I know what you're thinking: Mystical quest. Chosen One. Spunky sidekick. Crossing over to another world. A young girl on a mission to save that world, and maybe our world, too. Epic fantasy. Besides, it's a kid's book. Been there, done that. But don't be too hasty, my friends, because China Mieville has something different in mind.
Imagine a fantasy quest whose Chosen One chooses not to participate. What then? If the person who is supposed to have all the answers lets you down, where do you go from there? Un Lun Dun is ultimately about the idea that any of us can be heroes if we're willing to take risks and stand up for what we know is right.
And now I've gone and made this sound like a boring instructional tract, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Check this out: Trashcan warriors. Sentient garbage. Vicious carnivorous giraffes. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, people! In his adult fantasies, Mieville is known for his skill and detail in creating his settings, and this one is no different.
Un Lun Dun is a world created out of the detritus of our own world, things that are used up or broken or no longer wanted cross over into Un Lun Dun and find a new purpose: garbage cans can become an elite fighting force and the trash itself can literally take on a life of its own.
The detail lavished on secondary characters and even bit players makes them come to life, and the story itself moves quickly. Like Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Un Lun Dun is clearly meant for a younger audience than most of his other work. But Mieville's adult audience will enjoy this book as much as Gaiman's fans enjoyed Coraline.
Un Lun Dun is funny without being frivolous, serious without being pedantic, and scary without being too much for its intended audience. It's an epic fantasy quest that doesn't behave at all like you would expect it to, and both kids and adults will be drawn to this strange and wonderful city and its inhabitants (both Good and Bad).