What is it about London that makes it the prime place to create another world, not hidden in the shadows, but accessible through secret passageways that tend to close tight behind those who stumble in? Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere
jumps to mind, which China Mieville (I don't know how to do the accents!) credits as an inspiration, and now Un Lun Dun
Although I guess the other example that I can think of, J. Michael Straczynski's Midnight Nation
, is set in the States. Never mind. And in this book, UnLondon isn't the only city hidden behind another city. There's Parisn't, for example. And Lost Angeles.
I loved this book so, so much. It's the first China Mieville I've read, and it won't be the last. (I do realize that his other books are very different from this one, having read a lot of wonderful reviews of them.) But the imagination and creation I can't wait to encounter in other forms.
And in this one, the whimsy delighted me, the terrors worried me, the name for the garbage bins that guarded the bridge absolutely killed me. About the time that that was revealed, I started to have a big silly grin on my face. It recurred frequently.
Deeba and her best friend, Zanna, find themselves in UnLondon, where Zanna is the Chosen One, the Shwazzy. They're there so Zanna can beat the Smog. Except that things do not go even remotely as planned (or prophesied), and Deeba finds herself having to negotiate the conventions of prophecies, and to brave the horrors of the smoglodytes to stop the Smog from taking over, along with a group of friends, on a quest to find the one weapon the Smog fears.
I loved the way that Mieville played with conventions of young adult fiction, and had Deeba outright reject some of them. I just loved this entire world.
And to paraphrase a friend, I basically find solidarity to be one of the most moving things ever. I've gotten a little misty-eyed at every protest I've been a part of. I tear up a little watching pride parades. And that part in movies, where one person stands up against an evil, and then is unexpectedly joined by a larger crowd - that wrecks me, every time, with happy tears. And there is one of those moments in Un Lun Dun
, and I'm not too ashamed to say that I had tears in my eyes.
This is China Mieville doing young adult, and I can't wait to try his much denser adult fiction. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
Crossposted at Smorgasbook