Book Review: ‘Tis the Season by China Miéville

Social commentary on the commercialisation of Christmas does not come better than this! In fact, the political satire of commercialism, exploitation and even capitalism does not come better than this and it does it in a way that only a socialist with a dark sense of humour like Miéville can.

It starts out typically of our first-person narrator discussing his and others’ enjoyment of the festive season. Hell, it got me in the spirit! But it all comes crashing down just a couple of paragraphs in when he refers to not being able to hold a party because he couldn’t afford the EULA fee.

Yes, this is a world where big businesses own copyright on all the symbols and everything else associated with Christmas (you need a license to use tinsel and even to drink eggnog – but nobody does that because they don’t like it). Some businesses try to invent their own Christmas traditions but they never catch on.

In their support of these strange trademark and copyright laws, there are government inspectors making sure that people do not break the law by using unlicensed holly and tinsel or unlawfully store their presents under the aspidistra (because wrapping paper, christmas trees and the very act of putting presents beneath a tree are trademarked and licensed!)

Our protagonist has won a competition by YuleCo to attend an official Christmas party and gets to enjoy all of those things for which they own the copyright – much to their own delight and the jealousy of their friends. However on the way to the party on the 25th, they get caught up in a protest of Christmasarians – radicals whose sole purpose is to freely and openly break these trademark laws.

But the protest becomes a riot and all manner of protest groups get involved – Christians alongside feminists alongside reformed Marxists alongside radical pagans… all wanting a piece of Christmas in the way that they want. A parody, yes. Silly, yes. But with a serious message about not just commercialism but also those having an exclusive claim on the True Meaning of Christmas(TM) and trying to force others to mark it the way they want us to mark it.

Just hilarious! Read it as an alternative to the usual round of Christmas literature and you shan’t be disappointed. It’ll give you a laugh and if you’ve become bored or fed up with the enforced jollity, maybe it will put you in the right frame of mind to start enjoying it again.

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