This Census-Taker by China Mieville. Very short novel about a child whose parent is accused of violence. I thought it was superb, probably my favourite of his books. It's a disturbing account of a childhood warped by damaged and dysfunctional parents.
The basic story could be set anywhere, but here it's set against the background of society that is also damaged and broken by an unspecified apocalypse. One of the great pleasures of science fiction is a sense of hinterland, that the story you're reading is just a tiny part of a vaster world and history. In this book Mieville offers lots of tiny hints at a wider story: a devastating war, a framing device where the author is writing this account as a prisoner that is never resolved, tropes of the old world ties, interns instead of apprentices given a romantic significance. However the big picture is never explained.
Often when the hinterland is explored, it turns out to be a disappointment: the Butlerian Jihad and the Clone Wars can never be as interesting as the hints about them. So I was glad about the lack of detail, but others might find it frustrating. It also makes a contrast to the elaborate worldbuilding of Mievilles earlier books like Perdido Street Station: it's like a landscape painter taking up miniatures.
Overall, I thought this was a wonderful book, with a dysfunctional relationship echoing a dysfunctional world. But not everyone will like it.
What I'm Reading 2
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong. The author of "John Dies at the End" and "This Book is Full of Spiders, Seriously Dude Don't Touch It" tries his hand at near future science fiction. A barista living in a trailer park finds that her estranged father has left her something in his will, which takes her on a trip to the libertarian desert city of Tabula Ra$a where rival mafias do battle violently in fancy suits.
Pretty good with some poking fun at libertarians, and lots of action-comedy as in his other books. Some of the lurid violence feels a bit much though, especially when directed at women. I enjoyed it but not as much as Spiders. Not suitable for anyone triggerable though.
What I'm Watching
Saw Ant Man on disk. Decent enough Marvel universe movie about a minor hero with the superpowers of shrinking to ant size and controlling ants. Lightweight fun with a few nice action/effects sequences. Very formulaic plot without even much variation on the themes. At least it doesn't suffer from the power mismatch other recent Marvel movies have hadThe final battle has two characters with the same shrinking powers, but one with laser guns and the other an army of ants. Entertaining but not essential viewing.
Politics. ICM/Guardian poll shows Labour level pegging, Guardian doesn't publish it, other papers suddenly discover margins of error. Will polls overestimate Labour? Tories borrow more than Labour over last 70 years, since 1979. Liberal feminism. Dani Rodrik on Democracy and international treaties. "The goal of the neo-liberal consensus is to manage the decline".
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