Un Lun Dun - China Miéville I wasn't sure whether or not to give this book a 3 or a 4 (if we had a more refined rating system, I'd give it a 3.7/3.8) because it started out a bit slow but as soon as Mieville focused on Deeba, the story picked up its pace and became much more interesting.

Short plot outline (which doesn't contain spoilers): Like many young-adult & adult fantasies, there's another version of London (and the world) that exists just "around the corner" or in between the stacks in a library that it's sometimes possible to get to. In this case, it's the city of UnLondon, where the trash and the obsolete (like old-style double-decker buses) and lost laundry wind up. Everything there is alive, so Deeba winds up with a pet milk carton named Curdle.

Zanna and Deeba are two young girls from London. Zanna is the Chosen One (the Shwazzy, corrupted French "choisir") prophesized to save UnLondon from the Smog (the sentient detritus of the pollution generated by our own world). Unfortunately, when they arrive, it turns out the prophecies were wrong and Zanna is dispatched (no, not killed, just "neutralized") rather easily by the Smog's minions. Fortunately, it appears that the Unbrellisimo, the ruler of the Unbrellas (no, that's not a mispelling, it's what broken umbrellas are called) has a plan to fight the Smog and everything looks like it will be all right so Zanna and Deeba return to London.

In the process of being saved, Zanna forgets everything that occurred in UnLondon but Deeba remembers and stumbles upon the fact that the scientist Unstible, who created the formula by which the Unbrellas became effective weapons against the Smog, died in London so she knows something is wrong, and manages to return to UnLondon to find out what it is and save her friends.

The rest of the novel is taken up with Deeba and her UnLondon friends' effort to save UnLondon.

I wound up really enjoying this book. The moral of the book is that a person's fate is not set in stone, that people make their own fates. It also stresses the importance of friendship, and manages to get in lessons about recycling and preserving our environment without being preachy. It also displays Mieville's usual inventiveness.

I'll be passing this along to my nieces, who may be a few years too young yet to appreciate it but will enjoy it eventually.