Un Lun Dun is a magical blend of Alice in Wonderland and Fern Gully. A tale where it’s not the chosen hero who saves the day but the unlikely sidekicks who band together to fight the forces of darkness. Un Lun Dun begins as many books about heroes and villains. The unwitting young hero doesn’t know that she is the chosen one from another land who must fight to save that land from destruction. In this case that hero is Zanna. She is the chosen one or, in this novel, the Schwazzy. She has to travel to Un Lun Dun, London’s counter city, and save them from the dreaded Smog. Except that’s not how it happens. The chosen one is taken out of the quest early on leaving Un Lun Dun vulnerable. It’s Zanna’s friend Deeba who discovers the nasty plot to destroy Un Lun Dun and it’s Deeba who travels to the counter city to warn them of what’s to come.
The foe in this story is the dreaded Smog, very much like Fern Gully. Many of the scenes with the Smog in this book made me think of Fern Gully and that oil monster thing that tries to take over the forest. Essentially, the Smog in Un Lun Dun is excess from the city of London itself. The byproduct of industry that has no where else to go. And like any good villain, the Smog grows stronger and stronger and can only be vanquished by one particular weapon. One thing I loved so much about this novel was how Mieville cast aside all fantasy quest tropes. First, Mieville diverts the normal heroine trope and has the sidekick save the day, not with her chosen one powers but with common sense and compassion. Then, Mieville decides to have his new sidekick heroine just skip all the normal quests that the chosen one would’ve had to complete in order to defeat the Smog and go straight to the final task. Because who wants to waste time and energy completing all the tasks just to get to the last one?
Un Lun Dun was such a fun read and makes me want to look up more books by this author. His characters are well mapped out, especially Deeba his unlikely heroine, and the story has a very satisfying ending, with the possibility of a sequel thrown in if the author should decide.
Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015! Happy reading!