleakness of Hunger Games, I wanted something lighter, and UnLunDun fit the bill. When I first started reading it, I joked, “This is the anti-hunger games”. But the more I read it, I realized it’s more like the UnHunger Games.

There are similiarities. There is a girl who is chosen to save the world. There is a war. Friends get hurt, even killed. But where the Hunger Games were bleak, UnLunDun is more whimsical, thanks to the Mieville’s wonderful drawings, and the storyline itself, which proves not to be your standard girl-gets-pulled-into-alternate-world, girl-must-save-alternate-world, yadda yadda yadda.

Zanna learns she is the prophesied Swazzy, the chosen one who will save the world UnLunDun (say it fast and you’ll get it). But when an accident knocks her out for the count, it’s actually her best friend, Deeba, who rises up to the challenge. Deeba wasn’t meant to be the Swazzy, just her funny sidekick (there’s a beautiful scene where Deeba learns this, much to her chagrin). I think Deeba is also South Asian Indian from her last name, so we got ourselves a POC main character as well. Nicely done.

I like how the novel sets up expectations and then breaks them. The novel even starts in Zanna’s POV, but gradually switches to Deeba. Hemi, the half-ghost boy who’s people are shunned and feared, continues the breaking stereotype them. And there’s an overreaching environmental theme as the evil villian is The Smog, which is…smog. But Deeby has allies, some human, some more whimsical. One of my favorites was Mr. Cavea, a man who has a birdcage, complete with bird, for a head. There are also the binjas, that are rubbish bins and ninjas combined.

Mieville does a wonderful job of creating a London that is strange and fun and frightening all at once. The characters have delightful puns that sometimes are evident, sometimes more subtle (Skool’s origin, for instance, is apt and clever). All the characters charmed me over, and the settings were fun to read. I doubt I would read this to my 7-year-old son, but will put it on the list for when he’s a little older, maybe 9 or 10, as some scenes were a little intense.

This gets 3 out of 5 binjas. I could’ve used a binja to whoever knocked down my mailbox last week. That would’ve been awesome.

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