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Can it live before it dies?
-- China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris
As a reader who is drawn to art as much as to books, Miéville novella came as a messy, strange treat. The concept is relatively simple. Imagine a New Paris transformed in 1941, by "virtue" of an occultish weapon to fight the Nazis, into a ghetto where Nazi's and French Resistance continue their battles into the 50s along side Surreal artist and Surreal art that has been made living. Oh, and the forces of Hell are also involved in this battle for Paris.
"...a figure with the head of a singing bird, its body a clock with the pendulum swinging, its legs a mass of fish tails dearly done in pen and ink. A sketched out bear face on a coffin, walking on clown feet. A mustached man, rendered as if by a child, his body a buxom leopard's, rooted like a plant. Exquisite corpses, tasting new wine."
It wouldn't be a Miéville novel if he didn't twist and shove even this funky idea into grotesque and quirky corners. It wasn't a great Miéville, but it was still fascinating. Here is a man, built by God or Demon, to create new, weird worlds. Miéville is someone who can read Anne Vernay and Richard Walter's La Main à plume : Anthologie du surréalisme sous l'Occupation and perhaps a couple more books on Surrealist art during the War years and mix it with a bit of Nazi occultism, and BOOM! -- here is your book Del Rey. I think CM is one of the more exciting voices in SF in the 21st century. He is constantly pushing for new ideas, bring in radical politics, philosophy, art, and turn them into stories that are fresh.
He is one SF writer who I find myself buying each new book he publishes new. There are only a handful of living writers who I do that for. That alone, is probably all the review you need.
18 of 22 people found this review helpful
The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville was not his best work. I didn't favor or hated the overall story. It was about art and the Nazi. There wasn't much to get into because there was no weirdness unlike his other novels. It was just okay. There was no high points. The Living Artwork and UFO was cool, but not as cool as I like.