The Nazis control Paris in 1950 and the art world’s surrealist visions have come to life in this dreamlike vision of an alternative history
Imagine if surrealist artworks were coming to monstrous life and roaming the streets of occupied Paris during an alternative-history 1950 in which the second world war was still going and the Nazis were desperately trying to raise demons from hell. Actually you don’t need to, because China Miéville has. And this is a writer, his admirers have long known, from whom one should expect anything except the ordinary.
The narrative proceeds along two timelines. In war- and art-torn 1950 Paris, a young man named Thibaut wanders groggily in the wake of the defeat of his comrades, part of a faction of the resistance loyal to surrealism. Meanwhile, in 1941 Marseille, Jack Parsons, a young American and adept of Aleister Crowley, hangs out with André Breton and other surrealists, hoping to capture their imaginative magic in an electric box and travel to Prague in order to raise a golem with it to defeat the Reich. Unfortunately, as you may surmise, something goes wrong with that plan.