- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (January 12, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1101967323
- ISBN-13: 978-1101967324
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 83 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This Census-Taker Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 12, 2016
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“China Miéville is a magician . . . who can both blow your mind with ideas as big as the universe and break your heart with language so precise and polished, it’s like he’s writing with diamonds.”—NPR
“The book haunts the reader; what actually happened seems always just out of reach, glimpsed in shadow as it rounds a corner ahead of our vision.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“[Mieville’s] been compared to Karen Russell and George Saunders, and rightfully so.”—The Huffington Post
“Lingers in the mind like an unsettling dream.”—Financial Times
“A thought-provoking fairy tale for adults . . . [This Census-Taker] resembles the narrative style, quirkiness, and plotting found in the works of Karen Russell, Aimee Bender, or Steven Millhauser.”—Booklist
“Brief and dreamlike . . . a deceptively simple story whose plot could be taken as a symbolic representation of an aspect of humanity as big as an entire society and as small as a single soul.”—Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
China Miéville is the author of numerous books, including Three Moments of an Explosion, The City & The City, Embassytown, Railsea, and Perdido Street Station. His works have won the World Fantasy Award, the Hugo Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award (three times). He lives and works in London.
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You can read my reviews of all ten Locus Award novella finalists on my blog, which you can find on my author page: Good Feeling: seven short stories
Is this a bad story? No. Is it a good story? No. It's a fairly short story sold under its own cover and doesn't hold up to either being its own title or having a price like a novel. It tells the story of a boy, his difficult family life and how he ends up in what seems to be an interesting profession. But, the most interesting elements of the story (why the census is being taken as it is, his father's history and profession and the discovered details of his father's deeds) are all left unexplained. Mieville frequently leaves some interesting pieces of stories unexplained, but in this case, those were the only interesting things. I'm fine if he leaves a few things unexplained and details out others because the payoff on those is well worth the price of admission. But here, every aspect is left to speculation. That was probably intentional and meant to portray the world as the young boy would see it, but it leaves the reader wanting something to cling to.
As for the rest, this is a delightfully weird, ambiguous tale, full of brooding atmosphere and misdirection. On the very first page, we see signs of experimentation to come: a narrator who switches from first-person to third-person in the space of a paragraph. Those who seek a more literary flare combined with genre elements (the author himself decries the division between literary fiction and genre fiction, and does his best to commingle the best of each) will be pleased to see the author try.
And try he does. I almost gave this three stars, but the author's sheer boldness and temerity to take any risks at all, even when he falters, is something very few literary juggernauts are wont to do; rather, they prefer to stick to the same ol' conventions that catapulted them into the literary supremacy. Moreover, Mieville has dared to venture into stand-alone novellas, which is arguably the ideal form for his mode of fiction. But standards for high page count in publishing dictate many writers' processes, usually to their detriment: the most common sin is excessive padding, a blatant disregard for the readers' attention spans, and a penchant for logodiarrhea where concision would suffice.
Mieville is ever bold, unfettered, and generous with his pen; he refuses to acquiesce to the market's demands. He is always surprising, and that is the reason I will continue to buy/read his works. That is the reason I give this four stars instead of three.
(I can't say the same for Haruki Murakami, Jonathan Franzen, or even Salman Rushdie, at this point. A novel has to actually be novel.)
As a side note, are they gouging for e-books or what?! This book was a VERY short $12 read.
Lots of questions left unanswered to think about.
Not sure i would recommend it based on the plot alone but its a very interesting book and I loved the way its written.