And now for things to get a bit weird. This 2016 novel is my second reading from author China Mieville and probably one of the strangest books I’ve read for the blog so far.
The story takes place in 1950 in an alternate version of Paris. In this world not only is the war-torn city still occupied by Nazi Germany, but certain events that occured in 1941 have also made it an epicenter of supernatural activity. Demons, in loose alliance with the Nazis, prowl the streets, while bizarre apparitions called manifs, manifestations of Surrealist art, are springing to life throughout the city with motivations known only to themselves. The novel follows a young French resistance fighter named Thibaut who has decided to try escaping the city after seeing his resistance cell wiped out. As he makes his way through the distorted remains of Paris, he teams up with a mysterious American photographer and a massive exquisite corpse, both of whom seem drawn to him as part of some higher purpose.
This was a strange one, but I enjoyed it immensely. I’ll admit that the concept might sound a bit out there, but the Mieville pulled the story off quite well by maintaining a tight focus on Thibaut’s wanderings. He didn’t really spend a whole lot of time justifying or explaining the weirdness, opting instead to just throw the reader in and let it flow. Haunting and engaging from the start, I found it very easy to get caught up in the bizarre and often grotesque imagery of this world. Not knowing a whole lot about the Surrealist movement, I occasionally found myself going on tangents to look up a particular person, concept, or work of art that got referenced and quickly came to enjoy these efforts in their own right. Although the ending was a bit rushed in how quickly it wrapped up the conflicts that emerged, this book was definitely more about the journey than getting sort of resolution, and in that regard it most certainly delivered.
If you’re on the lookout to read something unique and a bit weird, I highly recommend picking this up. I certainly had a good time with this book and consequently will be adding more from this author to my reading list.