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Un Lun Dun
China Miéville
Del Rey, 425 pages

Un Lun Dun
China Miéville
China Miéville was born in London in 1972. When he was eighteen, he lived and taught English in Egypt, where he developed an interest in Arab culture and Middle Eastern politics. Miéville has a B.A. in social anthropology from Cambridge and a master's with distinction from the London School of Economics. His first novel, King Rat, was nominated for both an International Horror Guild Award and the Bram Stoker Prize. Perdido Street Station won the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was nominated for a British Science Fiction Association Award. He lives in London, England.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Un Lun Dun
SF Site Review: Iron Council
SF Site Review: The Scar
SF Site Review: The Tain
SF Site Review: The Scar
SF Site Review: Perdido Street Station
SF Site Review: Perdido Street Station

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Jayme Lynn Blaschke

China Miéville and Neil Gaiman are not the same person. That much should be obvious considering their distinctly different hair styles, but it still needed to be said. With the individual authors' identities now clearly established, it must also be said that Miéville's Un Lun Dun is not the sequel to Gaiman's Neverwhere, despite a shared vibe running through both books. That vibe is unmistakable, however, so much so that I would be very much surprised to learn that the ab-city of UnLondon didn't have its own, distorted version of UnLondon Below.

But that's neither here nor there. Sure, fans of Gaiman's earlier book will find a lot here to like, but readers who've perused not a single page of Gaiman prose will find a lot to like here as well, since Miéville has crafted a clever piece of down-the-rabbit-hole adventure that is accessible to a far greater range of readers than its young adult categorization would indicate.

The setup is straight forward and familiar -- a second, unseen world exists in parallel with our own. Cities in our reality are mirrored in skewed fashion across the trans-dimensional barrier known as the Odd, sporting names such as Parisn't and Sans Fransico. These ab-cities are populated by all manner of strange beings, from tailors with pin-cushion heads to kung fu-fighting garbage cans to sentient schools of fish that navigate on land by donning deep-sea diving suits. And umbrellas, or rather, unbrellas, the marvelous, cast-off refuse of one-time rains shields. Those things are cool. Above this cockeyed society, however, lurks the Smog -- a malevolent, corrupt conglomeration of pollution banished from our world decades before that will stop at nothing to take over complete control of UnLondon and eventually return to London as well. Before long, 12-year-olds Zanna and Deeba find themselves drawn into UnLondon and the war against the Smog. Zanna, it turns out, is the great savior according to the UnLondon book of prophecy, while Deeba is relegated to a footnote as "sidekick, funny." Events don't unfold quite as neatly as the prophecy would have it, however, and hijinks, as they say, ensue.

What Miéville accomplishes with Un Lun Dun echoes in many ways that which made the first of the Shrek movies so successful: it deconstructs the classic epic fantasy tropes with a ruthless glee, giving them metaphorical wedgies then having the nerve to point and laugh. At the same time, it manages to be a faithful and loving homage, following in a skewed manner those very same rules of the genre it pretends to eschew. Un Lun Dun never takes itself too seriously, but it's never contemptuous of its subject matter. Miéville wears his influences on his sleeve here, almost like badges of honor. Yes, there's Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll, but also Miyazaki and Kipling and Wolfe and many more I'm certain I missed.

Un Lun Dun may not be the most sophisticated book Miéville has written, but it has no identity problems. It knows exactly what it is, and has an unabashedly good time in being just that. Would that all books stand on their own merits so successfully.

Copyright © 2007 Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Jayme Lynn Blaschke writes science fiction and fantasy as well as related non-fiction. His weblog can be found at

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