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.

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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

Absorbing fog-wrapped dark fairytale

I listened to this twice, because I loved my first listen so much that I wanted to experience more of the atmosphere. I also wondered if I could find any more definitive answers regarding the questions raised. I could not. I did find much more clarity, piecing together bits and possibilities. It was a wonderfully unnerving puzzle to pick back through. There is an astonishing clarity regarding the world this story is set in, even as it resolutely sticks to its mysteriousness. That's part of the joy of reading this. Certainly a story that begs a second or third reading soon after listening to its last words. It's one of those books that loves being obscure and avoids easy answers, and yet is fully worth the extra time to let the story seep in further.

There are a number of darkly fantastical aspects to the narrator's childhood and figuring out exactly what they all mean for the narrator then and now is a big part of the pull of the narrative. From the start it's made very clear that we cannot trust the narrator, as there is confusion over the events in an innocent but haunting manner. It was well-wrought mix of the gothic and magical realism.

The point-of-view of This Census-Taker actually reminded me of the beginning third of Embassytown (Mieville's best in my opinion), in that Avice, the narrator in Embassytown, also felt innocent and confused and untrustworthy. However, there is certainly much more clarity that is revealed toward the end of Embassytown. This Census-Taker doesn't do that end reveal stuff. There's a reveal, sure, but it only presents further questions.

So yeah, if you need answers and trustworthy narrators, this is probably not for you.. If you love fathomless questions and mystery, give this two listens or more.

The narration for the audio was an excellent match.
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- RYLAND

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

Book Details

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