This *sniff* was my last *sob* China Mieville. I discovered him three-ish years ago, and have been rationing his books, but now I’m done! And now I have to wait till he writes something new! Woe is me!
Ahem. Anyway. I didn’t adore this one, which makes it all the more woeful, but so-so YA China is better than no China at all.
Deeba and her friend Zanna are in high school, and manage to make their way to a mysterious hidden land full of lost things and misfit toys, flying buses and sentient schools of fish, evil smog and thieving ghosts. As they move through this mirror world of UnLondon, they discover that Zanna is the Prophesied one, destined to save UnLondoners from the evil smog.
Except Zanna promptly gets knocked out, infiltrated by smog, and loses her memory as soon as she and Deeba get back to regular London. When Deeba finds out that the Smog is working on the London side too, she decides to get back to UnLondon to warn her friends about a Nefarious Plot. Adventure and heroism ensue.
I know “special kid/kids find their way to a magical land and have adventures” is not exactly a fresh idea in the first place, but I’m always a little disappointed in China’s books that are set in the real world (or his version of real, anyway). I’ve read all his Bas-Lag books! I know the dude is astoundingly creative and original! His world-building is what made me love his books in the first place. So why, when he doesn’t bother building his own world, does it all feel like a Neverwhere retread?
Besides all that, though, I did like his spin on a familiar tale. The sidekick is the hero, and she does things her own way. When the book of prophecies tells her she has to collect seven special items in order to defeat the Smog, she collects the first one and then decides “screw this, this is gonna take forever” and skips straight to the last step. She is kind and thoughtful, making allies wherever she goes. There are near misses and creative problem solving and all sorts of fun stuff.
It’s a fine romp of an adventure tale, but I find myself expecting more from this particular author.