A thriller of war that never was - of survival in an impossible city - of surreal cataclysm. In The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville entwines true historical events and people with his daring, uniquely imaginative brand of fiction, reconfiguring history and art into something new.
"Beauty will be convulsive...."
It's 1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseille, American engineer - and occult disciple - Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including surrealist theorist André Breton. In the strange games of the dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever.
It's 1950. A lone surrealist fighter, Thibaut, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts - and by the forces of hell. To escape the city, he must join forces with Sam, an American photographer intent on recording the ruins, and make common cause with a powerful, enigmatic figure of chance and rebellion: the exquisite corpse.
But Sam is being hunted. And new secrets will emerge that will test all their loyalties - to each other, to Paris old and new, and to reality itself.
©2016 China Miéville (P)2016 Random House Audio
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
Can it live before it dies?
-- China Miéville, The Last Days of New Paris
As a reader who is drawn to art as much as to books, Miéville novella came as a messy, strange treat. The concept is relatively simple. Imagine a New Paris transformed in 1941, by "virtue" of an occultish weapon to fight the Nazis, into a ghetto where Nazi's and French Resistance continue their battles into the 50s along side Surreal artist and Surreal art that has been made living. Oh, and the forces of Hell are also involved in this battle for Paris.
"...a figure with the head of a singing bird, its body a clock with the pendulum swinging, its legs a mass of fish tails dearly done in pen and ink. A sketched out bear face on a coffin, walking on clown feet. A mustached man, rendered as if by a child, his body a buxom leopard's, rooted like a plant. Exquisite corpses, tasting new wine."
It wouldn't be a Miéville novel if he didn't twist and shove even this funky idea into grotesque and quirky corners. It wasn't a great Miéville, but it was still fascinating. Here is a man, built by God or Demon, to create new, weird worlds. Miéville is someone who can read Anne Vernay and Richard Walter's La Main à plume : Anthologie du surréalisme sous l'Occupation and perhaps a couple more books on Surrealist art during the War years and mix it with a bit of Nazi occultism, and BOOM! -- here is your book Del Rey. I think CM is one of the more exciting voices in SF in the 21st century. He is constantly pushing for new ideas, bring in radical politics, philosophy, art, and turn them into stories that are fresh.
He is one SF writer who I find myself buying each new book he publishes new. There are only a handful of living writers who I do that for. That alone, is probably all the review you need.
Maybe if you're an art history buff with a penchant for fighting Nazis, this works for you. but a little too far off the main roads for my taste
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