China Miéville: This Census-Taker (2017, PICADOR) 3 stars

"For readers of George Saunders, Kelly Link, David Mitchell, and Karen Russell, This Census-Taker is …

Review of 'This Census-Taker' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

I feel like such a fake sometimes. I say stuff like, "I like eerie, atmospheric books," and think that there's nothing inherently wrong with an unreliable narrator or open endings. And yet when I read a story like this that has all three I'm just left thinking: wow, this was not for me!

Definitely a unique, lonely, and melancholic book. Kind of gave me James and the Giant Peach/Coraline/Series of Unfortunate Events-kind of vibes with respect to children in strange environments and an innate distrust of adults, especially parents. It's not necessarily a coming-of-age story so much as an adult man reflecting back on an unusual period of his childhood, but it feels like so little dramatic action is actually happening that I never felt unease or tension. It also has a fairly abrupt ending, which really got me because the last twenty pages or so of the physical book version is actually an excerpt from a different book by the same author, so I was holding several pages thinking I had that much more to go when I really didn't.

This is another candidate for my "Goodreads should give us half-star increments" campaign, because I'm treating this as a 2.5 rounded up for uniqueness. I try to think who I would recommend a book to at the end of my reviews, but this one is tricky. I guess if you're looking for a sort of Rorschach test situation where two people can look at the same thing and come up with wildly different interpretations, this would be a good one to consider; would be fun to do in a book club situation.