In this short novel, Miéville alternates between 1941 Marseille and 1950 Paris in an alternate timeline. The earlier date sees American Thelemite Jack Parsons visiting France during the war, and the later one involves a thaumaturgical Surrealist resistance fighting against a goetically-augmented continuing Nazi occupation. The title of the book is taken from a book within the book: The Last Days of New Paris is a book being written (and photographed) within the story, to document the exotic and presumably evanescent 1950 Parisian environment. [ . . . (hover over to read this spoiler) . . . ]
Given its subject matter, I expected to either love or hate this book, and I was surprised to find myself lukewarm. I liked Miéville’s appreciation for Surrealist politics, the way that he brought Surrealist artworks into the story, and the metafictional/documentary twists. I didn’t find the narrative voice as engaging as the one in The City & the City, and Parsons wasn’t presented very believably. It definitely had its virtues, and short as it is, it’s still worth reading by anyone who finds the premise intriguing.