cover image The Last Days of New Paris

The Last Days of New Paris

China Miéville. Del Rey, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-345-54399-8

Miéville (This Census-Taker) takes on the surrealists in this gritty and erudite fantasy. In 1941, a surrealist bomb exploded in Nazi-occupied Paris, unleashing thousands of manifs—physical manifestations of images taken from surrealist paintings. Some were merely whimsical; others were terrifying and dangerous. Now it’s 1950 and New Paris, as it’s called, is the epicenter of the continuing war. The chaotic city is fought over by Nazis and Parisians, both sides constantly bedeviled by the chaotic manifs. Worse still, the Nazis have made contact with hell and unleashed demons to aid their villainy. Thibault, a soldier in the surrealist cause, fights the Germans using the powers of chaos while attempting to monitor the manifs. While patrolling the city, he observes a manifestation of Carrington’s famous Amateur of Velocipedes and meets Sam, a woman with the unusual plan of photographing all of surrealist New Paris, despite the danger. Thibault soon discovers that Sam is someone much more powerful and dangerous than she seems. Knowledge of surrealist art is not necessary to enjoy this odd, action-filled tale, but it helps. An appendix explains the sources of the dozens of manifs mentioned in the story. Agent: Mic Cheetham, Mic Cheetham Associates Ltd. (U.K.). (Aug.)