This Census-Taker

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What to expect

In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a traumatic event. He tries – and fails – to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape.

When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.

But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?

A novella filled with beauty, terror and strangeness, This Census-Taker by China Miéville is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.

Critics Review

  • A short, dark fairytale, Kafka rewritten by David Mitchell, and may well be the best thing you’ll read all year.

    Guardian
  • Miéville’s solid, world-creating imagination is shown to powerful effect in this novella . . . a vague and misty (and, incidentally, superb) tale about the need to get things absolutely straight.

    Sunday Times
  • Harrowing beauty and existential disorientation . . . it’s a Miéville book, after all. As I write this I can very clearly picture two scenes from this story about a boy who witnesses a killing in his isolated rural home. Not a word is said aloud in either scene, but the interpretative stakes in both are high enough to give you a nosebleed.

    The Week
  • Miéville’s brain-twisting, inventive use of language pins the indefinable to the page, reading this slim book feels like gasping a lungful of air, holding it throughout the letting it out slowly, wondering what just happened. A challenging, thought-provoking read.

    Metro
  • Miéville creates a beautiful landscape in an uncertain country and era . . . Wonderfully rendered . . . What we’re allowed to see and to know takes on an incredible power. This Census-Taker takes root quickly, and you won’t soon forget it.

    SciFi Now
  • A stark and subtle fable that manages to be both lapidary and nebulous at the same time. “Haunting” does not do justice to its exquisitely eerie properties . . . This is the most poetic of Miéville’s books so far . . . It can be appreciated just for its complex psychology and emotional impact – it is by far his most plangent book, suffused with a tight-lipped melancholy.

    Scotland on Sunday

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