This Census-taker

This Census-taker

A Novella

Book - 2016
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"After his mother goes missing, a boy is left alone in a remote house on a hilltop with his increasingly deranged father. When an odd man knocks on his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation are over. But will this stranger at last trigger the doom the boy has feared or will he somehow save the boy from the worst?"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Del Rey, 2016.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101967324
Branch Call Number: FIC Mievi
Characteristics: 210 pages ; 22 cm.


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Mar 09, 2019

An intriguing tale set in the near future. Mieville's novella provides the atmosphere and aura of a dystopian world.

Feb 18, 2019

Shifting perspectives and shifting time. Does the census-taker help the boy escape or does he become his prisoner? Strange, intriguing - a Grimm's fairy tale for the future.

This story is like a mystery wrapped in a fairy tale wrapped in the kind of story you just can't classify. Does that make sense? You never get a clear sense of place, although you have bits and pieces. There is a town. The boy and his parents live on a hill. Things have a post-apocalyptic tinge to them, but that's not the point of it all. The thing is: you are left to puzzle out if there has been a killing or a leaving, and then who it really is who knocks on the door.

Typical of this author, many things are never explained. Seeing things through the eyes of this boy, you can't always be sure of what's true, or what's real; it has to be enough that it is real and true to him.

Sep 03, 2016

A very odd book indeed. I really just want to be transported to a different place when I am reading a book. With this novella, I kept on noticing the author's odd and confusing style of writing, which overwhelmed the plot for me.

Aug 14, 2016

A novella - clever and entertaining.

tritonesub Mar 30, 2016

Master of words. His description about the bridge was unlike any that I had ever read. "Houses built on bridges are scandals." "The dream of a bridge is of a woman standing at one side of a gorge and stepping out as if her job is to die, but when her foot falls it meets the ground right on the other side..." The writing itself was the reward. The book was a bit like a Sara Moon photo, revealing not much more than evocative shapes at times and left me wondering, not necessarily a bad thing.

SFPL_PortolaLib Mar 28, 2016

While the title may have you thinking of Kafka, the book is more like something from Shirley Jackson. The emotional terror of the narrator is palpable. Told mostly from the viewpoint of a child, this magical murky world leaves many questions unanswered. But themes of deceit, power/control, memory and forgetting, and parenting all make the read worth it. You'll be thinking on this one for a while after you finish it.

SPL_Heather Mar 02, 2016

A full review can be found under "Summary," which was first published in the Stratford Gazette on 3 Mar 2016.

luinealaNVCL Feb 24, 2016

"Surreal" is usually one of the words used to describe Mieville, and this is him at his most surreal. I'm not sure whether I liked this one or not, as it left so many questions and answered so few. It did have a delightfully confusing narrative structure, with the boy switching from "he" to "I" regularly, and jumping randomly from present to past - this very effectively emphasized the boy's confused memory and mental state, and his unreliability as a narrator. Overall, I liked the pervasive, menacing, unknown dread that permeates the book, so in atmosphere and structure I can say I enjoyed it, but in plot and character it left me a bit unsatisfied.

Feb 19, 2016

It's helpful to be familiar with Mieville's work, it's in the style of the Weird, like H.P. Lovecraft and M John Harrison. Weird literature is intended to be surreal, transcending logic and normality. If you feel uncomfortable with the strange or the odd, this genre is not for you.

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SPL_Heather Feb 29, 2016

This Census-Taker is set in an unnamed time and country in a rural mountain town. The story follows an unnamed small boy who lives a remote life with his parents filling his days watching his mother garden and drawing on the wallpaper in the attic. After he witnesses a traumatic event, he dreams of escaping to the town below and living with the street children he’s met on his few expeditions with his mother. As his fear of his parent increases, the looming dread of the story rises until a stranger comes to record an inventory of the household. Is this the solution the boy has been waiting for?

This novella is an enigmatic story told from the perspective of a 9 year old boy, along with a young child’s ability to interpret situations. This helps to increase the mysteriousness because you can never fully trust the narrator’s account or knowledge. The book changes from first person to second to third person regularly, which increases the uneasiness of the story. Shifting from “I” to “the boy” is a coping strategy for the narrator and makes the reader question his interpretation of events as well as his memory. As the boy deals with the repercussions of a harrowing event, he seems unable to fully make sense of what he has witnessed. What really happened? What are the true motivations of those around him? Who are his parents?

The writing style is Spartan, much like the life the boy lives, and it serves to instill the slow-building dread and trepidation in the reader. This book leaves much unrevealed and readers who enjoy ambiguous endings and interpretation of an author’s intention will feel very comfortable with this book. The story keeps the reader guessing as to what is real and what has been remembered.

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