Un Lun Dun

( 25 )


What is Un Lun Dun?

It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too?including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ...

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Un Lun Dun

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What is Un Lun Dun?

It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.

When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
By every indication, Zanna seems to be the Chosen One, the girl who is destined to set things in order and lift the evil smog. Even foxes and umbrellas pay her tribute. So when Zanna and her friend Deeba are magically transported to another realm, Un Lun Dun seems headed toward the moment of her triumph. But then, as readers of China Miéville may have already suspected, things happen that were not mentioned in prophecy -- and suddenly, 12-year-old Deeba is thrust into a world-saving situation.
From the Publisher
"Mieville's compelling heroine and her fantastical journey through the labyrinth of a strange London forms that rare book that feels instantly like a classic and yet is thoroughly modern."
— Holly Black, bestselling author of the YA novels TITHE and VALIANT

“A book which shows the world as it truly is: full of marvels and monsters and unexpected opportunities for heroism and magic. UN LUN DUN is delicious, twisty, ferocious fun, a book so crammed with inventions, delights, and unexpected turns that you will want to start reading it over again as soon as you've reached the end.”

Michael Sims
For style and inventiveness, turn to Un Lun Dun, by China Miéville, who throws off more imaginative sparks per chapter than most authors can manufacture in a whole book. Miéville is acclaimed for adult novels such as King Rat. In his first book for a younger audience, he provides verbal paradoxes worthy of Norton Juster's Phantom Tollbooth and humor reminiscent of, if not quite equal to, Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Miéville's heroine, young Deeba, proves a courageous and resourceful companion -- exactly what we need in a tale of nonstop adventure.
— The Washington Post
Dave Itzkoff
…one of the most imaginative young adult novels of the post-Potter era. [Mieville's] "UnLondon," discovered in the book by two schoolgirl heroines named Zanna and Deeba, is a tempting, carefully plotted rebellion against the cotton-candy elsewheres offered up by most children's novels…Beyond its abundant charms, Un Lun Dun never misses an opportunity to undermine the tiresome plot devices and tedious moralizing of traditional fantasy…Most of all, Un Lun Dun is the work of an author fascinated by language, and one who rewards any reader who cares about it half as much as Mieville does.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Miéville (King Rat) presents a remarkable bit of world-building. London teenager Zanna (short for Susanna) starts to experience odd occurrences: clouds that resemble her, strangers who call her the "Shwazzy," and graffiti that reads "Zanna For Ever!" Zanna, it turns out, isthe Shwazzy (choisior "chosen one") of the people of UnLondon (the Un Lun Dun of the title), a surreal mirror-image of London ("Abcities have existed at least as long as the cities," a book of prophecy tells her, "Each dreams the other"). Together, Zanna and her friend Deeba wind up in UnLondon, a Gaiman-esque wonderland of ghosts, zombies, walking garbage cans and sentient umbrellas. (Its people have a sense of humor, describing how they disposed of pre-euro currency, and other parallel "abcities" such as "Parisn't" and "No York"). The Smog, a beast borne of London's "smoke from chemicals and poisons" haunts UnLondon, and it seems that Zanna is the one designated to defeat the Smog. But a twist of fate unleashes unforeseen events and the UnLondoners wind up pinning their hopes on Deeba. Miéville employs a few tricks from the experimental novelist's bag (five-words-long chapters, others that end mid-sentence, puns and wordplay galore) but by and large relies on his formidable storytelling skill for this lengthy yet swift-moving tale that, with a wink and a nod, cuts through archetypal notions of fate and prophecy. Highly recommended for Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker fans especially. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Joe Sutliff Sanders
Two London girls have discovered a secret: If one climbs the right bookcase, twists the right handle, and follows the right umbrella, one can slip into the dark shadow of London, into the city where lost gloves and useless typewriters take a second shot at life. There Zanna and Deeba meet a half-ghost, a conductor of more than public transport, and the oddest tailor ever. Together they will face one of London's forgotten monsters, a creature that has spent decades nursing its hatred. To save London, these girls will have to fight for its twisted mirror image: Unlondon. At a time when the market is glutted with rehashes of fair, young, chosen ones marching to victory, each of them guaranteed success by reassuring, vaguely narcissistic prophecies, this accomplished author's first young adult novel is a wonderful surprise. Instead of minting kings or saviors, Mieville imagines a tween who wins because she outthinks prophecy. The novel is stuffed with imagination, and its vivid, tangible setting is patrolled by bizarre, even funny monsters. The creatures and puzzles represent serious challenges, and success over them always has a cost. The climactic scenes are rendered with real gravity; although the solutions to the friends' struggles are always within the logic of the magical world, things look very hopeless indeed right up to the moment of victory. The plot is driven by the threat of becoming one more forgotten thing in the eclectic streets of Unlondon, but the tone is brightened by the small kindnesses and sincere friendships forged amidst-and sometimes with-the rubbish. The result is a dark, charming, robust, comical adventure played according to new rules.
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Twelve-year-old Deeba never imagined where she would end up the night she accompanied her best friend, Zanna, into the basement of the housing complex. But things had been getting stranger and stranger for her friend, with wild animals bowing to her, total strangers greeting her with reverence, and her name showing up in bridge graffiti. With the turn of a wheel Zanna and Deeba are transported to a fantastical world made up of all the things that are broken or discarded by the inhabitants of their former hometown, London; it is the shadow city, unLondon, where none of the rules of their previous lives apply. Animate milk cartons become pets, specially trained rubbish bins are soldiers, double-decker buses fly, words become creatures, and people dress in clothes made from the pages of books. Your best friends may not be fully human, like half-ghost-half-boy Hemi. Although Zanna is the Chosen One described in the prophecy book, the Smog has stolen her memory and it is left to Deeba to save unLondon from being taken over by evil forces. In his first young adult novel, Mieville creates a wildly imaginative setting and story on a par with Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" series. This hefty work has a serious message about pollution and the mindset of disposability, but it's also a good adventure—with intrepid young male and female protagonists—that will appeal to fantasy fans of both genders.
Library Journal
Though it's being marketed as a YA title, Mieville's (The Scar) latest will appeal to his adult fans as well as other adult sf readers. It begins with a conventional fantasy framework: a young person is pulled into another world, turns out to be the hero who's been prophesied, and triumphs over great adversity to save the day. However, it's not long before the conventions are set on their collective ear. The hero is struck down, and the friend once relegated to the role of comic sidekick must take the reins. Other prophecies turn out to be wrong as well, and the enemy's reach spans both the fantasy world and the real London that a 12-year-old named Deeba calls home. Mieville displays his usual flair for creating completely original settings and creatures, including a pet milk carton and some terrifying giraffes. His only nod to the YA audience has been to tone down the eroticism evident in his other works. The characters are well realized and the book has a fair amount of sociopolitical subtext, mostly about questioning the status quo and thinking for oneself. Recommended for most adult sf collections. (Illustrations by the author not seen.)-Narl G. Siewart, Hardesty Regional Lib., Tulsa Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345458445
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/29/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 298,495
  • Age range: 10 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

China Mieville

China Miéville is the author of King Rat; Perdido Street Station, which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Fantasy Award; The Scar, which won the Locus Award and the British Fantasy Award; Iron Council, which won the Locus Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award; and a collection of short stories, Looking for Jake. He lives and works in London. Un Lun Dun is his first book for younger readers.

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Read an Excerpt


The Respectful Fox

There was no doubt about it: there was a fox behind the climbing frame. And it was watching.

“It is, isn’t it?”

The playground was full of children, their gray uniforms flapping as they ran and kicked balls into makeshift goals. Amid the shouting and the games, a few girls were watching the fox.

“It definitely is. It’s just watching us,” a tall blond girl said. She could see the animal clearly behind a fringe of grass and thistle. “Why isn’t it moving?” She walked slowly towards it.

At first the friends had thought the animal was a dog, and had started ambling towards it while they chatted. But halfway across the tarmac they had realized it was a fox.

It was a cold cloudless autumn morning and the sun was bright. None of them could quite believe what they were seeing. The fox kept standing still as they approached.

“I saw one once before,” whispered Kath, shifting her bag from shoulder to shoulder. “I was with my dad by the canal. He told me there’s loads in London now, but you don’t normally see them.”

“It should be running,” said Keisha, anxiously. “I’m staying here. That’s got teeth.”

“All the better to eat you with,” said Deeba.

“That was a wolf,” said Kath.

Kath and Keisha held back: Zanna, the blond girl, slowly approached the fox, with Deeba, as usual, by her side. They got closer, expecting it to arch into one of those beautiful curves of animal panic, and duck under the fence. It kept not doing so.

The girls had never seen any animal so still. It wasn’t that it wasn’t moving: it was furiously not-moving. By the time they got close to the climbing frame they were creeping exaggeratedly, like cartoon hunters.

The fox eyed Zanna’s outstretched hand politely. Deeba frowned.

“Yeah, it is watching,” Deeba said. “But not us. It’s watching you.”

Zanna—she hated her name Susanna, and she hated “Sue” even more—had moved to the estate about a year ago, and quickly made friends with Kath and Keisha and Becks and others. Especially Deeba. On her way to Kilburn Comprehensive, on her first day, Deeba had made Zanna laugh, which not many people could do. Since then, where Zanna was, Deeba tended to be too. There was something about Zanna that drew attention. She was decent-to-good at things like sports, schoolwork, dancing, whatever, but that wasn’t it: she did well enough to do well, but never enough to stand out. She was tall and striking, but she never played that up either: if anything, she seemed to try to stay in the background. But she never quite could. If she hadn’t been easy to get on with, that could have caused her trouble.

Sometimes even her mates were a little bit wary of Zanna, as if they weren’t quite sure how to deal with her. Even Deeba herself had to admit that Zanna could be a bit dreamy. Sometimes she would sort of zone out, staring skywards or losing the thread of what she was saying.

Just at that moment, however, she was concentrating hard on what Deeba had just said.

Zanna put her hands on her hips, and even her sudden movement didn’t make the fox jump.

“It’s true,” said Deeba. “It hasn’t taken its eyes off you.”

Zanna met the fox’s gentle vulpine gaze. All the girls watching, and the animal, seemed to get lost in something.

. . . Until their attention was interrupted by the bell for the end of break. The girls looked at each other, blinking.

The fox finally moved. Still looking at Zanna, it bowed its head. It did it once, then leapt up and was gone.

Deeba watched Zanna, and muttered, “This is just getting weird.”

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 27, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    "Enter by booksteps on storyladders"

    I really loved this book. I haven't read anything else by Mieville yet but I now plan on it.
    The set up was perfect so that when the twist evolved, there was no gasping, no "Oh no he didn't!"; it was just seamless.
    I adored everything about Deeba and the other other characters. My favorite chapter was Mr. Speaker and the renegade words. The intangible made tangible and yet still untamable. And "Enter by booksteps on storyladders" was like a call.
    Constant adventure, constant innovation, just as it should be. You don't have to be perfect to be a hero and you don't have to be Destined to do the right thing. This lack of inevitability is what's missing from many other novels like it which makes this wholly refreshing and an absolutely great read.

    Originally borrowed from the library but I am definitely going to buy to add it to my own collection.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Odd yet unforgetable

    WHen you begin the novel, things may seem a bit odd, but as the novel progresses, you get into the flow of things. it has peculiar characters and unique creative ideas. The book seems to drag out a bit longer than it needs to. It can be compared to alice in wonderland. it is peculiar yet interesting.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Crazy book about a crazy world

    Un Lun Dun is a fantasy book about a girl from London that gets lost (along with her friend) in a parallel world called Un Lun Dun, that is a wacky upside down (in a tame since of the word) version of London, with residents of the strange city calling her "the shwazzy". This book is unique and their is alot of fantasy and adventure, but the characters, despite originality, are forgettable and uninteresting sometimes. The book is so outrageous that it is difficult to get into ( which is saying something because fantasy is mostly what i read). Its an average book that could have been better if something was in it or taken out. What that is I couldn't say.

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  • Posted September 12, 2009

    Un Lun Dun Book Review: School Project

    China Mieville's book, Un Lun Dun, is a young adult suspense novel that will have every reader on the edge of their seat! It is a book about a teenager, Deeba Resham, who stumbles upon an unknown universe of opposite worlds with her best friend, Zanna. She soon realizes she will have to make a choice and help her Un Lun Dun pals. This decision has her racing through the city of Un Lun Dun to peculiar places that will assist her in saving the city. No one expects Deeba to succeed, but does she? You will have to read the book and find out! It is an excellent novel that dares to go places no other writer has gone before. After just a few pages you will surely feel yourself wanting more!
    This novel invites you in from the very beginning. Mieville has a unique style of writing that is very alluring. He creates ideas and concepts that most people would never think of. I never knew what was coming next in the book, and I loved that! There is a specific part in the book where Zanna and Deeba are being transported to Un Lun Dun by accident. There is a secret room and an odd wheel that just keeps turning and turning. It is a little frightening yet intriguing. Another time that is very interesting in the book is when Deeba is trying to get back to Un Lun Dun. She starts climbing bookshelves and then never stops! It was the wildest thing. I remember her trying to figure out what the memento from Obaday meant when it said "Brick Wizardry. Pigeons. Difficult to get in. Enter by booksteps, on storyladders." The creativity and brilliance of Deeba, the main character, was astounding!
    Anyone who is thinking about reading this novel should go to the store and buy it now! It is an absolutely riveting novel that is well worth the money. I would have to give it 2 thumbs up! Every teenager should take the opportunity to read this story. So go ahead and get hooked, on Un Lun Dun!

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  • Posted July 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    amazingly wierd

    This book is so out there that when you finish it you will just be plain stumped. You would have loved it very much but it will leave you confused. I love books like that because it leaves open all the possibilities open for you to consider. This is a thrilling book and I suggest it to all older teens.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2008

    Ul Lun Dun

    I thought Un Lun Dun was a good book, and very entertaining. In Un Lun Dun, Zanna, short for Suzanna and her friend Deeba life a normal life in London. Then strange things start to happen. Animals stare at Zanna, strange people seem to know her, and they even see a cloud that seems to look exactly like her. Then Zanna and Deeba follow a broken umbrella to the Basement of their apartment building, and end up un UnLondon, a place being menaced by an intelligent smog. There they learn that Zanna is the ¿Chosen one¿. However, when Zanna can¿t continue, Deeba has to do it herself. At first it seems that Mieville¿s world of ¿Unlondon¿ is pretty self explanatory. Everything is the opposite of London. However, we learn that UnLondon is also the place where anything old, obsolete, and broken goes. The UnLondoners do many things with this Moil (mildly obsolete in London), build houses out of it, sell it use it as money, etc. The world itself is entertaining, but the plot is also an important part of what makes the book so good. At first, it seems that this is typical ¿chosen one fantasy¿. However, Mieville goes on to break most of the rules. When was the last time the chosen one was put out of commission? The authors writing style is also engaging, with lots of clever dialogue and descriptions. i enjoyed this book, but like lots of other books as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2008

    A reviewer

    China Mieville¿s Un Lun Dun is one of the most exciting and fiction filled books that I have ever read. China Mieville did a great job when it came to including the problem of pollution in this book relating to actual life. When I read this book it was like being in a magical realm, I could see the scenes so clearly it was as if I was there experiencing was happening. The main plot of this story was the destruction of pollution. In the beginning of this book it was mainly about Deeba and her friend Zanna, trying to figure out why all these bazaar things were happening, such as animals following Zanna around, and the attack of smog pretending to be fog. The middle of this book was about Deeba and Zanna learning about Un Lun Dun and about the later explained prophesies, that they latter find out are wrong. The ending of this book is all about Deeba and Zanna¿s fight with the smog and about how hardships can bring together people, the ending of this book was thrilling, beyond words. I feel that this book was very inspiring because of the relations with real life situations and the courage of the main characters. In this book Deeba, the main character, was faced with a life or death situation. This situation was focused on the destruction of the smog. I feel that this is inspiring because she could have run away from the smog situation and let the people of Un Lun Dun suffer but she didn¿t because she knew that she had to be like a ¿slaterunner¿, and step on new ground, stand up for herself so the people of Un Lun Dun could too. I also feel inspired because of the similar hardships with pollution. I feel that Mieville had a big concern for this because of all the detail that was but into the smog¿s being, such as when Deeba was saying how you could almost ¿feel it¿ by just looking and how you ¿couldn¿t stop it without the Un Gun¿, a gun that would someday be the destruction of the smog. I think that the writing style of Mieville is odd because he uses words from the English dictionary and rewrites them to form new and exciting words. He also has bursts of action scenes in different parts of the book, as if he were writing his emotions. The characters in this book were a variety of personalities such as timid, hardworking, all knowing, and hardheaded. I think that the plot of the story was the hardships with pollution and the effects of listening to lies. The main message of the book Un Lun Dun was to work through your problems not try to run away from them. I would say that this book is a must read kind of book. People who like books that are fiction filled and have awesome action scenes you guys would love Un Lun Dun. I would give it 10 out of 10 class-marks.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2008

    Un Lun Dun: a fast paced and original fantasy

    I was extremely surprised with China Mieville¿s young adult fantasy, Un Lun Dun. This book definitely had me hooked. It is smart, witty, fresh, and original. I suggest this book to those that love fantasy and don¿t mind letting themselves go. Unlike most young adult fantasy novels, Un Lun Dun brakes away from the crowd and takes up its own path. The book takes the reader on a complete departure from reality to a place called UnLondon. In UnLondon, flying busses guarded by conductors are at the risk of being attacked by bandits on giant flies. Tropical jungles exist in houses with rivers flowing from toilets. The sun is ten times the size of the earth¿s with a hole in the center of it, and the moon is actually called the ¿loon¿ and is shaped like a cat¿s eye. But a cloud hangs over UnLondon and its name is the Smog. The Smog terrorizes UnLondon with random chemical attacks. Deeba, a teenager from London, discovers that she may be the only hope to defeat the Smog. This book was very exciting. I was excited to read it because it didn¿t include the clichéd elements that most young adult fictions thrive on. No heavy romances, no one¿s heart was broken, and there were no cliques. These books are plagued with predictability, not so in Un Lun Dun. Zanna was considered to be the chosen one to defeat the Smog and received special attention because of this. I was surprised when Mieville chose to have Zanna fail miserably and an unlikely hero ended up saving UnLondon. I was also surprised when the people that society thought would never amount to anything rose up and fought against the Smog¿s minions. Specific rules were laid out to defeat the Smog Deeba took a risk and disregarded those rules. The plot was interesting and very well developed. I thought the writer was ingenious. I enjoyed the British slang used in the book, and he wrote very clearly. The characters seemed like normal, everyday people. The message of the story is that the people you least expect could end up saving the day. This is a good read if you are looking for something out of the ordinary. After reading this book, you will never think the same about giraffes and umbrellas again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008


    When I'm at the library, I usually just skim the shelves for an interesting cover, read the summary, and check it out if it sounds decent. But I usually only like the book about half the time, and rarely find one that is worth rereading. After reading the summary for this book, I was a bit doubtful, but decided to give it a try. I LOVED IT! I liked how much thought and ingenuity was put into it, the crazy characters, and the amazing worlds China created. I would definitely recommend this to a friend, and I'd like to try another of China's works in the near future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2008

    A reviewer

    When one of my friends bought this book I started reading it. It was unbelivable!I didn't finish reading the novel so I found out it was in our library so I checked it out an dI absolutley fell in love for it. I mean just the book itself was indescribable! I really think that all the directors out there should make a movie about it. I also hope that all of the reviews give an inspiration to China to write a second one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2008

    i loved it

    i loved this book. it was one of my favorites(out of the few) and i just cant explain how much i loved it. its very unique and may seem somthin unreadble at the begging but once i started reading i just couldnt stop! it was great and i hope you will enjoy this book too

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2008

    It's Pure Perfection

    I honestly can not do this book justice with words, it is too good to describe. From curdle the milk carton that acts like a puppy dog to Hemi the half-ghost boy, I am sad to see all of the characters (with the exeption of a few such as the smog) go with the end of the book. I loved the strangness of it and the uniqueness as well.

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