This Census-Taker could be considered, because of its relatively short length, as somewhere between a short story and novel. It tells the story of an unnamed boy and his family on a giant hill. The boy narrates the story of his murderous father and the strange census-taker who comes to take count of all that arrives from an unnamed country. It’s a strange tale and contains elements of China Miéville’s other works.
This Census-Taker might frustrate readers who are unfamiliar with Miéville. The ending will definitely leave you with more questions than answers. It incorporates the “dead-end information” style of Miéville’s earlier masterpiece, Perdido Street Station (2000, review here). A resolution the reader expects never materializes.
There has been some speculation that this story takes place in Miéville’s Bas-Lag universe. This Census-Taker has similar technology to that of Bas-Lag and a reserved fantasy feel. However, the different humanoid races that are common in Bas-Lag don’t appear.
There is magic alluded to that would fit into Bas-Lag. The presence of electricity would indicate that if the story did take place in Bas-Lag, it would have to be after the events in Iron Council (2004, review here).
This story is part of the archive of Steampunk Books, Kevin Steele’s website of hackneyed steampunk book reviews and lists (2016-20). Click here for the full archive.