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Iron Council The third novel in his amazing imaginative seuence focused on the fabulous city of New Crobuzon and its very special worldIt is a time of revolts and revolutions conflict and intrigue New Crobuzon is being ripped apart from without and within War with the shadowy city state of Tesh and rioting on the streets at home are pushing the teeming metropolis to the brink In the midst of this turmoil a mysterious masked figure spurs strange rebellion while treachery and violence incubate in unexpected placesIn desperation a small group of renegades escapes from the city and crosses strange and alien continents in the search for a lost hope an undying legend In the blood and violence of New Crobuzon's most dangerous hour there are whispersIt is the time of the Iron Council So here we are in Bas Lag again According to interviews Mieville sounds like he has every intention of returning to the world of Bas Lag in the future so I won't refer to this as the last Bas Lag novel But as of 2009 it's the most recentI found the experience of reading Iron Council markedly different from the first two books set in this world For one in this book the story isn't as localised We have met the city of New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station and the pirate collective of Armada in The Scar Now we're in New Crobuzon again along with tons of other places Iron Council chronicles the war between Tesh and New Crobuzon a war that is occuring at the same time that citizens of New Crobuzon are attempting to overthrow the political party in power The Iron Council itself is a essentially a runaway train a train that was intended to link New Crobuzon to other large cities But when the government refused to pay the workers on this train as they traveled along building the tracks the workers stole the train They began picking up the tracks behind them and the train passed off the border of any maps They went so far that New Crobuzon was afraid to follow Well rumor has it that the Iron Council is returning In an already heated political climate the return of the Iron Council is gunpowder The novel has a very compelling plot and some of the most poetic and fantastic scenes in the whole Bas Lag seuence As his characters travel through uncharted regions bizarre creatures we haven't seen before show up regularly Also this story has the most optimistic ending I've yet read from Mieville It's not exactly a happy endingbut aren't those just boring anywayThis book had a lot of things going for it However it wasn't as satisfying or engaging of a read as PSS or The Scar for two main reasons First the main characters weren't as engaging With one exception the main characters weren't as complex as those from the other books Character complexity is always a very big thing for me Usually it's the most important thing Here the main characters tend to have one motivation one inspiration and their actions follow logically from it The characters don't act in ways that surprise me The other reason this book wasn't as engaging is the writing just wasn't as clear In a book where the fantastical and unusual is happening on a regular basis it really helps if the writing puts a clear picture in the reader's head and if new concepts aren't just tossed in without explanation Through much of the book I wasn't uite sure who was talking or exactly what was happening I found myself frustrated on numerous occasions by the obscuring word choices that Mieville made Despite everything that I liked about this book I gained no momentum while reading it At no point was I particularly compelled to keep reading and at no point did I really care how things would turn out for anyone involved Although I thought the end was strong and moving it didn't make up for all of the non engaging passages that had come before So by no means was Iron Council a bad novel But it could've been as great as the other Bas Lag books and it wasn't I've known about Mieville for a long time But I don't know if I've ever read one of his books before Generally speaking though people I respect enjoy his books and that's the best way I know to find new things to read Simply said I really enjoyed it Strange enough to be wondrous but not so bizarre that it's nonsensical Good story Good use of language Good characters Perhaps than anything else I was impressed by the moral ambiguity of the book And I'm not talking about cheap moral ambiguity where characters disagree Or there's some uestions along the lines of was that the right thing to do None of that weak tea here This book was full of difficult situations and choices and I can't think of another book I've read where so many people had radically different opinions about what the best course of action was They disagreed each took their own path and and at the end of things I still don't know who was right What's the author pulled that off in such a way that it didn't feel fruitless and frustrating to me as a reader My hat's off Mievile there that's a very difficult balancing act My only irritation was that I picked this book up without doing my usual research though It's only now that I came to enter it into goodreads that I discover what I've fucked up and read the third book of the series It speaks well of the book that that didn't keep me from enjoying the story or getting into the world Though it does explain the steeper than average learning curve at the beginning of the story Overtly political teasingly intricate and deeply intertextual China Miéville's Iron Council is everything I expect to love in great speculative fiction and nearly everything I know I love in Miéville's workYet since its publication I have only read it once and I still find myself ranking it third of Miéville's Bas Lag books I've been baffled by my restraint with Iron Council My admiration of Miéville's other books is boundless bordering on madness and I haven't understood how a book so filled with wonders Toro and its teleportation headdress Judah's time golem the Iron Council train and its unparalleled mobility Spiral Jacob and his Teshian machinations to overthrow New Crobuzon could keep me at such a distance until today Today I recognized my problem with Iron Council I am making my way through The Scar for the fourth time you see and it finally came clear There is a character missing a character that is fundamental to my admiration of Miéville's work I can still appreciate him without this character; I can luxuriate in his gorgeous prose without this character; I can even lose myself in Bas Lag without this character; but it is this character that makes Perdido Street Station and The Scar such fundamental books in my literary pantheon And that character is placePerdido Street Station introduces us to New Crobuzon And New Crobuzon becomes a character not just a setting It is not just the people who are being ravaged by the Slake Moths but the sweltering desert dryness of the Glasshouse the shadows of the Ribs the gardens of Sobek Croix and the refuse of Griss Twist These boroughs bestowed with sensual reality suffer as much from the literal dreamshit as the people who lose their minds do And Miéville spends time making us know New Crobuzon He lingers in every borough makes us smell and taste and feel everything It's his intention and it makes New Crobuzon perhaps the most important character in Perdido Street StationThe Scar then gives us Armada Another character setting Another unruly sensually realistic passionately crafted city this time floating over the oceans of Bas Lag a giant Pirate vessel with its own internal politics its own uarters its own industry its own secrets and identity all tethered loosely together as each ship is tethered to each ship in a technicolor mosaic of shipbuilding eclecticismBut Iron Council gives us the world and it is too much Miéville offers too many places in his third book and he never lets us know one place with anything close to the depth or intimacy we come to know New Crobuzon and Armada There are wonders yes but they are too scattered too sparsely drawn too uickly passed over and through for them to percolate into our imaginations And that is why Iron Council fails to live up to its predecessors although I consider that higher praise than I would give most booksIt is not a coincidence that all Miéville's Bas Lag books have thus far been titled after places But Miéville doesn't just love places he loves cities and expresses cities stationary or floating better than any author I've read so his next book The City The City should be a cracking return to what Miéville does bestNo Iron Council isn't brilliant but still it IS damn damn good Iron Council is China Miéville's most overtly political fiction work but don't pigeonhole it Between the revolutionary fervor fantasy trains and Western like parts runs a common theme of love and the painful desperate doomed human longing I loved this book It was not the insta love like it was with The Scar but a long careful slow to build up affair that by the end of the story fully blossomed This book is fascinating passionate brutal at times thought provoking and deliberately anger inducing But at the same time it's like Miéville deliberately made it not as easy to love as his other works Let me explainI've read 4 Miéville's books by now and I think one of his greatest strengths as a storyteller is the ability to not just create amazingly imaginative and creative universes but also to lovingly make the setting of the story a true protagonist Perdido Street Station was the ode to New Crobuzon; The Scar was a love song for Armada; The City The City was a story about the divide between Beszél and Ul oma Here however we are taken on the uest getting glimpses into many different corners of Bas Lag only uick looks at the really changed New Crobuzon and for a while only a teasing promise of the titular Iron Council Yes eventually I did love Iron Council but it took so long to get there that it never became the same real character as Miéville's other locales didBut once I got past the grief of not falling in love with a geographical location I was able to fully appreciate and passionately love the painful and difficult themes of this book The ramifications of Crobuzonian politics only glimpsed in the first two novels finally take the center stage Miéville is not subtle about where he stands on social rights and ineualities and I loved the passionate and open expression of his views It is not difficult to draw parallels between our less than perfect society obsessed with money power greed and ineuality and the world of New Crobuzon on the verge of collapse and catastropheNew Crobuzon the infamous festering filth of a city believe it or not has changed for the worse The political oppression is at its worst it's basically under the martial law the xenophobia is at its height due to an undergoing war the poverty and corruption are appalling and no wonder that social dissatisfaction and unrest are brewing Instead of exciting time on the barricades however we get to take a look into the heart of the brewing revolution the tensions between revolutionary factions the differences between the 'talkers' and the anarchists the plottings the mistrust the fear The oppressiveness is palpable the atmosphere is rotten and suffocating and the overall effect on the reader is powerfulAt the same time we get to see even of the single greatest horror and injustice of the Crobuzonian system the Remade The horrific bodily remaking that the criminals including the political ones undergo marks them as outcasts permanent slaves nobodies people below the regard of society They were briefly shown in PSS; their plight was mentioned in The Scar But it is only in Iron Council that we get to see of the ramifications of this We get to see their suffering and their fighting back I could not help but feel my heart break a bit over their pain and torture And it made me reflect on all the ways our present day society marginalizes those it does not approve of the effect I'm sure CM was going forWe also see the gender issues that up until now were not addressed much in Crobuzonian universe I found it striking how women are degraded and marginalized how a strong Remade woman is an abomination because of her 'unwomanly' strength how even during the strikes and rebellion the women are treated as vastly inferior nothing but instruments for men's sexual satisfaction which they 'owe' them to the point of creating 'rape suads' and how a woman's revenge is even described as simply a 'grudge' Yet again Miéville does not give us an ending we would love to have you know the one where conflicts get resolved the bad guys get their comeuppance and the good guys are vindicated But life does not work like that life tends to reset itself towards the status uo with maybe small new hope brewing under the surface and CM reflects this in his writing It is 'weird' and fantastical with adventures and monsters even though we can agree that the true monsters are always people but it is nevertheless very painfully real in its emotions and psychological effects of the outcomes Everything comes at a cost and the costs are often very hard to bear It's not a comfort read not a book that will make you feel better but that is not always the purpose of literature is it now Sometimes the purpose is to unsettle you and make you thinkBut the part I loved the most the one that left perhaps the biggest impact on me was the art about love and human longing It underlies every action every event of this story The revolutionary fervor is fueled by longing for change and better life The Iron Council is triggered by the longing for freedom and justice And of course there was the love and longing of Cutter and Judah albeit sadly not for the same thing Cutter was heartbreaking in his love devotion and longing for Judah the feelings that he knew too well weren't shared or reciprocated but uite often seemed to be simply used He was so touching so pained in this that I felt a lump in my throat at times reading about him No one I repeat no one should be doled out sorta kinda love simply as a gesture of kindness; that is just cruel When Cutter understood that the sex would only ever be an act of patrician friendship profane and saintly generosity would only ever be a gift from Judah he tried to bring it to a close but could not sustain the abstinence Judah with his parasite innard goodness with his never ending devotion to and obsession with the Iron Council to the point where we along with Ann Hari uestion whether his love gives him the right to do what he ended up doing Ann Hari and Ori with their longing to change history to find something bigger than them to help make something better Toro longing for revenge long overdue All of them are desperate unhappy driven by forces that they may not comprehend and yet cannot resist So heartbreaking He feels pinioned by history He can wriggle like a stuck butterfly but can go nowhereAnd this leads me to another theme that I felt I was not even ualified to talk about as I think I may have missed the significance of it in uite a few parts of the book was the power of history its relentless march sweeping everything in its wake towards something The relentless pull of history that makes you feel small and insignificant I may need a reread to fully grasp the implicationsOverall a rather challenging but ultimately rewarding and emotionally uneasy read that makes you ponder uite a few difficult uestions 45 stars I recommend it highly and advise sticking with it even if you do not fall in love with it right away That love will come eventually I promise

  • Paperback
  • 614 pages
  • Iron Council
  • China Miéville
  • English
  • 02 August 2014
  • 9780330534208

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