Review and discussion: China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris.

The Last Days of New ParisThe Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ursula K le Guin says, “You can’t talk about Miéville without using the word “brilliant”. I concur!

Falling into a maelstrom best describes my reaction to this book. The whole notion of Surrealism has fascinated me for many years. I am probably, along with most people, familiar with the work of Salvador Dali. However, reading The Last Days of New Paris reveals so many more of the Surrealist artists, writers, and sculptors. Their creations take form and manifest in the story. The creations are the story.

This is a new universe. It is terrifying and unpredictable.

Once again, Miéville confounds me with his wit, intelligence, and his vocabulary. Here are a few that I had to research. I have put them in context and followed with the definition and some explanation.


“He spoke in passé simple and imparfait: he was never other than ambiguous about whether what he was telling me a story, though his explanations of the city’s quiddity, of its history, his descriptions of the streets and landscapes of New Paris, were completely vivid” (pp174-175).

Quiddity: 1 [mass noun] chiefly Philosophy the inherent nature or essence of someone or something.
2 a distinctive feature; a peculiarity. In scholastic philosophy, “quiddity” (/ˈkwɪdɪti/; Latin: quidditas)[1] was another term for the essence of an object, literally its “whatness” or “what it is”.

“About New Paris itself, he never spoke with anything other than the most wrenching oneiric.” (pp176).

Oneiric: adjective, formal relating to dreams or dreaming. The study of oneirology can be distinguished from dream interpretation in that the aim is to quantitatively study the process of dreams instead of analyzing the meaning behind them.

“I would ask questions, and he might answer and our interaction became an interview of excursuses, at times for an hour or more, before returning to the main track of Thibault and Sam’s journey through the ruins of New Paris” (pp176).

Excursuses: noun, a detailed discussion of a particular point in a book, usually in an appendix. • a digression in a written text. (It is worth looking excursuses up in full. I wish I’d had this word in my vocabulary when I was writing my thesis)!


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Review and discussion: China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris.

Review: China Miéville, This Census-Taker

This Census-TakerThis Census-Taker by China Miéville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is a long time since I have read a book from beginning to end and then from the end back to the beginning. This book astonishes me on every page. So much of the story is in the spaces. How skillful is an author when what is not written has the power to captivate the reader?

Recently, I mentioned to someone that China Miéville is an acquired taste and I hold to that. There is not much I can say about this novel; the skill of this author is extraordinary. Ursula K Le Guin says about his writing, “[Miéville’s] wit dazzles, his humour is lively, and the pure vitality of his imagination is astonishing.”

Another thing, I do enjoy a book that challenges my vocabulary. There are a number of words in this book that do that very thing. I’ve listed two here, together with the meanings and the context in which they appear in the story.

I am forever grateful to my niece, Heather Shearer, for introducing me to China Miéville’s work many years ago.


vatic | ˈvatɪk | adjective literary describing or predicting what will happen in the future.

In context: There was supposed to be a holy old woman or man living in a cave no more than an hour’s walk from our door, just below the zenith, and I remember once glimpsing the beat of a brown cape like a shaken sheet but whether that cloth was worn on bony vatic shoulders I can’t say. I can’t even say if I truly saw it.

China Miéville, This Census – Taker. Page 16.

revenant | ˈrɛv(ə)nənt | noun a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead

In context: Did my mother walk ahead of me? Even when she told stories of her earlier life she never seemed nostalgic and I could think of no reason that death alone would change that. If she took that revenant route it might be she had no choice, that she had to pass through those familiar failing suburbs to scatter cats and go without a shadow past their hides in the roots of walls and carts sat so long wheel-less on their axles that they were less than landscape.

China Miéville, This Census – Taker. Page 85-86.

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Review: China Miéville, This Census-Taker