This Census-Taker PDF/EPUB Þ Kindle Edition

This Census-Taker PDF/EPUB Þ Kindle Edition


10 thoughts on “This Census-Taker

  1. Elena May Elena May says:

    That’s the last one of the Hugo finalist novellas I had set out to read The author describes his genre as “weird fiction” and I won’t argue here This is a strange book that leaves way too many open uestions and refuses to fit into any single genre And these are things I normally like I really admire books that manage to pull it off but this one didn’t do it at least not for me The writing is beautiful and there are elements I enjoyed – the magical keys the idea of three books the whole metaphor with animals in bottles – but overall it felt very disjointed I know it makes sense to be disjointed – it’s from the point of view of a confused and traumatized young boy But still it was hard to get into At last I did get into the story and then it ended Honestly the last 10 pages or so felt as if the story was about to begin


  2. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”I knew that by whatever means he’d killed it it was not to eat I wanted to cry; I stood still He had it by the neck Its brown body was bigger than a baby’s Its shovel head lolled and its nasty hook beak twitched open and closed to snap faintly with each of my father’s steps The bird’s broad feet dangled on the ground and bounced on stones as if it were trying to claw itself incompetently to a stop”There have been wars Civilization has fallen backwards and stalled in place People are getting by but others have lost everything and are on the verge of losing what little life they have remaining ”A haggard man used one of the huts as a home He lay on a sagging mattress his head on his pack surrounded by rubbish paper porcelain shards food remains and unidentifiable debris His hand was over his eyes He looked like a failed soldier Dirt seemed so worked into him that the lines of his face were like writing” There are also orphaned kids living together in town who band together for mutual survival The boy’s father is a key maker He makes keys to fit old machines He makes keys to change the weather He makes keys that turn the locks on hearts There is a mysticism about what he does Superstition has become almost a religion but like Voodoo it only works if you believe The boy lives on the hill He is an uphiller He has seen things He knows things about his father that others need proof to believe There is the hole in the cave a deep hole A hole that might go to the center of the earth When his mother disappears the boy has nightmares ”I thought of my mother’s hands hauling her up Of her climbing all grave mottled and with her face scabbed with old blood her arms and legs moving like sticks or the legs of insects or as stiff as toys as if maybe when you die and come back you forget what your body is”But his father insists his mother is still alive When the man who counts people arrives he might be the only chance the boy has to find out the real truth about his father This is a very strange novella with many of the Kafkaesue aspects of being trapped into circumstances that seem inescapable I was freuently confused for the first third of the book but after reading numerous China Mieville novels I knew I just needed to hang in there and eventually this world he was creating would become substantial and the clouds would part enough for me to see the ground By the end of the book I wanted I wanted to fold the book out like an accordion and find the rest of the story I wanted the lost notebook with the feverous scribbles of the where what and when I can see it in my mind’s eye written in faded red and blue ink whose words map out the future There are Gothic elements to the book the shapes in the shadows the menacing unknowable which also helps ratchet up the ever heightening sense of terror I felt my own tension increase as I too tried to find a way that the boy could escape a fate too unmentionable to put into words This is not the place to start when reading Mieville but it is a fascinating new wrinkle in an already outstandingly creative career This book shows Mieville’s ability to stretch his already prodigious talents into worlds beyond where he has already been beforeIf you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at


  3. Lyn Lyn says:

    Creepy weird little bookChina Mieville is self described as a writer in the “new weird” genre and so he is living up to his name Readers who enjoyed his The City the City andEmbassytown will know what I mean and he is following along this path in his 2016 publication Mieville has also stated that he wants to write a novel in every genre and this may be his Kafka entry as this blends elements of surrealism and absurdity into a complicated narrative set in imagery that seems to be always overcast dark and gloomyThe narrator looks back to his childhood sometimes writing in the third person but also makes circuitous references to his writing in the present He describes growing up in a Beckettesue house with his mother and father and lots of strange goings on His father is a key maker with hints towards the supernatural and mystical There are explanations about his parents being from different countries of accented languages and translated writings only thinly understood There are dirty street children who play mimic like games and who catch bats off a bridge There is a hole into darkness into which his father tosses refuse and the corpses of his murders There is a census taker who must write it all downMieville uses symbolism metaphor and simile to great advantage and creates a mood and dramatic tension that is intriguing and entertaining but freuently hard to followPerhaps not the best book for new readers and this may be regarded as one of his lesser works this is nonetheless a uniue visit with a very talented and imaginative writer


  4. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    You'll write it not because there's no possibility it'll be found but because it costs too much to not write it China Miéville This Census Taker LORD if you were to record iniuities Lord who could remain standing? Psalms 1303 International Standard VersionI would probably consider this to be a bridge novella spanning the gap somewhere between the shores of novel and novella; a scandal with gravity perhaps It weighs in at just a uinternion over 200 pages in a 575 x 75 format For Miéville this book is a surprise as much as any thing new with Miéville is ever REALLY a surprise It has the tone and feel of his earlier novels but this one is uite Spartan and reserved A couple stories in 'Three Moments of an Explosion' hinted at this styleHe has really dialed back his normal complexity his labyrinthian plots and prose This is a guy who knows he can dervish dance and dive with his prose and now KNOWS you know but is comfortable just sitting there like a jaguar all potential energy ready to pounce You can feel that confidence and almost relaxed alertness in his prose and in this story Anyway I expect I will be pointing to this novel in the future and saying this marks the beginning of a mature Miéville He isn't content to just dazzle us with his brain and unleashed torrents He's good now He will now slowly unsettle us with his art his craft the fog at the edge of our field of view and the cracks in caves that hold dark storiesI think part of this is due to time spent at the MacDowell colony reading John Hawkes and perhaps hanging with Denis Johnson


  5. Bradley Bradley says:

    I can't say that I'm completely satisfied with this novella but I can say that I'm haunted by it I'm haunted by all the little details that make up this world so much like our own the hints of wars and magics and strange chemicals and vials and keys that provide people with purpose and a way out or through the labyrinths of their lives Not to mention a very Schrodinger's Cat view of reality where murderers are and are not where the murdered is and is not where perhaps everything is rewritten and only census takers can determine the correct averageNot that I'm truly or even likely getting the grok of this novel I am just using my intuition But it's possibleWe've got a murder mystery first and foremost and not even the MC a kid who constantly doubts what he's seen can really take the measure of it No one in the town can but everyone suspects everythingAnd then there's the trademark monsters and monstrosities that Meivillé is so good atI can honestly say this feels like a mature work from his earlier stuff willing to take the slow path while all the little details encroach upon us from the periphery I respect it It also happens to be nominated for the '17 Hugos and while I wouldn't put it at the top of my list I totally agree it should be here It's very impressive in its way even if I catch myself wanting a lot than where it ended


  6. Philip Philip says:

    4ish stars For a horror novella there's not much horror At least not that we get any explicit glimpses of Just lots of creepinessThis is brilliantly written as the memoir of sorts of well this guy? Who's writing different books or something? And maybe he's being guarded? And he writes about his experiences as a kid I guess? And his dad may or may not have killed his mom? And there are like these magic keys? And then this mysterious dude comes?So basically it's hard to know what actually happens when our narrator isn't uite sure himself He's remembering his experiences as a child so not only are his memories bound to have grown hazy over the years but it's hard for us to know how much of the memories are accurate and how much of them are figments of a deeply traumatized child's imagination He presents them in first second and third person sporadically almost as if he's telling the story to himself at some points and trying to tell it as an outsider at others as a way to process and sort through his thoughts and memoriesThis is all about the mood It's creepy weird haunting ethereal And it's just so well written This is only my second Mieville but it's totally different from the other that I've read I think I've got a new author man crushPosted in Mr Philip's Library


  7. Althea Ann Althea Ann says:

    One of my Hugo Award nominees novella 2016 A boy runs screaming into a village having witnessed something horribleYears later the narrator tells us he is imprisoned under guard allowed to write this book in a solitary roomThere is something he tells us that his 'manager' told himYou never put anything down except to be read Every word ever written is written to be read and if some go unread that's only chance failure they're like grubs that die without changingSo my first is a book of numbers It's lists and calculations and for efficiency I write it using ciphers This first book's for everyone though almost no one wants it or would know how to read itThe third of my three books is for me You'll keep one is what he told me for you alone to read But you'll never be sure that no one else will read them that's the risk and that's how the third book works You'll write it not because there's no possibility it'll be found but because it costs too much to not write it The second book's for readers he said But you can't know when they'll come if they do It's the book for telling But you can still use it to tell secrets and send messages The second book's performanceThis is the second book In it this man this census taker tells us of his childhood and hints at how he came to be where he is and who he isIt's not a pleasant tale It's the tale of a child who has no one to trust The first thing we learn is that perhaps he cannot even trust his own memory He certainly cannot trust the psychopath that he is bound to The law cannot be depended on to protect him His friends are incapable of doing so Citizens wait for the presence of 'authority' but from where does that authority derive?Right before reading this book I has a discussion with some friends in which we bemoaned the recent popularity of stories with ambiguous endings which seem to be all too popular these days I have to admit in some ways this is one of these Both the narrator and the author know far than they are telling and the reader is left to guess Much of this world exists outside the scope of these pages There's as much going on outside that circumference as there is within it However nevertheless I absolutely loved this book It didn't feel unfinished and at no point did I feel like Miéville was 'cheating' by refusing to make a decision He knows than he's telling here but he definitely knows The book is beautifully structured with every element working in the context of the whole and working around to a feeling of closing the circle of completion even though much is yet unrevealedWhat is revealed is wonderfully tantalizing For much of the book on might guess that the setting is any of number of poverty stricken war torn contemporary locations But we do get to find out that it is a post apocalyptic setting after some kind of anti technology revolution However some people seem to retain some kind of abilities are they technology based or some kind of magic? We're not sureIn a way I believe that the point of the book is that it doesn't matter The average person has no idea how many things work We don't know here the point or goal of the census or why unknown forces might want or not want it completed What has a psychopathic killer fled and what has shaped his strange and terrifying dysfunctional episodes? We don't know but all these things ring true as things that just might not be known On the other hand the narrator does at the end refer to his book this book as a prologue It would certainly be wonderful if Miéville were to write a longer novel set in this intriguing world


  8. Arielle Arielle says:

    Wow I really seem to be in the minority here people loved this book Me? Not so much I'll write why as soon as I've gotten over my disappointment It just seemed so promising Disclaimer I may be unnecessarily hard on this book but that is only because of its lost potential and my belief that the author is one of the most essential writers of this era There's no denying China Miéville is an extraordinary challenging writer I've personally had a slightly mixed bag experience with his books beginning with the beguiling and utterly bonkers Railsea before falling utterly head over heels with the language of Embassytown The City the City was incredible but difficult slow going while Un Lun Dun was a perfectly adeuate disappointment feeling rather too derivative a younger Neverwhere perhaps but still fun The least of his books for me was Kraken which still felt somewhat too familiar and not nearly fun enough for its conceptHis best works are exceptional his worst at least inventive It's a fine line that separates the two and I think it has something to do with the combination of idea and language Railsea and Embassytown had both The City and the City had such an astounding idea that the duller writing was excused This Census Taker has an idea but it is hidden out of sight in the corners and crevices of the story You can catch glimpses of it out of the corner of your eye but there is nothing to grab on to nothing solid to hold Comprehension is not the end game here and this aspect of the story I unreservedly loved There are ruined cities and destroyed civilisations in the distance The boy is fighting to understand the destruction of his own small world while the world itself seems to be barely settling from its own destruction I pictured thisShaun Tan's worlds this one is from The Arrival and astounding imageries are a perfect fit and if this book were ever to be illustrated then he is the only one to do it justice I think But for it to be worthy of illustration this story needs some serious workThe lack of clarity is emphatically not an issue here It is the pure physical writing that lets down everything else I've seen Miéville spin words into gold pull the most obscure and perfect phrase from the depths of this language and possibly others too turn punctuation into plot and each time capture in all in the most perfect font possible Language for him is clearly incredibly important and his skill with it is undeniable So why is this book so painful to read? The constant changing of tenses is awkward the shifts between first second and third person perspectives are hideously clumsy Since reading this I've seen reviews that argue it intentionally re creates the confusion the main character is feeling The argument is admittedly very valid and fits with how Miéville tends to write pushing boundaries That doesn't mean it works Risks are essential yes and he seems always willing to take them Risks don't always pay off This review here by Bill Morris says it bestThere was no escaping the fact that I was reading a bad book by a very fine writer but it occurred to me that this was actually a good thing China Miéville a writer with an international cult following whose commercial success is every bit as secure as Murakami or Franzen’s had dared to do something that they so far have not He had dared to take risks he had dared to leave his comfort zone he had dared to fail And that’s precisely what he did I find a failure of this kind far admirable if not satisfying than another safe commercial successHis other words those that aren't changing tenses and times and perspectives lie flat and dull on the page There is no emotional investment we are left clinically cold and not through fear but through apathy If that was also the intent then I applaud it worked But his previous books have shown the ability to create a similar tension without the complete lack of emotion cardboard cutouts and I so badly wanted that to be the case againAs I said before This Census Taker has an idea but that is lost in the experiment I only wish the idea had triumphed here


  9. Paul Paul says:

    45 starsI have not read enough China Mieville This one is a fairly brief novella which is set in a post apocalyptic society although that part is much understated and you pick it up from clues along the way The beginning of the Guardian review sets the scene very well;“Any story that on its very first page redefines its protagonist from third to first person flips forward in time to offer a view of him from elsewhere makes a subtle alteration of tense and announces that the character’s age in the story is a matter of speculation even to the older self doing the narrating is going to be a story about perception whatever else it is”The boy who narrates lives with his parents in isolation on a hill near a run down town His father makes keys for the townspeople; these seem to have unusual properties which are never entirely defined “My father made keys His customers would come up from the town and ask for the things for which people usually ask—love money to open things to know the future to fix animals to fix things to be stronger to hurt someone or save someone to fly—and he'd make them a key”His father sometimes kills animals which he throws into a hole in a nearby cave These killings are disturbing and without reason The boy feels that sometimes people are thrown down there too One day the boy runs into town saying his father has killed his mother and he saw it His mother is nowhere to be found and his father says she left and produced a goodbye letter The boy remains in town for a while living with a group of street children Eventually his father fetches him back Life goes on and then the census taker arrives It is worth noting that the boy is not an entirely reliable narratorThe whole is rather eerie with lots of asides that don’t lead anywhere but are interesting in themselves Devotees of Mieville have argued that this is a Bas Lag story Mieville has written three novels in the Bas Lag series and will produce a great deal of evidence to make the argument There are nods in the book to Kafka and Borges and there is mystery suspense and magic and of course there is an element of fairy tale as well The narrator is writing as an adult and his circumstances are unclear as well Because Mieville is writing and telling through the eyes of a child there is a great deal left unasked and unexplained and the whole can feel sparse at times But then Mieville can also become almost baroue in its descriptiveness;“There I who’d known only the fierce spine backed fish of the mountain streams and their animalcule prey came to a sudden stop slack with awe before a glass tank big enough to contain me transported at some immense cost for I don’t know what market full not with me or with any person but of brine and clots of black weed and clenching polyps and huge starfish sluggishly crawling feeling their way over tank bottom stones like mottled hands”There is plenty of symbolism and the whole left me feeling that I do need to read by Mieville


  10. Thomas Wagner Thomas Wagner says:

    35 starsIt's not the epic novel China Miéville's readers have been anxiously awaiting since 2010's Embassytown That will come with 2016's The Last Days of New Paris But his novella This Census Taker proves that the New Weird superstar has not lost the ability to captivate and unnerve As with all of Miéville's work it begins with a city sprawling incongruously up the slopes of a pair of steep hills or perhaps small mountain peaks the gap between spanned by a bridge Near the top of one peak in one of the city's less desirable neighborhoods a boy lives with his parents The story that unfolds will be narrated by the man the boy will become looking back on a frightening and formative time in his life still groping for understandingThe boy's mother spends her days gardening and going on sojourns into the lower city where the boy accompanies her while she conducts business that's beyond a child's understanding His father is a keymaker Despite their personal dislike of the man citizens come to him with any number of reuests and he creates a key for them They aren't necessarily for doors The father labors over these for sometimes a whole day or The peak is high and the family's house is too large for their needs and falling into disrepair The boy whiles away his time in a large attic room where his parents rarely go making secret drawings on the fading wallpaper If there is a city dump it's too far to be convenient and his parents dispose of their trash by pitching it into a deep hole in a nearby cave This will be importantThe father has another aspect to his character that the boy discovers uite by accident continued


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This Census-Taker [Reading] ➶ This Census-Taker By China Miéville – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk In a remote house on a hilltop a lonely boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event He tries—and fails—to flee Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent he dreams of safety of joining the ot In a remote house on a hilltop a lonely boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event He tries—and fails—to flee Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent he dreams of safety of joining the other children in the town below of escape When at last a stranger knocks at his door the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries What is the purpose behind his uestions Is he friend Enemy Or something else altogether Filled with beauty terror and strangeness This Census Taker is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.

  • Kindle Edition
  • 224 pages
  • This Census-Taker
  • China Miéville
  • English
  • 07 February 2016

10 thoughts on “This Census-Taker

  1. Elena May Elena May says:

    That’s the last one of the Hugo finalist novellas I had set out to read The author describes his genre as “weird fiction” and I won’t argue here This is a strange book that leaves way too many open uestions and refuses to fit into any single genre And these are things I normally like I really admire books that manage to pull it off but this one didn’t do it at least not for me The writing is beautiful and there are elements I enjoyed – the magical keys the idea of three books the whole metaphor with animals in bottles – but overall it felt very disjointed I know it makes sense to be disjointed – it’s from the point of view of a confused and traumatized young boy But still it was hard to get into At last I did get into the story and then it ended Honestly the last 10 pages or so felt as if the story was about to begin

  2. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”I knew that by whatever means he’d killed it it was not to eat I wanted to cry; I stood still He had it by the neck Its brown body was bigger than a baby’s Its shovel head lolled and its nasty hook beak twitched open and closed to snap faintly with each of my father’s steps The bird’s broad feet dangled on the ground and bounced on stones as if it were trying to claw itself incompetently to a stop”There have been wars Civilization has fallen backwards and stalled in place People are getting by but others have lost everything and are on the verge of losing what little life they have remaining ”A haggard man used one of the huts as a home He lay on a sagging mattress his head on his pack surrounded by rubbish paper porcelain shards food remains and unidentifiable debris His hand was over his eyes He looked like a failed soldier Dirt seemed so worked into him that the lines of his face were like writing” There are also orphaned kids living together in town who band together for mutual survival The boy’s father is a key maker He makes keys to fit old machines He makes keys to change the weather He makes keys that turn the locks on hearts There is a mysticism about what he does Superstition has become almost a religion but like Voodoo it only works if you believe The boy lives on the hill He is an uphiller He has seen things He knows things about his father that others need proof to believe There is the hole in the cave a deep hole A hole that might go to the center of the earth When his mother disappears the boy has nightmares ”I thought of my mother’s hands hauling her up Of her climbing all grave mottled and with her face scabbed with old blood her arms and legs moving like sticks or the legs of insects or as stiff as toys as if maybe when you die and come back you forget what your body is”But his father insists his mother is still alive When the man who counts people arrives he might be the only chance the boy has to find out the real truth about his father This is a very strange novella with many of the Kafkaesue aspects of being trapped into circumstances that seem inescapable I was freuently confused for the first third of the book but after reading numerous China Mieville novels I knew I just needed to hang in there and eventually this world he was creating would become substantial and the clouds would part enough for me to see the ground By the end of the book I wanted I wanted to fold the book out like an accordion and find the rest of the story I wanted the lost notebook with the feverous scribbles of the where what and when I can see it in my mind’s eye written in faded red and blue ink whose words map out the future There are Gothic elements to the book the shapes in the shadows the menacing unknowable which also helps ratchet up the ever heightening sense of terror I felt my own tension increase as I too tried to find a way that the boy could escape a fate too unmentionable to put into words This is not the place to start when reading Mieville but it is a fascinating new wrinkle in an already outstandingly creative career This book shows Mieville’s ability to stretch his already prodigious talents into worlds beyond where he has already been beforeIf you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  3. Lyn Lyn says:

    Creepy weird little bookChina Mieville is self described as a writer in the “new weird” genre and so he is living up to his name Readers who enjoyed his The City the City andEmbassytown will know what I mean and he is following along this path in his 2016 publication Mieville has also stated that he wants to write a novel in every genre and this may be his Kafka entry as this blends elements of surrealism and absurdity into a complicated narrative set in imagery that seems to be always overcast dark and gloomyThe narrator looks back to his childhood sometimes writing in the third person but also makes circuitous references to his writing in the present He describes growing up in a Beckettesue house with his mother and father and lots of strange goings on His father is a key maker with hints towards the supernatural and mystical There are explanations about his parents being from different countries of accented languages and translated writings only thinly understood There are dirty street children who play mimic like games and who catch bats off a bridge There is a hole into darkness into which his father tosses refuse and the corpses of his murders There is a census taker who must write it all downMieville uses symbolism metaphor and simile to great advantage and creates a mood and dramatic tension that is intriguing and entertaining but freuently hard to followPerhaps not the best book for new readers and this may be regarded as one of his lesser works this is nonetheless a uniue visit with a very talented and imaginative writer

  4. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    You'll write it not because there's no possibility it'll be found but because it costs too much to not write it China Miéville This Census Taker LORD if you were to record iniuities Lord who could remain standing? Psalms 1303 International Standard VersionI would probably consider this to be a bridge novella spanning the gap somewhere between the shores of novel and novella; a scandal with gravity perhaps It weighs in at just a uinternion over 200 pages in a 575 x 75 format For Miéville this book is a surprise as much as any thing new with Miéville is ever REALLY a surprise It has the tone and feel of his earlier novels but this one is uite Spartan and reserved A couple stories in 'Three Moments of an Explosion' hinted at this styleHe has really dialed back his normal complexity his labyrinthian plots and prose This is a guy who knows he can dervish dance and dive with his prose and now KNOWS you know but is comfortable just sitting there like a jaguar all potential energy ready to pounce You can feel that confidence and almost relaxed alertness in his prose and in this story Anyway I expect I will be pointing to this novel in the future and saying this marks the beginning of a mature Miéville He isn't content to just dazzle us with his brain and unleashed torrents He's good now He will now slowly unsettle us with his art his craft the fog at the edge of our field of view and the cracks in caves that hold dark storiesI think part of this is due to time spent at the MacDowell colony reading John Hawkes and perhaps hanging with Denis Johnson

  5. Bradley Bradley says:

    I can't say that I'm completely satisfied with this novella but I can say that I'm haunted by it I'm haunted by all the little details that make up this world so much like our own the hints of wars and magics and strange chemicals and vials and keys that provide people with purpose and a way out or through the labyrinths of their lives Not to mention a very Schrodinger's Cat view of reality where murderers are and are not where the murdered is and is not where perhaps everything is rewritten and only census takers can determine the correct averageNot that I'm truly or even likely getting the grok of this novel I am just using my intuition But it's possibleWe've got a murder mystery first and foremost and not even the MC a kid who constantly doubts what he's seen can really take the measure of it No one in the town can but everyone suspects everythingAnd then there's the trademark monsters and monstrosities that Meivillé is so good atI can honestly say this feels like a mature work from his earlier stuff willing to take the slow path while all the little details encroach upon us from the periphery I respect it It also happens to be nominated for the '17 Hugos and while I wouldn't put it at the top of my list I totally agree it should be here It's very impressive in its way even if I catch myself wanting a lot than where it ended

  6. Philip Philip says:

    4ish stars For a horror novella there's not much horror At least not that we get any explicit glimpses of Just lots of creepinessThis is brilliantly written as the memoir of sorts of well this guy? Who's writing different books or something? And maybe he's being guarded? And he writes about his experiences as a kid I guess? And his dad may or may not have killed his mom? And there are like these magic keys? And then this mysterious dude comes?So basically it's hard to know what actually happens when our narrator isn't uite sure himself He's remembering his experiences as a child so not only are his memories bound to have grown hazy over the years but it's hard for us to know how much of the memories are accurate and how much of them are figments of a deeply traumatized child's imagination He presents them in first second and third person sporadically almost as if he's telling the story to himself at some points and trying to tell it as an outsider at others as a way to process and sort through his thoughts and memoriesThis is all about the mood It's creepy weird haunting ethereal And it's just so well written This is only my second Mieville but it's totally different from the other that I've read I think I've got a new author man crushPosted in Mr Philip's Library

  7. Althea Ann Althea Ann says:

    One of my Hugo Award nominees novella 2016 A boy runs screaming into a village having witnessed something horribleYears later the narrator tells us he is imprisoned under guard allowed to write this book in a solitary roomThere is something he tells us that his 'manager' told himYou never put anything down except to be read Every word ever written is written to be read and if some go unread that's only chance failure they're like grubs that die without changingSo my first is a book of numbers It's lists and calculations and for efficiency I write it using ciphers This first book's for everyone though almost no one wants it or would know how to read itThe third of my three books is for me You'll keep one is what he told me for you alone to read But you'll never be sure that no one else will read them that's the risk and that's how the third book works You'll write it not because there's no possibility it'll be found but because it costs too much to not write it The second book's for readers he said But you can't know when they'll come if they do It's the book for telling But you can still use it to tell secrets and send messages The second book's performanceThis is the second book In it this man this census taker tells us of his childhood and hints at how he came to be where he is and who he isIt's not a pleasant tale It's the tale of a child who has no one to trust The first thing we learn is that perhaps he cannot even trust his own memory He certainly cannot trust the psychopath that he is bound to The law cannot be depended on to protect him His friends are incapable of doing so Citizens wait for the presence of 'authority' but from where does that authority derive?Right before reading this book I has a discussion with some friends in which we bemoaned the recent popularity of stories with ambiguous endings which seem to be all too popular these days I have to admit in some ways this is one of these Both the narrator and the author know far than they are telling and the reader is left to guess Much of this world exists outside the scope of these pages There's as much going on outside that circumference as there is within it However nevertheless I absolutely loved this book It didn't feel unfinished and at no point did I feel like Miéville was 'cheating' by refusing to make a decision He knows than he's telling here but he definitely knows The book is beautifully structured with every element working in the context of the whole and working around to a feeling of closing the circle of completion even though much is yet unrevealedWhat is revealed is wonderfully tantalizing For much of the book on might guess that the setting is any of number of poverty stricken war torn contemporary locations But we do get to find out that it is a post apocalyptic setting after some kind of anti technology revolution However some people seem to retain some kind of abilities are they technology based or some kind of magic? We're not sureIn a way I believe that the point of the book is that it doesn't matter The average person has no idea how many things work We don't know here the point or goal of the census or why unknown forces might want or not want it completed What has a psychopathic killer fled and what has shaped his strange and terrifying dysfunctional episodes? We don't know but all these things ring true as things that just might not be known On the other hand the narrator does at the end refer to his book this book as a prologue It would certainly be wonderful if Miéville were to write a longer novel set in this intriguing world

  8. Arielle Arielle says:

    Wow I really seem to be in the minority here people loved this book Me? Not so much I'll write why as soon as I've gotten over my disappointment It just seemed so promising Disclaimer I may be unnecessarily hard on this book but that is only because of its lost potential and my belief that the author is one of the most essential writers of this era There's no denying China Miéville is an extraordinary challenging writer I've personally had a slightly mixed bag experience with his books beginning with the beguiling and utterly bonkers Railsea before falling utterly head over heels with the language of Embassytown The City the City was incredible but difficult slow going while Un Lun Dun was a perfectly adeuate disappointment feeling rather too derivative a younger Neverwhere perhaps but still fun The least of his books for me was Kraken which still felt somewhat too familiar and not nearly fun enough for its conceptHis best works are exceptional his worst at least inventive It's a fine line that separates the two and I think it has something to do with the combination of idea and language Railsea and Embassytown had both The City and the City had such an astounding idea that the duller writing was excused This Census Taker has an idea but it is hidden out of sight in the corners and crevices of the story You can catch glimpses of it out of the corner of your eye but there is nothing to grab on to nothing solid to hold Comprehension is not the end game here and this aspect of the story I unreservedly loved There are ruined cities and destroyed civilisations in the distance The boy is fighting to understand the destruction of his own small world while the world itself seems to be barely settling from its own destruction I pictured thisShaun Tan's worlds this one is from The Arrival and astounding imageries are a perfect fit and if this book were ever to be illustrated then he is the only one to do it justice I think But for it to be worthy of illustration this story needs some serious workThe lack of clarity is emphatically not an issue here It is the pure physical writing that lets down everything else I've seen Miéville spin words into gold pull the most obscure and perfect phrase from the depths of this language and possibly others too turn punctuation into plot and each time capture in all in the most perfect font possible Language for him is clearly incredibly important and his skill with it is undeniable So why is this book so painful to read? The constant changing of tenses is awkward the shifts between first second and third person perspectives are hideously clumsy Since reading this I've seen reviews that argue it intentionally re creates the confusion the main character is feeling The argument is admittedly very valid and fits with how Miéville tends to write pushing boundaries That doesn't mean it works Risks are essential yes and he seems always willing to take them Risks don't always pay off This review here by Bill Morris says it bestThere was no escaping the fact that I was reading a bad book by a very fine writer but it occurred to me that this was actually a good thing China Miéville a writer with an international cult following whose commercial success is every bit as secure as Murakami or Franzen’s had dared to do something that they so far have not He had dared to take risks he had dared to leave his comfort zone he had dared to fail And that’s precisely what he did I find a failure of this kind far admirable if not satisfying than another safe commercial successHis other words those that aren't changing tenses and times and perspectives lie flat and dull on the page There is no emotional investment we are left clinically cold and not through fear but through apathy If that was also the intent then I applaud it worked But his previous books have shown the ability to create a similar tension without the complete lack of emotion cardboard cutouts and I so badly wanted that to be the case againAs I said before This Census Taker has an idea but that is lost in the experiment I only wish the idea had triumphed here

  9. Paul Paul says:

    45 starsI have not read enough China Mieville This one is a fairly brief novella which is set in a post apocalyptic society although that part is much understated and you pick it up from clues along the way The beginning of the Guardian review sets the scene very well;“Any story that on its very first page redefines its protagonist from third to first person flips forward in time to offer a view of him from elsewhere makes a subtle alteration of tense and announces that the character’s age in the story is a matter of speculation even to the older self doing the narrating is going to be a story about perception whatever else it is”The boy who narrates lives with his parents in isolation on a hill near a run down town His father makes keys for the townspeople; these seem to have unusual properties which are never entirely defined “My father made keys His customers would come up from the town and ask for the things for which people usually ask—love money to open things to know the future to fix animals to fix things to be stronger to hurt someone or save someone to fly—and he'd make them a key”His father sometimes kills animals which he throws into a hole in a nearby cave These killings are disturbing and without reason The boy feels that sometimes people are thrown down there too One day the boy runs into town saying his father has killed his mother and he saw it His mother is nowhere to be found and his father says she left and produced a goodbye letter The boy remains in town for a while living with a group of street children Eventually his father fetches him back Life goes on and then the census taker arrives It is worth noting that the boy is not an entirely reliable narratorThe whole is rather eerie with lots of asides that don’t lead anywhere but are interesting in themselves Devotees of Mieville have argued that this is a Bas Lag story Mieville has written three novels in the Bas Lag series and will produce a great deal of evidence to make the argument There are nods in the book to Kafka and Borges and there is mystery suspense and magic and of course there is an element of fairy tale as well The narrator is writing as an adult and his circumstances are unclear as well Because Mieville is writing and telling through the eyes of a child there is a great deal left unasked and unexplained and the whole can feel sparse at times But then Mieville can also become almost baroue in its descriptiveness;“There I who’d known only the fierce spine backed fish of the mountain streams and their animalcule prey came to a sudden stop slack with awe before a glass tank big enough to contain me transported at some immense cost for I don’t know what market full not with me or with any person but of brine and clots of black weed and clenching polyps and huge starfish sluggishly crawling feeling their way over tank bottom stones like mottled hands”There is plenty of symbolism and the whole left me feeling that I do need to read by Mieville

  10. Thomas Wagner Thomas Wagner says:

    35 starsIt's not the epic novel China Miéville's readers have been anxiously awaiting since 2010's Embassytown That will come with 2016's The Last Days of New Paris But his novella This Census Taker proves that the New Weird superstar has not lost the ability to captivate and unnerve As with all of Miéville's work it begins with a city sprawling incongruously up the slopes of a pair of steep hills or perhaps small mountain peaks the gap between spanned by a bridge Near the top of one peak in one of the city's less desirable neighborhoods a boy lives with his parents The story that unfolds will be narrated by the man the boy will become looking back on a frightening and formative time in his life still groping for understandingThe boy's mother spends her days gardening and going on sojourns into the lower city where the boy accompanies her while she conducts business that's beyond a child's understanding His father is a keymaker Despite their personal dislike of the man citizens come to him with any number of reuests and he creates a key for them They aren't necessarily for doors The father labors over these for sometimes a whole day or The peak is high and the family's house is too large for their needs and falling into disrepair The boy whiles away his time in a large attic room where his parents rarely go making secret drawings on the fading wallpaper If there is a city dump it's too far to be convenient and his parents dispose of their trash by pitching it into a deep hole in a nearby cave This will be importantThe father has another aspect to his character that the boy discovers uite by accident continued

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