Is This Census-Taker set in Bas-Lag?

this-census-taker-bas-lagIt’s been out for quite a while, but I just recently got around to reading China Miéville’s latest book, the novella This Census-Taker. It was a really quick read, at just 130 pages, and I very much enjoyed it, although I wish it had been longer and explored the setting a bit more.

That, I think, was the only drawback of the book: Miéville revels in describing fantastic worlds — it’s his biggest strength as a writer, in my opinion — so for him to take such a restrained approach with This Census-Taker means that I’m left feeling the tiniest bit deprived. I wish Miéville had expanded the end, and unveiled more and more of this weird world. I wish we could have seen the narrator’s full journey from his childhood to the “present day” from which he tells his story.

Maybe the reason I’m feeling deprived is because I think I started to uncover some clues throughout the story, but they never added up to a satisfying answer. These clues were inserted sparsely in description and dialogue, and they pointed to the unearthliness of the setting. A fanboyish part of me started to think that maybe they were pointing in a particular direction, one that the real fans would recognise. You can probably guess where I’m going with this — I mean, I made it the title of this blog post.

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In lieu of a real book review I’m going to talk mostly about the setting of the work. I’m no literary critic, so I couldn’t begin to unpack here the deeper meaning of the work, the potential allegory and metaphor and themes propping up the story. There are probably a hundred reviewers who have already done that, and I plan to find their reviews later and read my way to a better understanding of the novella.

What I really want to do in this post is just nerd out a bit, and examine those clues I talked about. I want to see if I can structure an argument to convince myself, let alone anyone else, of my hunch. I really want to ask the question: is This Census-Taker set in Bas-Lag?


7 things SyFy should do when adapting The Magicians

magicianscoverCable networks seem to be snapping up SF/F properties left and right ever since Game of Thrones turned out to be a massive success. Recently, the network SyFy has declared their plans to adapt a number of book series, and the series I am both most excited and most trepidatious about is Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

I absolutely love that series. I first read The Magicians in paperback back in 2010, and I have since bought the hardcover and audiobook versions of all three. The audiobooks are particularly special to me, thanks to the amazing narration and characterisation given by the actor Mark Bramhall. Combining reads and listens, I’ve now “read” the first book thrice, the second (The Magician King) twice, and the third (The Magician’s Land) once… so far.

I really hope SyFy manages to capture what I love about the books so much: the unique psychology of human depression when faced with magical wonderlands; the, at turns, awe-inspiring and creepy atmosphere; the countless homages to Harry Potter and Narnia, among many other fantasy classics; and the endless creativity of the world Grossman has built.

Precious few details have been revealed so far about the direction SyFy is taking with the adaptation, apart from a few preliminary casting details. Quickly on that topic: Eliot’s actor is a bit too pretty for my tastes (he’s supposed to have a slightly strange face due to his twisted jaw), and now I’m nervous that they won’t keep Josh the tubby dude he is, but they’ll cast someone “TV fat”, i.e.: not fat at all.

Anyway, I’ve given quite a bit of thought as to how the complex structure of the Magicians trilogy would work on screen, and I thought I would list some things that, in my opinion, SyFy should do when adapting these books. Various bits and pieces of this list have been cribbed from my past posts on Reddit and other forums. So, here are my thoughts. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD!


The next Alastair Reynolds short story collection? Possible contents


Alastair Reynolds has a huge number of short stories, many of which have been collected in a handful of volumes. His UK publisher, Gollancz, has three collections of his short work, and a fourth was published by NESFA Press. Counting the latest editions of these works, the four volumes contain a total of 39 short stories and novellas. I won’t list the contents here, because they’re easy to find on Wikipedia and other websites, but the collections so far are:

  1. Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days (2003) – 2 Revelation Space novellas
  2. Galactic North (2006) – 8 Revelation Space short stories and novellas
  3. Zima Blue and Other Stories (2009) – 14 short stories and novellas
  4. Deep Navigation (2011) – 15 short stories and novellas (one set in the Revelation Space universe)

(NB: years given are for the latest edition; links go to my reviews of the collections)

What does this leave uncollected, and what might a future collection of Reynolds short fiction be like?


The new China Miéville short story collection, out in June 2015


FINAL UPDATE MARCH 12TH, 2015: Full contents list and US cover!! Okay you can stop reading this post now, it’s all old speculation!

UPDATE MARCH 9TH, 2015: The book will contain 28 stories!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 5TH, 2015: Jacket description

UPDATE JANUARY 4TH, 2015: Cover art!

(2014 updates below)

UPDATE NOVEMBER 5TH: The title of the collection is Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories! Here’s the Amazon UK page.

UPDATE OCTOBER 22ND: According to Pan Macmillan’s Spring 2015 catalogue, the collection will contain “seven previously published short stories and multiple brand new, never-before-seen short stories”. Interesting… Also, the publication date is given as June 4th.

UPDATE JULY 1ST: Finally we have confirmation! The UK Tor blog has stated that the collection will be out in June 2015. What a long wait it will have been since Railsea by then!

UPDATE FEBRUARY 27TH: The date has moved again to November 20th. Keep an eye on the “Lead Titles Order Form 2014” file in the left column of this page for further updates.

UPDATE JANUARY 30TH: The latest .xls order form on Pan Macmillan’s website has pushed the release date back to November 6th, 2014. No title listed yet.

(Original post continues below…)

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Okay, so neither a title or cover have been released yet. But numerous sources indicate that China Miéville’s next book will be coming out in June this year and it will be a new short story collection.

The collection first popped up on Amazon last year as the imaginatively titled “China Miéville Short Stories”, before disappearing again. As a fanatic who searches Amazon.com and .co.uk practically daily for new Miéville titles (as well as his US and UK publishers’ websites), I was thrilled and immediately saved the ISBN.

That ISBN is 9780230770188, and googling it today gives mostly a bunch of automatically generated pages from other online booksellers, with numerous placeholder titles including the newly popped-up “China Miéville Novella”. The other noteworthy google result is an excel spreadsheet on Pan Macmillan’s (his UK publisher) website. The spreadsheet seems to be an order form for booksellers, and it also lists “China Miéville Short Stories” coming out on June 5th 2014. The date of revision for this file seems to be November 5th 2013, so as of that time, June 2014 was still the planned month of release.

So what could be the contents of a new short story collection? Well I was surprised when I sat down to find out how much China has published in short form since his last collection, Looking for Jake.