From School Library Journal
Grade 5–9—In present-day London, strange things start happening around Zanna: dogs stop to stare at her, birds circle her head. Then, she and her friend Deeba find themselves in an alternate reality where obsolete objects such as old typewriters eventually "seep" and strange people and creatures dwell, including sentient "unbrellas." The girls learn that Zanna is the chosen one, the "shwazzy," of UnLondon. However, her first fight with the nefarious Smog isn't what was predicted in the book of prophecies. The girls soon end up back in London with Zanna unable to recall their time away. Alone in the memory, Deeba pieces together the Smog's plot and finds a way back to UnLondon via library stacks. Readers soon realize that sometimes the chosen one doesn't get to save a city, and that sometimes steps in a preordained quest don't come out as planned. Miéville's fantastical city is vivid and splendidly crafted. Who would have thought a milk carton could make such an endearing pet? Or that words, or utterlings, could have a life and form of their own? Fans of Neil Gaiman's Coraline
(HarperCollins, 2002) or Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth
(Knopf, 1961) will love this novel. The story is exceptional and the action moves along at a quick pace. Given that the girls are 12, older readers might be put off, but it is well worth selling to them.—Nancy Kunz, Tuckahoe Public Library, NY
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Award-winning author China Miéville (King Rat
; Perdido Street Station
; The Scar
; Iron Council
, HHHH Jan/Feb 2005) claims that he meant Un Lun Dun
for younger readers, but, like the Harry Potter
series, the novel will appeal to a wide range of ages. While it includes the basics of the genremagic, monsters, quests, heroesit breaks the mold in many ways. An urban adventure with a strong environmental message, the novel harkens back to London's Great Smog of 1952, which bridges the real and the fantastical. Miéville's playful, clever language and plot, reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's, also impressed most critics, though a few thought them contrived and tedious. "Finding it as a grown-up may not be the optimum way to stumble into UnLondon," concludes Salon
, "but it's pretty miraculous all the same." Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.