China Mieville has been publishing novels since I was in high school and I’ve been meaning to read him since about the same time. He has a reputation for being an inventive and experimental genre writer with a literary bent – which is another way of saying “In My Wheelhouse”.
Sadly, I’ve stared with his latest work – a slight and unimpressive novella about a young boy whose father may or may not have killed his mother.
What a disappointment. While there’s some nice writing and evocative imagery peppered through its 200 pages, This Census-Taker is a puzzling and obtuse book with thin characters and a barely-there plot.
It’s stuck in that middle ground that afflicts a lot of novellas – too long to work as a short story but not nearly substantive enough to pass as a novel. For such a brief book it’s strangely plodding and inert, devoid of action or tension, and it all adds up to not much at all.
China Mieville may well be a signficant writer – and I certainly intend to read more because by all accounts his other books are far superior – but this is an insignificant work that doesn’t deserve your time.
Next: a political novel, sort of