Paris is not as we know it in China Miéville’s alternate history/fantasy mash-up, a celebration of the vital power of art and a fascinating SF tale all at once.
In 1950, Surrealist survivor Thibaut fights for his life among the Nazis, the roaming ‘manifs’ conjured from the imagination of Surrealist artists and the demons that the Nazis summoned from hell to combat them. Meanwhile, in 1941, an American scientist is about to uncover the means for a world-changing event.
From the opening image of a woman riding Leonara Carrington’s ‘The Amateur Of Velocipedes’ away from Nazi troops on Parisian streets, Miéville conjures a fascinating cityscape filled with the impossible creations of the Surrealists, made beautiful, terrifying and unknowable by simply existing.
The pulpy thrills of Nazis trying to corral demons and the Casablanca-esque manoeuvring of spies, agents and atheist resistance fighters are beautifully blended with an affecting emotional sincerity.
Miéville’s fascination is contagious, and we would have happily spent much longer than 200 pages in this strange Paris.