When I was a child I spent an inordinate amount of time in cupboards, looking for a way into Narnia; I suspect that had this book been around I would have also spent much time trying out the various ways into UnLondon. Really, I want a way in!
Un Lun Dun is the story of two teenage Londoners, Zanna and Deeba, who get embroiled in a plot by the evil Smog to take over UnLondon. It would seem that Zanna is the prophesied Chosen One, sent to save UnLondon from its polluted enemy. But things aren't quite what they seem...
This is a fantastically inventive book. The way it mixes real London with mythical UnLondon is amazing and there's so much of it that I'm sure anyone who doesn't live in London will miss much, in fact there is much that the non-Londoner and especially any non-English readers simply won't get. But don't let that put you off. The basic story is of good triumphing over evil and it's fresh and exciting enough to keep any reader going, even the most demanding teenager, at whom the book is really aimed. It might well be that the language and the humour is too rich and too 'grown-up' for much of the target audience, but apparently kids today are much more sophisticated than I was at that age, and it's certainly nice to read a book that doesn't condescend to the younger reader.
Many elements of the book made me smile, such as the poker-straight Smeath, very different from our own twisty Thames. But it's not just these elements that make this such a great book. There is a wonderfully eclectic cast of characters, the variety of whom won't come as a surprise to any of Mieville's readers. But unlike many of his other books, you genuinely care about these characters. You want them to defeat the Smog and you feel just as devastated as them when the truth about the Klinneract is revealed.
The Smog is, as you might have guessed, pollution, and it is easy to read this as a warning about carbon emissions, a reminder that our actions here and now affect others in different places. And Un Lun Dun is this, but it's also a wonderful adventure story that is simply a delight to read.