This Census-Taker

  • by China Miéville
  • Narrated by Matthew Frow
  • 4 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

For readers of George Saunders, Kelly Link, David Mitchell, and Karen Russell, This Census-Taker is a stunning, uncanny, and profoundly moving novella from multiple-award-winning and best-selling author China Miéville.
In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event. He tries - and fails - to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape.
When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.
But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?
Filled with beauty, terror, and strangeness, This Census-Taker is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.


What the Critics Say

"A thought-provoking fairy tale for adults.... [This Census-Taker] resembles the narrative style, quirkiness, and plotting found in the works of Karen Russell, Aimee Bender, or Steven Millhauser." (Booklist)
"Brief and dreamlike...a deceptively simple story whose plot could be taken as a symbolic representation of an aspect of humanity as big as an entire society and as small as a single soul." (Kirkus Reviews)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Only Feeding the Darkness

"You'll write it not because there's no possibility it'll be found but because it costs too much to not write it."
-- China Miéville, This Census-Taker

"LORD, if you were to record iniquities, Lord, who could remain standing?"
-- Psalms 130:3 (International Standard Version)

I would probably consider this to be a bridge novella, spanning the gap somewhere between the shores of novel and novella; a scandal with gravity, perhaps. It weighs-in at just a quinternion over 200 pages in a 5.75" x 7.5" format. For Miéville this book is a surprise (as much as any thing new with Miéville) is ever REALLY a surprise. It has the tone and feel of his earlier novels, but this is Spartan and reserved. A couple stories in 'Three Moments of an Explosion' hinted at this style.

Miéville has really dialed back his normal complexity, his labyrinthian plots and prose. This is a guy who knows he can dervish, dance, and dive with his prose, and now KNOWS you know, but is comfortable just sitting there, like a jaguar, all potential energy, ready to pounce. You can feel that confidence and almost relaxed alertness in his prose and in this story. Anyway, I expect I will be pointing to this novel in the future and saying this marks the beginning of a more mature Miéville. He isn't content to just dazzle us with his brain and unleashed torrents. He's good now. He will now slowly unsettle us with his art, his craft, the fog at the edge of our field of view, and the cracks in caves that hold dark stories.

I think part of this is due to time spent at the MacDowell colony reading John Hawkes and perhaps, hanging with Denis Johnson.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

No Definite Answer

In the latest short story by China Miéville, "This Census-Taker", you are not really sure if the boy is telling the truth or embellishing his story for attention. The boy is getting abuse by his father and his mother has gone missing. His imagination throws you off a bit because, like a child, you wont get a definite answer. His story is all over the place.

Fortunately, this is the style of China Miéville. In most of his books, he likes to leave the reader guessing. Maybe that is why he wrote "This Census-Taker" as a novella, to make us read it more than once and come to a different conclusion each time.
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- Tim "Do you read the book before you dislike my reviews?"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-12-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio