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