I finished this book a little more than a week ago, so this review is very late but I had my reasons. The first one is that I am super lazy and the second is that this book is very weird.
This Census-Taker is a story of a boy. At the beginning of the book, we learn that his mother killed his father. Or that his father killed his mother. He didn’t see blood but he is sure that someone was murdered and he’s scared, so he runs away.
So yes this is one of the shortest synopsis in the history but really I am not sure that I could give a longer one.
This book is weird. I was expecting it because Miéville is the “Master of the New Weird” but still it was WEIRD. However, I enjoyed a lot the experience of reading this novella.
Reading This Census-Taker was like reading a dream, you know in your heart that it makes absolutely no sense yet, it doesn’t bother you.
This book is a really interesting reflexion on childhood, about how we see the world, other people and ourselves as a child.
This story takes place when the boy is young and we see the world he lives in through his eyes. He doesn’t know a lot about it because he’s not intrigued by it at all. He much prefers talking about his goats, his paintings or his father’s strange behavior. Like the fact that his dad kills animals by beating them to death before throwing their bodies in a bottomless pit for no reason other that he feels the need to do so.
The boy is sure that his father also kills people (hence the murder of his mother) but he has no actual evidence of it. Because of his lack of proof, when he runs away after the murder he thinks he witnessed, nobody believes him and he is sent back to his father with the deep feeling that he is going to be killed.
This story has a unique structure. It is told by the boy many years after the events and the narration constantly switch between first and third person as if the man now telling the story needs to untie himself from his memories.
If you are a big fantasy reader and that you want your stories to set in a fantastical world, you won’t enjoy this. The only elements of fantasy are the magical keys the boy’s father creates which can, for example, bring love, change the weather or fix things.
This book is set around a mystery and like all mysteries, you want to unlock them. However, don’t expect Miéville to answer your questions because, well, he’s not going to.
Would I recommend it to you?
I don’t know. If This Census-Taker intrigues you then, yes, you should give it a try but keep in mind that it is going to leave you with a number of unanswered question.
It was my first book by Miéville but I can’t wait to read other of his works this year. I will probably read The City & the City next month.