four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
14-Jan-Feb-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-IronCouncilThe magical city of New Crobuzon is beset by turmoil caused by war with a neighboring state. Petty criminals turn into machine-like slaves, and racists, radicals, and grotesque malcontents tear up the city. Two anarchist groups raise their arms—one driven by the quest for salvation, the other by hopes of Marxist revolution. At center of this class revolt was the "Perpetual Train," the brainchild of greedy monopolists wishing to subdue frontier lands beyond the city. As mistreated workers tore up track behind them and stole the train, the machine inspired the Iron Council, a near-mythic gang of renegades that now brings revolution to all in its wake.
Del Rey. 576 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0345464028

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 4 of 5 Stars
"Miéville is also a dazzling writer. … His latest is likely to only build his readership further from those who were drawn to this charismatic new writer with his previous novels set in the same world." John Marshall

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"In Iron Council Miéville returns to New Crobuzon with an elegiac paean to Utopian socialism, romantic revolutionaries and the European radical tradition. … In myriad ways, China Miéville’s New Crobuzon is an unweeded garden of unearthly delights, and Iron Council a work of both passionate conviction and the highest artistry." Michael Dirda

Boston Globe 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Miéville is a creator not only of worlds, but of words, and every other sentence contains some imagined flora, slang, or turn of phrase. … Miéville can be a bit precocious, but all he really wants you to do is go for a ride with him through his monstrous creation. Nevertheless, a few motion sickness pills couldn’t hurt." Peter Bebergal

Guardian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The section describing the birth of the railway, as it pulls shanty towns, whores, gamblers and gunslingers in its wake, is a rather splendid reimagining of the wild west. … But, in comparison with The Scar Iron Council feels more pro-faced, more weighed down by its tonnage of political baggage." Steven Poole

Critical Summary

Miéville, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke, British Science Fiction, and British Fantasy awards, is 32 years old and lives London. Here, he’s reshaped modern fantasy by weaving together classic political themes of imperialism, conquest, and Marxist revolution with fast-paced uprisings and nightmarish characters that "one associates with Bosch paintings": golems, centaurs, insect women, half-mechanical beasts, leviathans, and cactus-people (Washington Post). Critics agree Miéville creates fantastical worlds and compelling characters, if too many. A heavy-handed political message and pretentious academic smarts weigh down the book; Miéville, however, offsets these complaints with beautiful writing and vivid, surreally beautiful descriptions of frontier violence.

Also in the Series

The Scar (2002): The second novel in Miéville’s universe is a stand-alone effort. The heroine Bellis Coldwin flees New Crubuzon but is stranded on Armada—a floating city of stolen ships populated by pirates and mercenaries.