This Census-Taker by China Miéville

book cover of This Census-Taker

This Census-Taker did not start well. The beginning is slow, confusing, and nauseatingly gruesome. There came a point, though – once the narrative had actually caught up to the scene which opened the novel – where the haunting, gloomy atmosphere took over and I came to welcome the confusion.

The novella raises many questions, hardly any of which are answered by the conclusion. It’s set in a small, macabre town, impoverished and largely isolated from the outside world. The narrator’s father makes a habit of bashing animals to death and throwing them down a hole, for reasons which are never exactly explained to the reader, but can be guessed. He seems to progress to killing people; he seems to progress to killing the narrator’s mother. The town has no real policemen, and the volunteers who stand in for them are friends with the narrator’s dad and tell the boy that he must have imagined the whole thing. The story continues on.

In summary, this is a dark, atmospheric tale that you should only read if you can handle your questions going unanswered. That said, it’s not too bad.


a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a socialist and a feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.