The main character of China Miéville’s short new novel is an unnamed nine-year-old boy who lives with his mother and father on the upper slopes of a hill. The time and place are unspecified; midway through there is a glancing mention of several previous wars and of people from some other, more developed place who have destroyed most of the technology in the region. It’s also made apparent early on that the narrator is the boy writing many years later in some equally vague time and place, possibly while under detention.
The book’s central mystery is whether or not one of the boy’s parents has killed the other. Initially, the boy tells the townspeople that his mother has killed his father, and then a few pages later it’s revealed that he meant to say the opposite. The rest of the book