[Reading] ➽ Iron Council By China Miéville – Peakpopa.info
Overtly political, teasingly intricate, and deeply intertextual, China Mi ville s Iron Council is everything I expect to love in great speculative fiction, and nearly everything I know I love in Mi ville s work.Yet, since its publication, I have only read it once, and I still find myself ranking it third of Mi ville s Bas Lag books I ve been baffled by my restraint with Iron Council My admiration of Mi ville 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 Mi ville 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 place.Perdido 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 Mi ville 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 Station.The 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 quarters, 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 eclecticism.But Iron Council gives us the world, and it is too much Mi ville 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 quickly 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 books.It is not a coincidence that all Mi ville s Bas Lag books have, thus far, been titled after places But Mi ville 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 Mi ville does best.No, Iron Council isn t brilliant, but still it IS damn, damn good. I gave this four stars, but I also gave Mieville s The Scar four stars.But they aren t equal This highlights the difficulty with the Goodreads rating system The Scar probably deserved a 4.5 nearly perfect , where this rates like a 3.5.This is the third book in the New Crobuzon Bas Lag series.The first two were Perdido Street Station and The Scar The Iron Council takes place in the same universe but many years later, in the nineteenth century where the earlier two books were in the eighteenth century I cannot remember the exact timeline, but Mieville does mention it somewhere in the novel.Mieville has said he wants to write a novel in every genre Iron Council seems to be his version of a Western There are transport and pack animals, guns, outlaws, and the building of a railroad This is a fascinating tale in spite of its large faults It got wildly mixed reviews from both professional critics and Goodreaders Many people found it tedious I can understand why they didn t like the book But I was hooked, after a doubtful start.This story follows the history of a motley group of revolutionaries who attempt to overthrow the brutal, elitist government of New Crobuzon a city which is a sort of fantastic version of London both from within the city and from outside of its boundaries.One of their biggest grievances against the government is its method of punishing criminals by remaking them grafting pieces of animals, humans, or machinery to their bodies, often in cruel ways The remade are ostracized by New Crobuzon whole humans There is also a lot of racial tension between the humans and the various other races of New Crobuzon the Kepri, who have human bodies and insectoid heads the Cactusi, who are shaped like walking cactuses , etc There is also tension between the haves and the have nots in New Crobuzon.Those issues aren t new, and Mieville has already said a lot about them in the previous two books.Part of the book is the story of the attempt by the TRT Corporation Transcontinental Railroad Trust to build a railroad connecting New Crobuzon to other parts of Bas Lag The labor is hard, the foremen are brutal, and a lot of the workers are remade or those of other races especially Cactusi, as they are strong and good at tough physical work Another part of the story involves the activities of various subversive political groups within the city Eventually the two story threads converge.The major characters are all involved in one or both of these threads.The main character is Judah Low No one seems to have noticed that his name deliberately resembles that of Judah Loew, a real character in history Loew was a sixteenth century rabbi, Kabbalist, and tzaddik Jewish saint who created the Golem of Prague The Judah Low of Iron Council is a self taught and very talented golemist maker of golems Golems are creatures created out of inanimate objects traditionally earth or clay that are animated to serve the wills of their creators, who can also return them to their original inanimate state Judah, in his role as a scout for the new TRT railroad, contacts an indigenous tribe, the Stiltspear, and learns golem making from them He then expands and perfects the art on his own.Judah disappears from New Crobuzon for a long time Cutter, a shop keeper and Judah s on and off lover, organizes a small group to go into the wilderness of Bas Lag to search for him Cutter s love for Judah is unrequited He is quite a bit younger than Judah Cutter s search party includes a human couple, Elsie and Pomeroy, and Drogon, a whisperer who latches onto their group and saves their lives a few times The whisperer can be heard from a great distance and can whisper commands or suggestions Another major character is Ori, a day laborer and underground resistor who gets involved at first with a left wing group that publishes a newspaper called Runagate Rampant This group talks a lot and doesn t do much, in Ori s opinion Ori goes on to become a member of a action oriented radical group lead by the mysterious and dangerous Toro Ori is also fascinated by Spiral Jacobs, an elderly homeless man, who traverses New Crobuzon, painting spirals everywhere There is Ann Hari, also Judah s lover Ann Hari becomes a firebrand radical At one point she organizes a somewhat humorously presented, but dead serious prostitute s strike Although Mieville is clearly on the side of the radicals, he also shows them making grievous mistakes, including unnecessary killings and infighting These errors undermine their cause Mieville is also not afraid to show the serious character deficiencies of the rebels Ann Hari, for example, becomes such a fanatic she can no longer listen to reason Ori, after various traumas, becomes too paralyzed to act when he should Judah is vain and self involved And so on.One of the main problems with the book is the characters Not one of them is terribly compelling or sympathetic Iron Council lacks engaging main characters like Bellis Coldwine in The Scar or Isaac and Lin in Perdido Street Station.Another problem is the sometimes wearisomely lengthy and inscrutable descriptions of esoterica For example, Mieville lost me in a battle scene in which fire elementals clash with air and possibly water elementals I was never entirely sure As usual, Mieville is a master of language and verbal pyrotechnics, but sometimes he seems to glory in making his language nearly opaque.Still, in spite of these problems, this story is so fascinating one cannot stop reading or in my case, listening And Mieville is an original, as usual There s nothing derivative here.But, be forewarned, there are no happy endings And things are not neatly tied up at the book s close If you require happy endings and unambiguous resolutions, this novel is probably not for you Actor Gildart Jackson does an excellent job of reading the audio. Iron Council is China Mi ville 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 Mi ville deliberately made it not as easy to love as his other works Let me explain.I ve read 4 Mi ville 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 protagonistPerdido 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 Besz l and Ul Qoma. Here, however, we are taken on the quest, getting glimpses into many different corners of Bas Lag, only quick 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 Mi ville s other locales did.But 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 stageMi ville is not subtle about where he stands on social rights and inequalities, 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 inequality, and the world of New Crobuzon, on the verge of collapse and catastrophe.New Crobuzon, the in famous 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 powerful.At 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 for.We 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 squads , and how a woman s revenge is even described as simply a grudge Yet again Mi ville 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 quo 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 think.But 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 quite 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 hisparasite innard goodness , with his never ending devotion to and obsession with the Iron Council to the point where we, along with Ann Hari, question 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 nowhere. And this leads me to another theme that I felt I was not even qualified to talk about as I think I may have missed the significance of it in quite 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 implications Overall, a rather challenging but ultimately rewarding and emotionally uneasy read that makes you ponder quite a few difficult questions 4.5 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. Dear China,It s not you, it s me.I wanted to like Iron Council , and there were parts of it I really did like, but the old magic was just not there.I remember first meeting you on the pages of Kraken, and your fantastic images, scenes and people made me want to spend time with you.Then we spent some time together stepping in between Bes el and Ul Qoma and I realized the depth and virtuosity was than a flash in the pan, you were on to some heady stuff, THE NEW WEIRD I was hooked.Then I came to visit you in Bas Lag I was impressed by Perdido Street Station and blown away by The Scar.When I came back to Bas Lag by way of the Iron Council, I was again impressed A western Steampunk fits that genre, sure Only China could imagine that and then pull it off And the politics, why not Leftist political issues are important to you and so why not throw some of that in, the subversive intrigue would add a Joseph Conrad element to the narrative.All of the world building ingredients of your impressive imagination was there the cactusae and the Vodyanoi even an appearance of the Weavers.And yet The narrative tended to drag, the action waxed and waned and bless your heart, you went on and on and on Some editing, a hundred or so less, would have been.You re still a weird genius, still a bright star in the speculative fiction genre, and we can still be friends.Love,Lyn Full review to come at some point in future hopefully.For now like the rest of the series, combination of very weird but very well written steampunk and real world politics with ambiguous sides and no truly right answer. December 2008Gods and Jabber, I don t know why I love this one the most It s not necessarily better than the other Bas Lag Books don t you dare call them a trilogy, don t you dare Old China says he ll always come back to this there s to come , and it s nowhere near the worst There s just something about this that feels so radically different, so alien, so apart from the others Perdido Street Station was new and fresh and amazing, yeah, but it felt familiar enough while still being strange and fantastic, of course that you still felt just so comfortable reading it or as comfortable as you could be reading about sex with bug people , and The Scar was a fun old adventure story, exotic and equally fantastic but still an ab sequel to PSS.But here, here, Iron Council rips us away from mid 1700s Anno Urbis New Crobuzon and tosses us thirty, forty years into a city that barely remembers the Midsummer Nightmares, and what s this No constructs Jack s dead Ben Flex is just a name The fucking Militia s out You want the same old city, you wish it could stay frozen in time, but New Crobuzon is different Changed It s darker, uglier, cynical And even when Cutter and the others escape, chasing the near prophet Judah Low on his quest for the Iron Council, the city still clings to them like an oil slick The city in Isaac s day was hardly bright and cheerful, but back then it still echoed with adventure Now the militia are out, and everything else had to go into hiding It s time to go west to bring the Iron Council home.That long out west adventure quest itself, and the long ago middle piece detailing the uncertain gestation and sudden, violent birth of Iron Council, make up the bulk of the story, mixed with snatches of back home reports of the small revolutionary movements taking place in the city, and this jump back and forth from cynical near despair to hopeful optimistic questing is what makes this a hard, weird novel It jumbles in places, it tosses about it s not always a pleasant read, or an easy one It s tougher, political, insistant But it s so good So rewarding And even the end, that fat and unnatural anticlimactic climax, that so wrong final meeting of the Council and the City, even as you want to yell that is not how it should have happened you cannot help but think Yes, yes, that is how it was, how it is, how it should be There is something strange and wonderful about Mieville s works that both frustrate and inspire.Mieville likes playing with cities New Crobuzon is exotic enough already, and the ship city of Armada from TS was plenty awesome Here we have Iron Council itself, the perpetual train, ungrateful child of New Crobuzon Makes you almost giddy wondering what Old China will give us next. We live in a culture that desires fragmented stories stories that are told quickly and compellingly, so we can move on to the next tale It is why we love visual forms so much It is why YA fiction is increasingly popular with older crowds It is why graphic novels are on the rise as a literary form But where are the novellas Where are books like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Old Man and the Sea, Heart of Darkness, The Awakening, A Clockwork Orange I have been looking, waiting, hoping, for a resurgence of the novella as a popular form, but it doesn t seem to be coming Roth s The Humbling was a novella and so was Meyer s The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, but novellas from a literary giant like Roth and a throwaway sequel by a hack like Meyer hardly suggest a healthy return of the form So I ve been growing despondent, wanting desperately to see the form I love become a form of choice once again.But then I noticed something The novella isn t gone It s just hiding I ve discovered the novella is still out there only now it is hidden in the middle of bigger works Publishers are unwilling willing to publish novellas because publishers think novels are the safer, familiar bet for the consumer Novellas, after all, are for University students and academics they are not for everyday teenagers, housewives and grumpy old men But when novellas are hidden, they re no threat at all Sometimes they can be a part of a novel, and sometimes they lie in combination with other novellas to create a loosely linked group of stories posing as a novel see the works of David Mitchell but they re out there still they just don t look like novellas Case in point is one of the finest novellas ever written by anyone anywhen anamnesis The Perpetual Train This unparalleled tale is hidden in the center of China Mieville s most ambitious Bas Lag novel Iron Council and it is a breathtaking display of everything that makes the novella a beautiful form.Its prose is sparing its story is tight, compact, compelling and rich It focuses on one man, Judah Low, and his journey from corporate funded adventurer to anti imperialist somaturge to founding iron counsellor is perfect and complete all by itself Nothing is needed than anamnesis The Perpetual Train s cancerous spread across the land turned iconic standard for worker solidarity The rest of Iron Council is superfluous Which leaves me even in awe of Mieville than I have ever been, but a little frustrated with him too The events in Iron Council, which sprawl around anamnesis The Perpetual Train like suburbs, are beautiful in their own right They bravely incorporate sexual politics, economics, uprising, war, poverty and corruption, fleshing out Bas Lag with a perspective that raises a middle finger to the conservative traditions of speculative fiction But, as impressive as it all is, I don t think it was necessary, and I wish that Mieville had simply left good enough actually, great enough alone anamnesis The Perpetual Train would have been one of the greatest books ever written I really believe that But we ll have to settle for Iron Council being merely excellent.That s not so bad. The Third Novel In His Amazing Imaginative Sequence 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 I love the first two Bas Lag books but it took me ages to get around to this third volume due to the relatively high number of less than enthusiastic reviews on Goodreads and elsewhere Yes, I can be swayed by reviews if the consensus opinion leans towards the negative At the end of the day though I could not resist picking this book up as it is the last Bas Lag volume for the foreseeable future Mi ville may come back to it but he seems to have no plan to do so at the moment Another thing in Iron Council s favor is that Mi ville himself is aware that it is not as well received as the previous Bas Lag books but still consistently defends it to the hilt during interviews He even said that it is his favorite volume of the three I may add sources for this bold statement later, but in the meantime Google is your friend If I remember correctly he feels that it is the most well written and mature of the three What I am not sure he realises or acknowledges though is that it is also the least fun.The book is essentially about the citizens of New Crobuzon s struggle for equal rights, justice, and a good life Parts of it reminds me a lot of Les Mis rables, unfortunately, it does not have Victor Hugo s well developed and colorful cast of characters Characterization is not normally a problem for China Mi ville but the character h development on this novel is not up to his usual standard, not appalling by any means just not quite up to snuff for him One major advantage the Bas Lag series has over most epic fantasy is its sheer weirdness, its bestiary includes Khepri ladies with insects for heads, the amphibian Vodyanoi with their water sculptures, Garudas, Cactacaes cactus people etc There is no place in Bas Lag for trolls, elves, ogres and dwarves, they can eff off as far as Mr Mi ville is concerned Even wizards can eff off unless they are called thaumaturges instead Then you have the remades, humans grotesquely modified thaumaturgy as punishment for crimes major and minor One example is a character who has his head permanently turned back to front, and another with a baby s arms attached to her head.This is the most political novel of his that I have read so far with the titular Iron Council being a steam train kidnapped by rebels, former railway employees cheated of their wages They soon become legendary inspirations for the rebels of New Crobuzon who conspire to bring down the oppressive government In the meantime, the city of New Crobuzon is also at war with another city called Tesh who are masters of some particularly weird and horrific magic natch, thaumaturgy Quite why the war between the two cities is relevant to the novel s main story arc I am not sure though the thaumaturgic warfare is wonderfully bizarre Another bizarre idea is the railroad for the Iron Council which is built just ahead of the train and disassembled behind it, how is this logistically possible I am not sure though you can get a lot done with thaumaturgy When reading a China Mi ville book you never have to worry about having to tolerate sub par prose, his writing is as literary as ever The only snag is you may want to have a dictionary within reach and also be prepared to decipher some of his neologisms Words like tenebrotropic, atrabilious and subvocalurgy are sometimes arcane words you can find in a dictionary, while other times the author s inventions There is a large chunk of the book narrated in some kind of mythical or legend style where dialog is rare is quotation marks are not used I kind of understand why Mi ville may have wanted to write this portion of he novel this way but it reads like a rather detached second or even third hand account of events I also add another layer between the reader and the story which makes it harder to immerse into the story.The weirdest thing about this book is that it seems enjoyable in retrospect than during the actual reading of it There are some wonderful ideas, creatures and world building At the end if the day it is something of a disappointment for this particular fan Not at all unforgivable, though, I am always keen to read Mi villes. Recall in my review of The Scar how I was whining about my opinion of China Mi ville and his novels remaining relatively constant How I wanted to read something different, something I could say didn t rank equally with the other three novels by him that I have read This is the story of why I should have been careful with my wishing.I knew something was wrong perhaps I should say off almost from the beginning of this book The opening was grandiose in Mi ville s usual style which, if you ve read Mi ville, is explanation enough if you haven t why haven t you but our first meeting with the main characters is confusing than enlightening Worse still, none of the characters are all that interesting I didn t care about Cutter, Elsie, or Pomeroy I didn t care about Ori or Spiral Jacobs or Toro I certainly didn t care for Judah, who seems like a monumental jerk wrapped inside a coat of comfortable self sacrifice.Characterization in The Iron Council is not sloppy, because nothing Mi ville does is sloppy From purple prose to passive voice, Mi ville writes with impunity and a vocabulary to show it because the end result is something captivating and beautiful the novel itself is work of art So it s not sloppy it is, unfortunately, rather lacklustre Both of the preceding Bas Lag novels, Perdido Street Station and The Scar, had a strong central protagonist Isaac and Bella, respectively We lack such a protagonist in The Iron Council The present day narrative alternates between two convergent plots, with Cutter and Ori providing a perspective for each respective storyline The middle of the book tells the genesis of the Iron Council and follows Judah ironically, while Judah is my least favourite character, this is probably the best part of the entire novel.Cutter follows Judah out into the unexplored wilderness beyond New Crobuzon Judah is searching for the Iron Council, a runaway train of railworkers, Remade slaves, and prostitutes He knows that New Crobuzon is finally sending an expeditionary force to wipe out the train, and he wants to find the Iron Council first Cutter follows Judah not because he has faith in the Iron Council but because he has faith in Judah this point is important to the rest of the plot Cutter is in fact in hopeless, unrequited love with Judah.Neither Cutter nor Judah seem very real or three dimensional they are just names, with the barest amount of personality So I didn t feel a lot of sympathy for Cutter as he allows Judah to manipulate him There were none of the chances Cutter had wanted, no opportunity to tell the stories of the Collective, to ask for the stories of the Council It was rushed and ugly He felt desperately angry as the Councillors prepared to die He felt as well a sense of his own failure, that he was letting down Judah You knew I couldn t do it, you bastard That s why you re still there Getting ready some plan or other for when I fail. Still, even though Judah had expected it, Cutter hated that he had not succeeded.The dynamic that Mi ville creates between these two is brilliant, and it s a rather timeless tragedy In this case, however, its characters are not drawn with enough depth, and so the tragic effect is instead rendered a clich.Back in New Crobuzon, Ori is the New Crobuzon equivalent of a Marxist disenchanted with all the talk and ready for some good ol proletariat revolution The New Crobuzon of The Iron Council is an even grimmer place than the city of Perdido Street Station The fallout from Isaac s alliance with the Construct Council caused a messy curtailment on the use of constructs throughout the city Coupled with economic recession and a war with Tesh, and New Crobuzon is under martial law in all but name These are not fun times But Ori is tired of reading newspaper articles and meeting with a group of people who all call themselves Jack the way a communist uses comrade He wants some action.Ori, like me, should be careful what he wishes for.He falls in with a group led by Toro, a character who wears a massive helmet forged in the shape of a bull With the helmet, Toro can sense magical energies and even teleport through space by charging like a bull and tearing a hole in reality with the helmet s horns The group plans to assassinate Mayor Stem Fulcher remember her from Perdido Street Station , reasoning that a successful mission would be like beheading the snake of Parliament I ll leave it up to you to guess how well that works out.I quite enjoyed Ori s storyline, if not Ori himself, and the tale of revolution on the streets of New Crobuzon It was almost like the good old times back in Perdido Street Station, when the city almost felt alive through Mi ville s careful descriptions Almost, but not quite New Crobuzon is present in The Iron Council, but it is no longer the front and centre locus around which the novel revolves.Instead, Mi ville once again chooses a mobile location as his central focus This time it s a train instead of a floating city There s some metaphor to be found within the idea of a train, which is bound to go only where there is a railroad, representing one s freedom Indeed, one of the conceits of The Iron Council is that these fugitive railway workers are constantly tearing up the track behind them and laying down new rails before the train It s odd, but it s very Mi ville As with so much else of his work, he creates an almost but not quite romantic vision of life on an ever changing railscape Like New Crobuzon and Armada, the citizens of the Iron Council are cosmopolitan however, the scale of the city is a lot smaller and constrained We get a sense of the fragility of the Council everything is reused, if possible, because their resources are limited as well as the sense of boundless adventure they have maps no one in New Crobuzon has In that respect, the Iron Council is as well developed, as a weird city, as any of Mi ville s creations.I m very ambivalent about the fate of the Iron Council and the ending of the book Part of me hates it, if only because it seems so inevitable the way Mi ville has written it Part of me enjoys its creativity It is consistent with my favourite thing about this book, which is its portrayal of the difficulty of staging a class revolution Ori quickly realizes that it s one thing to begin an uprising and quite another thing to succeed at it the militia is ruthless, and even the death of New Crobuzon s mayor is not necessarily going to stop them This real but unattractive truth fuels a lot of the tension in the last part of the book, as well as Judah s final act that affects the Iron Council and everyone aboard it.If anything, The Iron Council, with its brief allusions to the events of Perdido Street Station, hasjust made me want to reread that first Bas Lag novel all over again I want to return to the delightful machinations of Mayor Rudgutter and then secretary Stem Fulcher I want to see them negotiate with the Ambassador from Hell and the Weaver In addition to these allusions, there are plenty of new, small glimpses at the weird and wonderful world that is Bas Lag Once again, Mi ville shows that his imagination and his ability to create a world are without parallel And beyond the worldbuilding lurks a good tale too The Iron Council is a strong story of standing up to authority and striking, albeit not always succeeding However, none of its characters could interest me, and I found that to be a massive stumbling block in reading this book I read it, but I wasn t really into the story There was no point where I would have been disappointed if something had interrupted me during my reading I was a casual visitor to Bas Lag this time I suppose there is nothing wrong with that, per se, but with a writer as good as Mi ville, I m always going to be disappointed when the experience is just casual.