Un Lun Dun-China Miéville
"It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book. When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong."
Ok so Miéville is writing for a young audience so his bombardment of alternative technologies is kept on the down low but his sense of pace, adventure, and whimsy is out in full force. This makes his style a less pompous seeming and bit more down to earth and he focuses on the plot more than usual. The ending is also unusually equivocally happier than his usual.
This novel is full of the cute ideas that I fixate on in his other novels but here he develops them thoroughly. There are many to choose from: the animation of trash, umbrella unbrella rebrella, words with minds of their own, a diving suit made of sea life who need it to walk on land, black window black widows, a gun as a prison. This reminds me a bit of Garth Nix's Day of the Week series and some of Neil Gaiman's work so perhaps Un Lun Dun isn't quite as original as Mieville's other books but it's so accessible that it was easy to overlook that.
His main moral (this is YA, there's gotta be an overarching message) is that freedom is better and you can choose your destiny. There're also some somewhat heavy-handed environmental metaphors and puns that step in but his heroine is also suitably strong as she steps into shoes she never expected to.
I know, I know, another Miéville?! I should just rename this blog thechinamievilleappreciationsociety.blogspot.com, eh?