With his last release, the short story collection Three Moments of an Explosion, barely six months behind him, China Miéville starts off the year with a brand-new novella.
Don’t be deceived by the shorter length, though; This Census-Taker packs a lot of challenging ideas into a slim story. In all honesty, writing a review of this novella after only reading it once feels exceedingly difficult. There is a hypnotic, nightmarish feel to the loose events contained herein, which is as appropriate as it is harrowing as we watch the narrator’s traumatic story unfold. The boy—sometimes “I” or even “you”—lives on a steep hill, across from another hill, connected by a bridge that contains a town. The novella opens with the boy fleeing his home after witnessing his mother kill his father. Only then he believes his father killed his mother, but there is no physical proof. Yet there is damning behavior suggesting the father, a kind of magical tradesman, has been working in the service of an older evil. There’s a hole in the hill, you see, where the father delivers murdered creatures and customers, and very likely, the narrator’s mother.