Iron Council by

19 November 2005

Rated :

This is the third of Mieville’;s books to be set in the wonderful world of New Crobuzon, and so far my favourite of this ‘verse. I enjoyed Perdido Street Station, admired more than liked The Scar, but Iron Council surpasses both of them. I was a little doubtful at first, not really getting the character of Cutter. But once the story began it sucked me in.

The ‘verse Mieville has created is simply fantastic, in both sense of the word. A variety of characters, races, and peoples all battle for the reader’s attention, and just when you want to read more about some one in particular another comes along to steal your attention.

There are three main storylines. Cutter and his wanderings as he attempts to track down Judah Lowe. Then there is Ori, back in the city of New Crobuzon and his desire for revolution, for a better world. The third strand is set in the past, and centres on the character of Judah Lowe and the origin of the legendary Iron Council.

Mieville is a socialist, and there is quite a bit of politics in this book. The social reform the people of the Collective yearn for. The strikes that helped bring about the creation of the Iron Council. And while it is impossible to ignore this political aspect, nowhere does Mieville’s political belief turn into a sermon or a rant. The characters live, and die, they act as characters, not as proponents of a particular theory.

There are no real bad guys in this book. Sure, there are the authorities and the railroad managers, but they are more in the background. Few of them are actual characters that appear in the book. Instead it is the realities of life that create the situations that the other characters must react to. For just as there are no bad guys, there are no good guys. There are simply characters, acting according to what goes on about them.

Utterly original, with its Remade, flesh elementals, Cactae people and Khepri women among many many more, Iron Council makes for a great read. You’ll never look at a train in the same way again. And the ending! well. I’ll let you find out for yourself.

Collection of essays and discussion from Crooked Timber | SF Site review | Guardian books | What is steam punk | Runagate Rampant

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