I will start by saying that if you haven’t read anything by China Miéville before, getting into one of his books can be a bit weird at first. You are often thrown straight into the world and tossed in with the characters with information revealed slowly, and it can be a little confusing. I found this the case with The Last Days of New Paris, as we are dropped into New Paris among manifs and survivors with little background as to who we got there. But as the information is revealed carefully it is like a puzzle you try to piece together yourself, curious to see how much you were right about. So what can be at first confusing becomes intriguing and keeps its hold on you until near the very end.
The book is also a very surreal experience, pun intended. It will strike chords of familiarity if you have studied Surrealism and push the limits of your imagination if you have not. It will probably push the limits regardless as the manifs, strange art mish-mashes made real, enter the scene. I often felt like I was being pulled along quickly through a haze of everything that had occurred, a survivor myself, and I couldn’t stop reading because I needed to know everything. I needed to know what “Fall Rot” was and how everything had become so surreally messed up. I needed to know how, so long after the war had ended in our reality, it was still raging to some degree in that world. I needed to know everything about the manifs and how they had come into being.
And while trying to understand the world of 1950 New Paris, the flits back to the past help to bring us to an understanding of how things became as they were in the “present” of the story, and touched ever so lightly on the sense that there is an other-worldliness to the world, even before the mysterious S-Bomb threw everything out of whack. It’s supremely real, and yet alien. And it’s beautiful.
And when you are done the book, read the next part where Miéville describes how the book came to be. Please. It takes something so randomly wonderful and turns it into something so weirdly real that you begin to question everything, both in the book and about the world as you know it. It’s so hard to describe without giving things away, so all I can do is implore you to put your imagination (and sense of reality) to the test. It’s a quick read, or at least I thought so, and one I can’t wait to pass along to others.
The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville