This Census-Taker, China Mieville, Del Rey, 2016, 204 pp
Summary from Goodreads: For readers of George Saunders, Kelly Link, and Karen Russell, This Census Taker is the poignant and uncanny new novella from award-winning and bestselling author China Miéville. After witnessing a profoundly traumatic event, a boy is left alone in a remote house on a hilltop with his increasingly deranged parent. When a stranger knocks on his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation are over—but by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? Is he the boy’s friend? His enemy? Or something altogether other?
The second installment about my April reading slump.
I mostly have loved and admired the books I've read by Mieville. Kraken was a bit challenging and in This Census-Taker he challenged me beyond some limit I guess I have as a reader. In fact, coming after the Mahfouz book I read before it, this nearly incomprehensible story sent me further down into a reading slump, leading to lack of a desire to read. Unheard of for me!
Neither the time nor the place are identified. A young boy witnesses what he believes is the murder of his mother by his strange and intermittently violent father. I did admire the writing which for much of the book was from the viewpoint of an eight-year-old boy. I knew I was only getting his unreliable narration. The boy's nightmares and fear are palpable and creepy to the max.
As for how he ends up being a census-taker and why and what his job involves and for whom he is doing it, I really had no idea. I have a high tolerance for wandering through a story where I am essentially lost but apparently that tolerance does have a ceiling, especially when I never get my bearings even by the last page.
I will keep reading Mieville though.
Books I Have Enjoyed By Mieville
Un Lun Dun
Un Lun Dun
(This Census-Taker is available in hardcover by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)