Book Review: The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

This was one of my June buddy reads with the Sci-fi Fantasy Book Club on GoodReads.  (If you enjoy buddy reads, it’s a great community, and there’s almost always someone that is happy to join in with you!)  Instead of including quotes with this review I’ve included some images of surrealist art featured in the book (and I’m giving credit to Nicky Martin’s Graphic Annotations from which I found them).

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

Rating:  ★★★

I think China Mieville is an author whose ideas I’m in love with, and then struggle to connect with.  I also think I’ve picked the wrong books to start with (the first one being Kraken).  The Last Days of New Paris is an alternate history of Paris after France falls to Nazi occupation.  A secret group of resistance fighters called the Main a Plume (I think) has brought to life various things from surrealist paintings (called manifs) to help them fight the Nazis.  We follow MC Thibaut, a member of the main a plume, as he wanders the ruins of New Paris searching for a way out.

I am an amateur of velocipedes by Leonora Carrington

“I am an Amateur of Velocipedes” by Leonora Carrington (1941)

My issue with a lot of this book, is that honestly, I just didn’t understand the narrative.  I understood the overall story arc, what happens to each character, how things came to be, etc. but if I was trying to put together a timeline and location of events for someone else to follow, I wouldn’t make it very far.  I constantly felt like I was missing some key piece of information- asking myself “where are we now?” and “why are we here?” and “who are you again?”.  It’s very frustrating.

The Elephant Celebes by Max Ernst

“The Elephant Celebes” by Max Ernst (1921)

I think I’ve said this before, I don’t mind working a little harder to understand a book, but the pay off needs to be worth it.  I didn’t feel like it was worth it here.  The characters, while they had some cool abilities, just weren’t anything special.  You ever meet someone who speaks, maybe not in monotone, but without a lot of inflection?  Rarely shows enthusiasm or feeling about anything in particular?  Never smiles or laughs? Thibaut felt that way for me (and granted, there probably wasn’t a whole lot to laugh about in Nazi occupied France).  Sam was better, but she’s more of a side character.

Psychological Space by Victor Brauner Wolf Tables

“Psychological Space” by Victor Brauner (1939)

The “magic” system (if it can be called that) is very cool and totally unique and I loved some of the imagery we are given, but magic systems alone have never been enough to sell me and there wasn’t a whole lot explained about this one.  There was a little bit of humor in the book too, which I appreciated.

My favorite part of the book was the afterword, in which Mieville tells a very bizarre story about how he came to write this very bizarre story.  I couldn’t decide if that story was truth or fiction, or if the person he talks about is some kind of dimension hopping hero or someone who suffered dementia, but it was still a cool addition to the book.  I wish Mieville had included it as a foreword, because I think understanding the context in which this was written goes a long way toward understanding the story overall (so if you decide to try this, read that first).

Exquisite Corpse by Andre Breton

an untitled exquisite corpse by André Breton, Man Ray, Max Morise, Yves Tanguy (1927)

Overall- a story worth reading if you are a fan of Mieville, but I don’t think I’d recommend it as a starting point.  I think I’ll give one more book of his a try (I already own The City & The City after all) but if it turns out to be another three star read I think I’m going to have to part ways with Mieville.

The Last Days of New Paris can be found on GoodReads or ordered on Amazon.

16 thoughts on “Book Review: The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

  1. You definitely need to read Perdido Street Station and The Scar, in my opinion they are brilliant. They’re also the only Mieville I’ve read… Also, when I saw the beginning of your post title, I thought it was going to be The Last Days of Jack Sparks, which is one of my favorite books!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha- thank you for the recs!! I’ll add them to my TBR. Maybe I’ll give The Scar a go before attempting The City & The City. I think Mieville is brilliant, but it’s like there’s some disconnect between my brain and his narratives… so I’m hoping I just picked the wrong books to start.

      And I have heard of The Last Days of Jack Sparks, I’ll have to look it up!

      Like

  2. I have only tried one book by this author and the writing style confused me even if the concepts were good. I abandoned it and have never picked up another. Mostly due to the reviews of his other books. I enjoyed readng about yer experience with this work. Arrrr!
    x The Captain

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah- I definitely understand why someone would DNF his books. They are confusing and often feel disjointed to me. I think he writes very well and I like his humor, so I kept at it but I totally get it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice review! From what I’ve read of reviews of Mieville’s work, I really don’t think it’s for me. I get really annoyed at characters like the ones you’ve described, and so I don’t think I’d enjoy this one, at least. I may try one of Mieville’s books eventually, but I’ll just need to be really careful which one I pick to start with.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sorry that I have missed a few posts!
    I’ve read one book by this author and found the writing style to be very poetic and descriptive, and thought that the overall concepts were good, but for some reason, I oouldn’t get into it!
    -Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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