Book Review – This Census-Taker by China Mieville

As I write this little review I’m still not sure what I thought of this book. I know that sounds weird, and maybe that’s the point. Do I judge this on my enjoyment levels as I read, or on the thoughts I still have, days after reading?

To explain the plot would leave you scratching your head, and certainly put you off reading this. If you enjoy Kafka for the way things don’t make sense, although they also kind of do, then this may be the story for you. 

People act weird, some are forbidden from leaving the strange little town, the local kids seem to have no families, timelines shift, people disappear. And other stuff.

Our plucky narrator’s father has a business where he makes keys. But are these keys actually to open a physical lock, or something much more ethereal? And what about that hole in the cave, you know, the one where he disposes of the animals he kills?

What happened to the kid’s mother; was she murdered by his father or did she just leave them? Or did she kill the father? (See; weird.)

When the titular character turns up towards the end you still don’t get any answers, not really. Perhaps I was missing something in the subtext, or perhaps that was the point. As I read I realised I probably wasn’t going to get a clean and polished explanation. And at the time of completing the story I was a little deflated at this. But the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the strangeness and uneasy feelings this book produced.

It’s not at all like Mieville’s other work and I supposed this should be applauded and not derided. 

Writing this review has helped me decide that actually yes, I did enjoy this book. I may not recommend it to others who are new to this author, but it weirded and creeped me out in its own subtle way.

Categories: book review

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2 replies

  1. It sounds like Mieville writes all around the plot instead of actually IN the plot. Interesting . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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