Novel by China Miéville
(Approx. ages 10 and up)
China Miéville is the kind of writer who can take really absurd situations and characters and make them not only believable but sympathetic. The world of UnLondon, and all it's strange and surreal characters and places are so far from anything in this world, born out of an amazing, dream-like imagination. And yet the story easily sucks you in, and soon you are not questioning how and why, but cheering on your favourite characters, and hoping they make it through to the end.
Zanna and Deeba are best friends who live in an English housing estate. But Zanna is the Shwazzy, the chosen one, the one who will defeat the smog and save UnLondon. But when things don't go according to prophecy, it is Deeba, the unchosen one, who must step in.
What do I love about this novel? I love that Deeba is just a normal girl like the rest of us, someone who thinks she is not special, knows she is not chosen, but does what she has to to proetect her friends and family. This makes her a real hero. It's one thing to be talented and special and fight when it's easy, it's another to do it when it's hard.
I love the surreal world of UnLondon, a kind of twin city to London, but utterly different. It's a place where all the unwanted things of London, the trash and treasure, come. Houses are made of junk (A.K.A. moil), there is a tree of fireworks from Guy Fawkes day, and even a town of ghost people from both London and UnLondon. There is so much else...including giraffes...
One of the things that helps with this strange world is the little illustrations throughout the book, drawn by China Miéville himself, which help visualise the strange houses and creatures that fill his world. He creates such a complete world, it's hard to not believe that it might not actually exist, only waiting for us to find a hidden path to it. And apparently there are others of these 'abcities' all around the world.
Among all the other wonderful people and creatures, I really loved the Extreme Librarians or Bookaneers, who work in a gigantic tower of books. It is a dangerous job, searching for books in trips that can take weeks on end. One of them was once even lost and never found again.
Un Lun Dun, like it's namesake, really needs to be experienced to be believed! It is an amazing, totally immersive experience, and one that I enthusiastically recommend!