China Miéville is at the forefront of the “new weird”, but This Census-Taker, while weird, seems like a departure from his other books.
This Census-Taker is a book I liked but find hard to really recommend to others. The most interesting thing about it is the subtle hints to the larger world of his Bas-Lag series and finding and deciphering codes he hides in the book, such as italicized sentences spelling out “You know this” and “This census”.
I don’t know if there are more secrets hidden in the book (I just found those two) or if they are supposed to tell us something but they did take me out of the book when I discovered them.
However, there was much I liked in the book, first and foremost being the atmosphere, the sense of dread. The story, as much as This census-taker has a story, is about a boy who sees his father doing something to his mother. He runs down the mountain they live on into the small town nearby. He says his father killed his mother, his father says she simply went away. The boy then tries to come to terms with this new reality.
That’s it, that’s the whole story. But this is a Miéville, so there are layers and strangeness.
Great for people who like that sort of thing, probably not for those who like their books to have actual “stories”.