LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

This Census Taker

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3-star

by China Miéville.

A boy comes running into town, crying murder. He is confused and upset, and it takes a while for the townsfolk (and for him) to understand what has happened. And even then, no one’s sure.

The first half of the story is – for the most part – scene setting, laying out the post-modern world of the hill where the boy and his parents live, and the town below; the tale itself doesn’t really get going until the second half. Miéville leads you through a landscape and a people you think you could know, or at least could relate to, but then realise you don’t recognise at all: the keymaker, his wife, the boy, the scavenger children, the sash-wearers, and, at the very last, the counter. And what he finds at the bottom of the bottomless hole in the hill.

At the same time rewarding and annoying, Miéville’s style is nothing if not imaginative.

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