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For readers of George Saunders, Kelly Link, David Mitchell, and Karen Russell, This Census-Taker is a stunning, uncanny, and profoundly moving novella from multiple-award-winning and bestselling author China Miéville.
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.
When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.
But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?
Filled with beauty, terror, and strangeness, This Census-Taker is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.
Advance praise for This Census-Taker
“A thought-provoking fairy tale for adults . . . [This Census-Taker] resembles the narrative style, quirkiness, and plotting found in the works of Karen Russell, Aimee Bender, or Steven Millhauser.”—Booklist
“Brief and dreamlike . . . a deceptively simple story whose plot could be taken as a symbolic representation of an aspect of humanity as big as an entire society and as small as a single soul.”—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for China Miéville
“Even when he is orbiting somewhere in a galaxy too far away for normal human comprehension . . . Miéville is dazzling.”—The New York Times
“[Miéville’s] wit dazzles, his humour is lively, and the pure vitality of his imagination is astonishing.”—Ursula K. Le Guin
father nodded with abrupt rage. “You should. Look at me. You should come back.” The window-cleaner was looking into the sky, at the waning light. Drobe ran to me. “I’ll come and get you,” he whispered. But the teacher was calling him and he had to turn. The window-cleaner descended with the woman beside him. They still kept glancing up at the sun. Behind them went Drobe, watched by the hunter. It was he, the last man, who looked back at me most, more often even than the boy. There is a
where they lay at the quiet caucus. Drobe and Samma pointed them back to sleep and they pretended to obey. Samma leaned out and scanned the bridge. A light rain now fell. “Come on,” she whispered to you. “Come on right now.” Watched by those silent comrades, Samma and Drobe took you to your dismay back out into the night. You could see the lines of the country now, rising into quickly ebbing darkness, the hills’ shoulders coming visible. Each streetlamp wore a corona. Your guides surprised
wire and wood and put them up to frighten the birds. My father made them too, and his were finer than hers, but none of them intimidated the crows very much, and my mother and I would often have to run out of the house windmilling our arms and shouting so the big birds would lurch away from the seeds a while, less out of fear than a kind of languorous contempt. Out of that thin dusty ground my mother pulled hybrids and rarities as well as beans and gourds and so on. Some of what she grew we ate;
down into the black for a long time then pulled back his arm and swung it forward and released the dead dog just so, so it arced up over the trash-pit hole and paused and accelerated down into it in a curve so perfect everything seemed to have led to it. The dog was born to descend this way. Millions of years ago, the stone had split to receive it. My father stared down into the hill with such focus it was as if he had done all of this, this killing, because he had to see an animal fall.
kill it. When I came to this room I moved the table to the window so I could write as I do now watching a city get dark and switch to neon. I’m an honored guest here, which is why there are two guards outside my door to take care of me, for when I do my work. That’s what my hosts said, with such courtesy and conviction that I wonder if they’ve come to believe it. I’ve been working for many hours. I think those guards are probably lulled by the sounds in here. Which will continue. There’s still