This novella manages to give a sympathetic and rich picture of a dark soul within less than 200 pages. The main character is a scheming small-town sheriff who uses the weaknesses of other people to get what he wants, although there are some setbacks every now and then. He even has the “theoretical” background set up to legitimize what he’s doing; he thinks of himself as God’s messenger, testing out his subjects, and showing them back how wretched they themselves are. The interesting thing is that, despite the events taking place being so bloody evil, and the main character being such a mischievous person, the reading experience never turns into an exercise in gathering reasons to hate the person. This is partly due to what I mentioned already, the ruminations of the villain on the reasons he is the way he is, and the strange recognition that he himself is lost in the face of the empty existence in a town of 1280 people. The enjoyability of Pop. 1280 mainly has to do with the dark humor, however; the text is not only full of really funny conversations and anecdotes, but also the perspective of the character to all the events is ironically distanced, which provides a base humor.
Pop. 1280 is everything one would expect of a good noir crime novel; entertaining, dark, bloody and plain evil.