Waterstones was having a promotion of books featuring London and I'd heard good things about China Miéville so I added it to the pile. What I hadn't appreciated was that Un Lun Dun
is in fact a children's book - maybe aiming for a slightly younger audience than the young-adult novels that seem so popular at the moment. While it's a whopping 521 pages, the print is somewhat large and the text is liberally littered with little sketches of something from that point in the story.
Once I got over the 'disappointment' that this wasn't a 'proper' novel, I was able to settle in to it pretty quickly. And it's a truely delightful story. Subverting and referencing so many of the genre tropes, it's a book that is literally packed with fabulously clever ideas. The worry is always that when an author is so keen to fit clever ideas into a novel that the plot and characterisation will suffer - not so here. Mieville has a clear plot laid out where two young London girls find themselves in a parallel Un Lun Dun world. Before long, of course, we find out that Un Lun Dun is a city in dire peril - although luckily there is a prophesy that a young girl, and her friend, will appear and save them. So far so predictable. And that's when Miéville takes his cue to start messing with the rules...
Delightful, again, is the key word for this book for me - the story, the characters (especially the vast cast of secondary characters) and the drawings too. Nothing feels wasted, nothing feels dumbed down for 'the kids'. My only real complaint is the use of 'youth language' - the "inits" just felt a little too forced, and a little too frequent. If this is how China Miéville writes children's books I'm going to have to add some of his older fiction to my to-read list.