This Census-Taker by China Miéville
Del Rey, 2017; 272 pp
Reviewed by Britny Brooks
You can tell it anyway you want, he said, you can be I or he or she or we or they or you and you won’t be lying, though you might be telling two stories at once. (32)
Depending on how you look at it, China Miéville’s This Census-Taker is either a short novel or a long novella. A trip into a world that is just as ambiguous, Miéville tells the story that is part horror, part fantasy, part Borgesian-fiction, and part murder mystery through the eyes of a young boy who lives on a foggy mountain top. If you aren’t familiar with Miéville’s earlier work, his flurry of ideas, the unreliable recollections of the narrator, the shifting surroundings, and disjointed chronological structure might take you by surprise—it’s a lot to fit into a little over two hundred pages.
This short read feels anything but, and feels akin to a meticulous painting that refuses to give up it’s secrets to just any cursory glance. It is beautifully written and often pulls you in so deep that you can actually feel the chills on the back of your neck from the encroaching darkness and mist. Miéville executes the telling of multiple “stories at once” with a grace and minute attention-detail that feels baffling and pushes the boundaries of cross-genre novels in a way that makes you excited for what’s to come. While not for everyone, This Census-Taker is a book that everyone should try to read at least once and that writers of all genres should keep in mind when they sit down to write.