Monday 8 November 2021

The Last Days of New Paris

Finished November 2
The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

This alternative history novel starts in 1950 in a Paris that doesn't resemble the one that really existed then, and then jumps back to earlier times to track how that Paris was created.
The premise here is that the energy created by the art and ideas of a group of surrealist artists was captured, and then misused as a bomb (the S-blast) in Paris creating destruction, but also giving life to creatures and animate forms originating in surrealist art. 
The creatures are taken from visual art and literature, and range from relatively benign to terrifying. These creatures were mainly acting against the German forces, and the Germans tried to create in a similar way, but also called on darker forces from below. 
The main character is a young man whose parents were killed in the first actions after the blast and who seems to be able to engage positively with some creatures, and follow clues to gain new weapons and use what now exists to continue the fight. But Paris has been sealed off from the world beyond, and he longs to leave to see a world more normal. As he tries to find a way out, he meets someone who seems to have come in, and who is trying to document Paris as it is now as a way of those not able to witness it for themselves to see it before the city is destroyed for good. 
There is a lot here about surrealism and the artists known for their work in this genre, and the notes at the end of the book help readers to understand some of the references in the text. There is also an afterword written by the author of how he came to write the book, which is also an interesting extension of the the alternative history. 
A book like no other I've ever read. 

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