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 is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.
A short, dark fairytale, Kafka rewritten by David Mitchell, and may well be the best thing you'll read all year. -- Alex Preston, 'Fiction highlights for 2016' Guardian Mieville's solid, world-creating imagination is shown to powerful effect in this novella ... Superb. Sunday Times Harrowing beauty and existential disorientation ... it's a Mieville book, after all ... The interpretative stakes are high enough to give you a nosebleed. -- Helen Oyeyemi The Week Mieville'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 Mieville 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 Mieville'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. -- Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday Gripping and tantalisingly elusive ... akin to trying to remember an important yet only half-understood event. SFX Mieville is regarded as one of the most interesting and freakishly gifted writers of his generation. He has an astonishing facility - rare in writers of imaginative fiction - for invention ... The prose is as precise ad the writing done by a monumental mason, but it has been chiselled into a realistic depiction of fog. It is eerie but solid. Daily Telegraph Powerful ... [China Mieville's] imagination is powerful, his outlook original and he's an amazing teller of stories; yet he never loses his grip on the "reality" of his characters, and he observes the literary rules of his so-called genre only by breaking them. -- Kate Saunders The Times China Mieville has a gift for turning the strange into the given, and this elusive little world is conveyed with precision and vividness. The result is an ingenious novella that lingers in the mind like an unsettling dream. Financial Times Extraordinary ... This Census-Taker bends, flexes and manipulates invention on a scale that would keep a more conventional imagination occupied for hundreds of pages ... Over and over again, book after book, Mieville's mature work forces the reader to ask the question that most writers get to prompt once in a literary lifetime if they're lucky: what is this new thing we are being shown? Repeatedly, as a writer of the fantastic, he forces a redefinition of what fantasy can be ... It is optic, an angle of vision, a new-ground lens applied to a world that, through it, swims and bleeds and discloses what it would not have done otherwise. Guardian [China Mieville] is just regarded as one of the most interesting and freakishly gifted writers of his generation, an estimation this novella only upholds. Observer This sparse, surreal novel brilliantly shows the gradual unfolding of piecemeal memories following a trauma. Washington Post Compelling ... the classic Mieville themes of power, alienation and politics are never far from the surface, and the tale lingers in the memory. Chicago Tribune This Census-Taker is the book you read when you're looking for something that will haunt your dreams for weeks (or months) after you put it down. It is a grown-up fairy tale with a black and murderous heart, about a boy convinced that his father is a murderer. One of China Mieville's greatest strengths is his ability to see his imaginary worlds through the eyes of his characters, not of his readers ... This is Mieville at his most sparse, his most controlled and restrained NPR
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