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The Smog, the villain of Un Lun Dun and malevolent by-product of the industrial revolution, is an apt metaphor for capitalism. Its indeterminate shape easily seeps into spaces and occupies all things, so that there are no defenses against it. Intoxicating, it renders humans into addicts of its substance and urges them to commit horrible acts. It can imitate beings, so that it can appear as someone you can trust. The Smog can also persuade others to become its allies, by appealing to their greed, fear, or hunger for power.

Preoccupied by its indiscriminate appetite, the Smog desires to devour all things—books, houses, cities—in order to accumulate knowledge. If it succeeds, nothing will live, only it: “The Smog would be colossal, a supergenius, of millions of minds and millions of books, all mixed in its poison, ruling over a kingdom of ash.” The Smog will consume even its allies, with the purposeful anarchy of capitalism.

The struggle against the Smog involves a sudden apprehension of its true presence, of its devouring nature: things are not right, even dangerous. To fight the Smog, you must understand its essence: intoxicating, persuasive, amorphous, and greedy. To vanquish this villain, you must counter those qualities.


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