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.
The marvellous, we learn from this marvellous and strange little book, need not even be a question of subject matter at all. It is optic, an angle of vision, a new-ground lens applied to a world that, through it, swims and bleeds and discloses what it would not have done otherwise.
This Census-Taker is a small, quiet and gentle book with murder at its center. It's a beautiful chocolate that you bite into and find filled with blood. It is Miéville at his most sparse, his most controlled and restrained.
At its most obtuse moments, This Census-Taker feels as if it had been crafted out of the cast-off fragments of an unfinished Samuel Beckett novel. And yet occasional images of unusual beauty await the attentive and patient.