Saturday, October 8, 2016

Book Review: The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

Hardcover, 205 pages

Published August 2016 by Del Rey

It is easy to blame yourself as a reader when a China Mieville book doesn't make sense. I mean there is no way to read any of his books and not realize that the man is a genius. I like to think I am a pretty sophisticated reader but I scratch my head alot when I read his books. Sometimes like Embassytown and the Census Taker the books worked for me. This time I don't think the book works and I don't think it's my fault. There are times with some well known authors when you wonder if the editor has the power to sit them down and say "Dude I don't know if this works."

There are plenty of reviews on line that think this book is a masterpiece and maybe if you have a knowledge of french art it will work for you, but not this reader.

This alternative history novel takes place in two moments in the history of Paris 1941 right after the Nazis took over and 1950 in a Paris/Europe still at war. You see in 1941 a bomb was set off in Paris called a S-bomb that brought to life the various works of surreal art. The main Character is named Thibault, who I assume in real life was a French painter. He leads the resistance and in that sense Mieville has a chance to really express the concept of art as resistance.

Look I realize I don't know squat about French surrealist art, but the author should realize many will be with me. I know how it is, I wrote a novel about punk rock and I had to assume that not everyone knows that world. I had to write about that world so it made sense to someone who has never heard of the Dead Kennedys. I don't think Mieville gave a shit and that is his right, but you know I found the book to be almost unreadable. That is my right.

I only understood what happened with the S-Bomb when I looked up a review that explained it on Goodreads. I don't think I can get behind a novel needing 88 numbered notes in the afterword to explain what everything meant. He already lost me. I mean I read every word in the book but I was confused almost the whole time and that is not what I consider a fun reading experience.

It was funny in each of the 1941 chapters Mieville wrote in a more simple style and for a few pages I relaxed a little and said to myself hey - there is a story here. Those few moments and the first part of the afterword were the only times the book really hooked me. I wont spoil the afterword but it did not justify the existence of this book.

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