Well, okay, this isn't a perfect book. I usually prefer more serious ones. But in many ways,this is the perfect 3rdpoliceman book. If you saw this in a bookshop, you'd say "Oh! This would be the perfect 3rdpoliceman book! I should buy it for him!" Though the idea that random strangers on the internet would be buying books for me is kind of odd.
Anyway, the best way I can describe this is Lewis Carroll's Alice books meets Neverwhere, though it has dashes of both Phantom Tollbooth and Captain Bluebear (especially with the brilliant illustrations in the case of the latter). So you can guess what kind of books I like. Anyway, the main characters are two young girls named Zanna and Deeba (their names are just so great...you can tell what kind of book it is just from their names) who enter a world called Un London
, an opposite version of London where all the lost and broken things go. It is filled with odd characters and interesting ideas, and the illustrations fit in perfectly with this strange, unique world.
Warning: Spoiler in this next paragraph. Zanna is told she is the Schwazzy, the chosen one prophesised to defeat the Smog, the villain of the piece (great idea for a villain, and has an Aesop which isn't rammed down our throats). Now, the thing is, China Mieville doesn't like going along with normal fantasy-world cliches. So, basically, the whole plot manages to subvert the whole idea of the hero defeating the villain just because a magical talking book said so. Which I think is just great. The whole chosen one concept was what originally put me off YA. Finally, a book that tears it to pieces.
Anyway, there follows an amazing adventure, bursting with originality and characters such as the Binja (ninja bins), Hemi (a half-ghost boy), Giraffes (monstrous creatures that terrorise Un London
), and Brokenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas (or to be more specific, unbrellas).
So yes, this book is aimed at younger readers (12+). But it's just so good. I just hope Tim Burton doesn't get his grubby hands on it, or we'll have Alice in Wonderland all over again...