Friday, February 24, 2017

The Last Days of New Paris

by China Miéville
210 pgs

I don’t know how to begin to describe China Miéville’s latest book The Last Days of New Paris (I feel like I say that every time I try to describe one though). It’s an alternative-history story with two separate time-lines. One takes place in Paris in 1950. Europe is still embroiled in the second world war and Paris is still occupied by the Nazis. But it’s a Paris unlike anything a normal mind could imagine. Years earlier Paris was rocked by the “S-Blast” an explosion of surrealistic energy, which brought to life unfathomable “manifs.” These manifs are surrealistic artworks, some part-human, part-machine, others, even more bizarre and impossible.

The second timeline takes place nine years earlier, in 1941 Marseille, where a group of refugees has gathered in the home of Varian Fry. These refugees are surrealist artists, and while there, they’re joined by Jack Parsons, a scientist and occultist, who believes he can capture the artists’ creative power in a battery and use it to re-create the legendary Golem of Prague. But Parsons underestimates the power he’s tried to harness and the battery sets off the S-Blast.

Nine years later, the manifs still move uncontrolled through the streets of Paris and the Nazis have been trying to create and control their own manifs, which they believe will help them win the war. It’s up to a small group consisting of a young man named Thibaut, an American photographer named Sam, and an “exquisite corpse” manif to stop the Nazis.

I’ll admit that several times while reading this book the thought occurred to me that I wasn’t smart enough to truly appreciate Miéville’s story. I’m not an Art History graduate, so I’m sure my level of appreciation for the story is only a fraction of what it could have been. Regardless, though, I enjoyed the book a lot, and was once again in awe of what Miéville accomplishes every time he tells a story. His books are unlike anything else you’ll ever read.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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