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Iron Council

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the always-good-to-see-danny-reviews dept.

Sci-Fi 72

danny writes "I haven't stopped writing book reviews, it's just been a while since I wrote any suitable for Slashdot. Read on for my review of China Mieville's Iron Council."

The world of the New Crobuzon city-state is loosely based on the European industrial revolution's "steam age", mixed together with an extraordinarily inventive range of fantastic features. People are "remade" into strange forms in punishment factories, there are all kinds of nonhuman sentients -- cactus people, insect-like kephri, and more -- and there are a diverse range of magics. The Mayor and Parliament rule through a brutal Militia, but revolutionary factions abound and a draining war with Tesh is fueling discontent.

Cutter leads a band of insurrectionists from the Caucus, looking for the golem creator Judah. They fight a series of battles as they travel across a war-torn landscape, seeking the semi-mythical Iron Council, a group of railway workers who rebelled and escaped into the wilderness. Meanwhile Ori is involved with the shifting revolutionary factions in New Crobuzon. He joins one of the more violent groups, which eventually launches a plot to assassinate the Mayor.

Much of the "colour" of Iron Council comes from politics, with allusions to historical groups and events, most obviously to various socialist and anarchist movements and to the Paris Commune. It attempts to harness the pathos and power of revolutionary myth and history, but the result is mostly poor pastiche, nowhere approaching the drama of real history. The historical links are weak, often mismatched with the peculiar features of New Crobuzon, and unable to carry the sentiment Mieville tries to invest them with. And there's not enough background for anyone to actually care about the New Crobuzon revolution in its own right: Iron Council has neither actual political philosophy nor social detail nor real people.

Another annoying feature of Iron Council is that everything is subservient to the special effects of the moment. At one point, for example, we read:

"With a thumb of chalk, Spiral Jacobs drew the shape that had given him his name, whispering while he did, and it was of astonishing perfection, a mathematical symbol. And then there were smaller coils coming from its outer skin, and Jacobs ran his hand over it and walked on.

It began to rain as Ori reached the mark Jacobs had made. It did not smear."

But though Ori and Jacobs continue to roam the city, the rain never features again -- it's just a completely ad hoc device to highlight the mysteriousness of the spiral symbols. This is a trivial example, but this kind of thing recurs at different levels throughout Iron Council: strange wondrous monsters are invented, new magics deployed, characters introduced and then disposed of, new words coined -- all to help enhance a single encounter, battle, scene, or piece of dialogue.

Mieville's characterisation is weak. The three central characters manage to get less and less interesting as time goes by, to the point where the deaths of two of them are of no moment. The plot and Mieville's dazzling invention hold Iron Council together and kept me reading to the end, but the overall effect is, apart from a few novel ideas, unmemorable and unlikely to bear rereading. It was no doubt unwise of me to expect more, but the fuss about Mieville and the recommendations of friends had raised my hopes.

Note: I haven't read Mieville's earlier books set in the same world -- Perdido Street Station and The Scar -- but Iron Council is entirely self-contained.

You can purchase Iron Council from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Hey all. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387728)

I'm looking for a good computer game. I read the "no innovation in games" story and am already going to pick up Europa Universalis II, but I'm looking for a decent city/empire building sim along the lines of Tropico or Pharaoh but preferably more recent. Do you know of anything that'd fit the bill? (good independently-designed or free games also welcomed)

Re:Hey all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387968)

DRM protects the wealth and prosperity of our great nation against European and other arabic IP-terrorists.

It is of utter importance not to underestimate the dangers of uncontrolled music- and movie-distribution over so-called "P2P"-hardware. "P2P" is an acronym for "Penis to Penis", indicating that the participants are, among other psychological deficiencies, of a deeply-rooted homosexual persuasion. Among them, there is a non-trivial number of people who practice "Linux", a sexual practice that both shocks and disgusts the unsuspecting casual caucasian heterosexual.

"How do we stop it then?", I hear you ask.

Well, I suggest we all should synergize our efforts into one big, solidary circle-jerk.

Re:Hey all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12389002)

I know what a circle-jerk is, but what's "Linux?" Is it like bestiality or something?

GNAA copycats arrested in LastMeasure child porn s (0, Troll)

Yahweh Seba'ot (856211) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387732)

GNAA copycats arrested in LastMeasure child porn scam

London, England -- GNAA's UK division has reported that five unnamed jews who abused LastMeasure links at their school in a total failure of a fashion were today taken away for interrogation by the government's National High Tech Crime Unit. The accused created shitty batch files in a rucas-esque attempt to flood the schools' computer systems with LastMeasure URL's.

After a filled computer class was exposed to LastMeasure for more than five minutes, a N.H.T.C.U. team raided the computer lab and abducted the culprits. One managed to escape the clutches of the government after being taken to a detention centre and fled to the GNAA UK headquarters in London. According to an interview with the escapee, they were taken away to an unknown location and locked in a cell. One by one, they were taken and tortured for hours on end with spiky anal dildos and analpears. Heading up the torture was none other then the notorious Kirk Johnson, also known by his nickname "The Goatse Man".

"It was absolutely horrible! My asshole is now ruined for life. The things they were doing to us were unhuman. All the while, we were forced to hear a looping MP3 of Mr Johnson repeating 'I am the Goatse Man, I stretch ass like no-one can' over and over. I will never be able to sleep soundly again. These people are monsters!"

We were then informed that the remaining prisoners were to be flown to Iraq for beheading, Kenneth Bigley style.

This news has shocked the GNAA community. Many were in disbelief that LastMeasure had any child porn what so ever. According to our inside nigger agent in the N.H.T.C.U. the image file "eww.jpg" was found to be of a "paedophilic" nature. dcom of the GNAA's UK branch was found saying "wtf, thats child porn? I masturbate to that picture evey day and I'm no paedophile!" We believe this to be an unjust attack against the GNAA's premiere software product, and yet another attempt by the Zionists rooted deep within the British Government to destroy the world's greatest trolling organisation.

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The LastMeasure site originally consisted of Penisbird, Goatse, Tubgirl, Lemonparty, and Shitfaced Lady. But has expanded to include many other of the internets treasured icons. And with the addition of StatsMeasure, the clipboard data of thousands of unwitting victims has now been exposed for the world to see.

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Re:GNAA copycats arrested in LastMeasure child por (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12388040)

I'm glad it worked out well.

I would like to donate something to your project; perhaps you have a GayPal-account?

Good to see some people stick to an ethical and humane idea of the Internet like Al Gore imagined it when he invented it.

yeah fp./ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387733)

my first first post.


Suitable for Slashdot? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387737)

Wow you have some pretty low standards there, buddy.

Re:Suitable for Slashdot? (4, Funny)

Espectr0 (577637) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388227)

The world of the New Crobuzon city-state is loosely based on the European industrial revolution's "steam age",

Proper use of "loose"?
No spelling errors?

Dude, this review is the most unsuitable one you could have done for us.

Loose the snobby attitude, buddy. (1)

Urusai (865560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388769)

Join the rest of the loosers lest you loose karma for your lose use of grammar.

Quick Review (3, Interesting)

rimu guy (665008) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387772)

I had previously read Perdido Street Station. PSS was a little hard to get into. But Mieville's writing is such that you can't help but be drawn into the strange milieu of New Crobuzon. I ended up liking it enough that I bought Iron Council on the spot when I saw it.

I am reading Iron Council now. Again, it is quite hard getting into. The story at the start jumps around temporally and in location. About a third of the way in it settles into a more linear narrative which I find easier to get involved in. After reading PSS I am probably getting more out of the writing than someone hitting New Crobuzon for the first time. With the second book I think Mieville is better able to 'toss off' a fleeting reference to something and for that to actually mean something to the reader.

Right now I'd say I'll persevere to the end. I like Mieville's writing style. I like the setting. I would prefer I cared a bit more about the characters. And it would be nice if the plot felt like it were building somewhere. I'm driven to finish mostly to find out where the story is going. And a little by wanting to find out more about New Crobuzon. 6/10 so far....

Your Own Linux Server for $20/month []

Re:Quick Review (1)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387937)

There's a lot of hype around Mieville, that I don't understand

I read Perdido Street Station. I thought his mix of steampunk and fantasy was interesting and his writing style is good but the plot wasn't all that great, infact I mostly wanted to know more about the secondary characters and the other races than main story. Meiville seems to have a touch of literary ADD, he tosses a lot of interesting ideas in but doesn't flesh them out.

Re:Quick Review (1)

secolactico (519805) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387996)

infact I mostly wanted to know more about the secondary characters and the other races than main story

I can relate to that. The best parts of the book were those that related the POV of secondary chars, such as Mayor Rudgutter. I was hoping for a Motley POV but it never came.

I did find amusing the fact that New Crobuzon was so important, even Hell had an embassy there.

Re:Quick Review (1)

thesilicate (140879) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388917)

What you think of as his literary ADD is what makes his settings so believable. He treats the reader as someone who inhabits his bizarro-world, letting interesting side details in for local color, but only putting emphasis on the things pertaining to the story itself.

Re:Quick Review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12388180)

If you want to spam people, put it in your signature, where we can ignore it. Thanks.

Third book, actually (2, Informative)

LPetrazickis (557952) | more than 9 years ago | (#12392656)

Iron Council is Mieville's third book in the world of Bas Lag. The second -- The Scar -- is the best of the bunch. Mieville let the plot get away from him in Iron Council and he didn't flesh things out enough.

totally offtopic, for 4:20 fun (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387781)

hehe, this cracks me up:
thor rolling a jay []


Re:totally offtopic, for 4:20 fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387923)

lol bbq Dude tjat's some funny shitz

Self-contained? (2, Insightful)

zyklone (8959) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387782)

No wonder you don't understand the city if you havn't read Perdido Street Station.

Read the first two books and I might take you seriously.

Re:Self-contained? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387941)

So wait he read a book and it sucked so now he should read more books by the same author so he can like the book he already thinks sucked....that makes a whole hell of alot of sense.

Re:Self-contained? (1)

zyklone (8959) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388139)

Well, he thinks the books are standalone. So ofcourse he should read Perdido. :)

Re:Self-contained? (4, Insightful)

Thenomain (537937) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388015)

There are two ways to take Iron Council:

1) As the next book in the series.
2) As a book set in the world.

If you take it as 1, Iron Council is a decent book. I admit I don't like it as much as the previous two, but I didn't throw it across the room in disgust.

If you take it as 2, I can see why you might. A lot of the inner workings and horrors of the world (and especially the city) are well laid-out in Perdido Street Station. You can get a pretty good idea from reading The Scar, too.

However, this review goes on about things not being "interesting" without giving any idea of what kinds of standards he is putting them against. Regardless if the reviewer came from Point 1 or Point 2, he didn't attempt to make the review meaningful. It was a horrible review, yeah, but not for the fault of "he shoulda read the other books first".

He should have, yes. But he should have at least told us he didn't.

Re:Self-contained? (1)

Thenomain (537937) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388045)

Note to Self: Okay, he did tell us that he hadn't read the previous books. (How did I miss that?) Someone else has already said "The Reviewer Is Wrong".

However, Meiville or his publisher should have told us to expect this to require previous reading. Else, there's no reason not to expect a stand-alone book, much like The Scar.

Re:Self-contained? (1)

Pinback (80041) | more than 9 years ago | (#12390001)

The dude used the word pudenda to refer to a dog twice in the same book. For that alone, his book and his thesaurus needs to go into the recycling bin.

China says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12391602)

In an interview with the Believer, China himself said that the Iron Council is supposed to be self-contained. If it doesn't hold up on it's own, it doesn't hold up.

Re:Self-contained? (1)

oirtemed (849229) | more than 9 years ago | (#12404245)

If a book from a series fails to stand on its own, then it is lacking quality. A good author will make sure the text is self sufficient. That is not to say there isn't a hell of a lot more to be gained from reading the earlier works, but they should not be a requisite. If it is, then publish as a larger work, rather than seperate ones. You will notice that the highly reputable and famous series all are able to stand on their own.

More on Mieville and Iron Council (3, Informative)

gonerill (139660) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387788)

Tbe group weblog Crooked Timber [] had a mini-symposium [] on China Mieville and Iron Council a little while ago, including a long reply from Mieville.

Terribly Written Review? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387797)

I had trouble reading the review and would like a summary.

For Slashdot? (4, Funny)

nate nice (672391) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387802)

"it's just been a while since I wrote any suitable for Slashdot..."

So you've been writing literate reviews?

Re:For Slashdot? (1)

danny (2658) | more than 9 years ago | (#12390472)

I've been reading a lot of Serbo-Croatian literature [] ... Some great books - there seem to be enough really top-notch novels to keep most people in reading material for a year - but probably not Slashdot-fare.


Book Reviews (0, Flamebait)

Seumas (6865) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387822)

Reviewing books on Slashdot is like reviewing toothbrushes in the appalachians or condoms in south africa or deodorant on G4TV.

For the lazy and interested (2, Informative)

caryw (131578) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387826)

Re:For the lazy and interested (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387949)

Now with extra karma-whoring!

If anyone mods you up, I will mod you back down because of your .sig. Prince William County forever! Ha ha; I kid, Northern VA is cool all around.

Sounds like a shame (1)

TomorrowPlusX (571956) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387845)

I read _Perdido Street Station_ and _The Scar_ and I thought they were marvelous. If this is... well, not so good... oh well. Nobody's able to write good stuff forever.

Seems a shame to peter out after only two books, though.

Re:Sounds like a shame (1)

hherb (229558) | more than 9 years ago | (#12389167)

*NEVER* rely on some critic's opinion on a book. Tastes are different, and our own social background, education etc. - all things impacting on our reading experience - are different too.

I for my part have devoured the Iron Council, and I am already longing to read it again. One of these books where you get sad when you realize there are only a few pages left. It allows me to completely submerge into another world, very few authors accomplish this. My 16 year old son thinks the same, he is currently reading it for the second time

Ahhmm!! (3, Funny)

floydman (179924) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387857)

"been a while since I wrote any suitable for Slashdot"

Man, any thing is suitable for /., looks like you are new here...

You can just say "been a while since i wrote anyting"

I disagree (3, Insightful)

spiffy_dude (762559) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387864)

China Mieville is one of the most creative authors I have had the fortune to hear of. Rather than base a world on Tolkien or folklore, his world is almost completely his own creation. IMHO, Perdito Street Station especially deserves reading and The Scar (his second book) is also very good. Iron Council is definitely the weaker of the three.

Re:I disagree (1)

kmcrober (194430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387998)

I agree. The most striking thing about his creativity is how *rare* it seems. He puts a lot more work into his novels than most of his contemporaries, and I think that's a side effect of his political interests. He's trying to *say* something, rather than just tell a quick story, and it encourages craftsmanship. That's my take, anyway. And while I'm offering unsolicited opinions, I'd say he's similar to David Gerrold and Iain M. Banks in that respect - they write meatier books because they're flexing more than just a creative muscle.

Re:I disagree (1)

AussieVamp2 (636560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12390214)

Not too many books can leave your jaw hanging open at points, but Perdido Street Station certainly did. I'd read this new one based on the strength of the last 2, for sure.

SORRY! I DON'T READ! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387909)

Thanks anyway.

bwhahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12387912)

After reading rat king,,,or was it king rat..anyway no one cares and after reading that book i am not at all suprised that iron council sucks.....

Iron Council is *not* self contained. (5, Insightful)

kmcrober (194430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387948)

The reviewer is wrong; Iron Council is not a self-contained work. All of this is only my opinion, of course, but the trilogy seems to be about the city of New Crobuzon as much as it's about any social or political themes. Even The Scar, which takes place entirely outside the city limits, revolves around New Crobuzon, its people, its culture, and its history. Each of the books builds on the backstory and moods set in the predecessors; the plots aren't interwoven so that you'd *need* to read the others, but you're definately missing a lot of the meat of Iron Council if you haven't read PSS or The Scar.

I did not enjoy Iron Council nearly as much as PSS or The Scar, not least because Mieville seemed to be shifting the focus more to less interesting characters and politics and away from the city itself. The external events were weak, in comparison to the city-centered parts of the plot, and the political themes seemed forced.

That's a small complaint, though, in the end. Mieville writes up a storm, and what we do see of New Crobuzon is as compelling and original as ever. I can't wait for his next work; I hope that it's set in the same universe, whether it's another NC exposition or set somewhere else entirely.

I should mention that I enjoy his non-Bas-Lag fiction as well. I liked King Rat much more than Gaiman's Neverwhere, which is roughly similar but less interesting. King Rat explored some of the same political themes as Iron Council, but in subtler and more interesting ways.

All in all, read Iron Council only if you're particularly interested in Mieville's political themes or are a dedicated fan of his settings. Given how he builds on the settings and moods of his prior works in the series, you'll enjoy and appreciate the next Bas Lag book more if you've read Iron Council, even if it doesn't float your boat all on its own.

review books before they are published ?how? (1)

bananasfalklands (826472) | more than 9 years ago | (#12387978)

I'm a book whore, but quite how can you write reviews before the 'mortals' on slashdot get them - does that not make you a book salesperson?

Those of you /.'ers thinking Im making it up I refer to a book review on the site for "Voices from Chernobyl"

Ive just written out a library reserve card for it and it is published in July. Considering its April.... So I should be the first to get it.

Re:review books before they are published ?how? (2, Informative)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388643)

Its called advanced copies. Publishers usually send off a few to established reviewers.

A friend of my Mother used to work for the NY Times in their book review section so I have a number of advance copies of books. They usually look like something printed up at Kinkos, slightly smaller than a hardcover, stabled binding with a papercover and no, or black and white cover art. It usually comes with a disclaimer. "This does not represent the final work" etc.

I have an advance copy of Anne Rice's "Memnoch the Devil" with a duplicated page and some typos not in the first edition. I've always wondered if it was worth something.

Re:review books before they are published ?how? (1)

bananasfalklands (826472) | more than 9 years ago | (#12399413)

Well lets just hope those pesky lawyers dont sue you under some law.

It helps to know that and you not just a flunky of the authors family or some pr merchant.

To reply about the other reply yes I do know books are released at different times, i saw no 'prole' reviews on amazon in the usa.

Re:review books before they are published ?how? (2, Informative)

greenrd (47933) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388798)

No, this review isn't a pre-publication review. Books are not always published at the same time everywhere in the world. Also, the paperback comes out later than the hardback. Any bibliophile should know this.

Mievile is way overrated... (1)

badmammajamma (171260) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388002)

I read PSS and ultimately could not determine what everyone was so hot about. It's really mediocre writing at it's best. It felt amateur hour to me.

I also read King Rat. King Rat isn't remarkable in any way but it was at least fun.

Re:Mievile is way overrated... (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388589)

It's really mediocre writing at it's best.

Uh, right.

Leaving aside your lousy grammar, what's your benchmark?

Re:Mievile is way overrated... (1)

badmammajamma (171260) | more than 9 years ago | (#12391373)

Oh no!! He doesn't like the book I like so I'll attack his grammar and question his judgement!

How clever. Oh, "Uh, right." isn't a complete sentence Mr. Grammar. I never claim to be good with grammar, punctuation, etc. but at least I don't give other people shit about it when they fuck up. When you start following all the rules, feel free to criticize. Until then, fuck off. kthxbye! (shit, more bad grammer...oh noes!)

Re:Mievile is way overrated... (1)

Moofie (22272) | more than 9 years ago | (#12393008)

'Twas what we call an "interjection", clever one. Defensive much? Do you need a hug?

Re:Mievile is way overrated... (1)

badmammajamma (171260) | more than 9 years ago | (#12404339)

Yes, I need a hug.

Re:Mievile is way overrated... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12392560)

Never mind "overrated"....

Surely I can't be the only person who thought Perdido Street Station was 600 pages of schitzoid rambling ? I mean, it was just atrocious !

A challenging read from a remarkable talent (5, Informative)

klipsch_gmx (737375) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388019)

First off, for those of you new to China Mieville, I would recommend that you begin with "Perdido Street Station" (or "King Rat"), followed up by "The Scar", and only then tackle "Iron Council". While the three books don't form a trilogy in the traditional sense, they nonetheless draw on shared themes and a common setting and history. As such, while "Iron Council" can certainly be read and appreciated by a newcomer to Mieville's writing, there are numerous small references and commonalities that will be missed.

Fans of Mieville, however, will find in "Iron Council" perhaps his most nuanced and sophisticated writing to date. As usual, the author defies genres, and has produced what would best be described (if one was forced to use labels) as a gothic-western-political-thriller. At the same time, he continues to subvert traditional fantasy elements as well as co-opting elements from other traditions and grounding them in his reality. However, Mieville has also tackled a more challenging structural approach in this novel, as he uses three different voices and two time periods that, while connected by plot threads are separated by decades. Furthermore, the chronologically earlier section comes 130 pages into the book, which in the hands of a less gifted writer would be horribly jarring, but which Mieville pulls of with style.

The primary story (which is elaborated upon by the flashback) is set some twenty years after the events of Perdido Street Station, and finds New Crobuzon at war with distant Tesh, with discontent at home mounting as the casualties mount and the economy falters. It is a time of turmoil and political dissent bordering on civil war; as options are weighed, one man, Judah Low, goes in search of a near mythical construct whose time may be at hand, Iron Council. To say more would risk severe spoilers, but the real joy of "Iron Council" is that the plot is served so deftly by the underlying themes, and vice versa.

And those themes are legion, the most obvious one being New Crobuzon's war with Tesh as a parallel with the Iraq war. Likewise, there are economic factors that are akin to the bursting of the .com bubble of the late 1990's. However, Mieville has made it abundantly clear in numerous interviews that he has no interest in spreading his political views (he is a Socialist who has run for Parliament) through his writing, and that holds true here. Rather, these elements serve to ground the story in a believable reality, which allows the reader to accept at face value the fantastic elements. Moreover, even as he subverts everything that is a "norm" of fantasy, Mieville also casts his own views in a realisitic light. For example, the political activists (with whom he obviously sympathizes) frequently make capricious, even brutal decisions, and display very un-liberal traits such as disdain for homosexuals.

However, as I said, these groundings are mere jumping off points for a much more intriguing exploration, for at its heart "Iron Council" is an exploration of change/history. The groundwork for this is laid in Judah's ability to create golems, which Mieville describes as an intervention, a decision to change the un-living to living. Once the reader recognizes this metaphor, Mieville's intent becomes clear as he considers industry, politics and war (among other things) as interventions into the status quo, as forces for change. In so doing, Mieville quite rightly takes a long view of history in which right and wrong become blurred by the law of unintended consequences. There is a symmetry in his world, almost karmic in its nature, in which actions in the past rebound in unexpected ways in the present. The driving force of history for Mieville is the individual, but as such, he recognizes the fundamental instability this introduces into his novel. People change, there motivations change, and as such, tipping points can never be quite predicted, and will often radically diverge from the expected path.

Re:A challenging read from a remarkable talent (1)

kmcrober (194430) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388268)

Am I missing something? The parent post seems like a very cogent analysis of the book - why was it modded to -1? Unless there's something grievous that I'm not seeing, mod it up! I'm not sure I agree that intervention is the central metaphor of the book, but it's a very interesting take.

In regards to your comment on how Mieville treats the brutality and prejudices of his revolutionaries, I agree that he treats them with admirable and impressive realism.

I assume, based on no knowledge of the man other than his novels, that he is sympathetic, at least, to the idea of a socialist revolution. A lot of authors in that position would gloss over the character flaws of revolutionary characters, whereas Mieville gives them recognizable failings from their real-world counterparts, without overdoing the comparison.

I would prefer that he focus on the more minor characters (I agree with another poster, who commented that the Rudgutter is one of the most interesting characters in the series, but gets very little page time), but I appreciate the fact that he doesn't play political favorites.

Re:A challenging read from a remarkable talent (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388378)

Umm, actually, AFAICT, the GP *wasn't* modded down (at least, there's no indication of mods performed on the post). Rather, it appears it started out at -1...

Re:A challenging read from a remarkable talent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12388791)

That comment isn't his own writing. He ripped it off from a review on Amazon. Do a Google search on "gothic-western-political-thriller" and you'll see what I mean.

Furthermore, looking through his comment posting history I see other modded-down book reviews. I didn't check them for plagiarism, but I have a feeling this isn't his first time using this particular karma-trolling technique.

cue head-scratching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12388031)

Whoa! Article over 30 minutes old and only about 25 comments. Can anyone say "obscure book that I have never even heard of much less read"? Not front page news I think!

Golems. Lots of Golems. (1)

Cr0w T. Trollbot (848674) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388065)

I enjoyed it just a tick less than I did The Scar, which I enjoyed just a tick less than Perdido Street Station. What I find interesting is that over the last few years, fantasy has been filled with golems. In addition to Iron Council, you have:
  • Mary Gentle's Ash: A Scret History
  • Lisa Goldstein's The Alchemist's Door
  • Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • Thane Rosenbaum's The Golems of Gotham

It's possible it started with Ted Chiang's brilliant "72 Letters," but I can't prove it. Did a book on Rabbi Judah Lowe come out around the year 2000?

Crow T. Trollbot

Re:Golems. Lots of Golems. (1)

ChatHuant (801522) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388216)

What I find interesting is that over the last few years, fantasy has been filled with golems.

Also Jonathan Stroud second Bartimaeus [] book. Also Terry Pratchett [] 's older Feet of Clay or more recent Going Postal. Feet of Clay predates 72 letters by some 4 years.

How could you miss... (1)

edremy (36408) | more than 9 years ago | (#12389603)

...Kiln People by David Brin? While not his best work it was a big seller.

Inconsistency (3, Insightful)

ChatHuant (801522) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388128)

Another annoying feature of Iron Council is that everything is subservient to the special effects of the moment.

I liked the book (though it's clearly not as good as Perdido Street Station), but I have to agree with this comment. I generally prefer my SF (and horror) to be internally consistent. You accept the initial premise (and if you don't, why are you even reading this book, or seeing this movie?), but everything else should flow logically from here. Most horror flicks, for example, fail miserably at that - one of the reasons why most horror flicks are so bad.

Some authors can get away with internal inconsistency through continuous invention - Douglas Adams is a good example. Also Terry Pratchett, who, when asked about contradictions between different books in the Discworld series, said that there are no contradictions - there are however alternate pasts.

China Mieville doesn't even try; he invents new rules, brings in machine gods and joyfully contradicts himself anytime he needs to solve a problem. He's almost like Wile E. Coyote: never twice the same trick. This said, his writing style (which I quite like) hasn't changed much, and he does keep throwing new and interesting things at the reader, so Iron Council is IMHO quite acceptable.

Perdido Street Station and the Scar (3, Interesting)

h311sp0n7 (773094) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388225)

As with all major artists' work the first is usually the most creative and energetic and explorative. However, with Iron Council Mieville has not drifted from his roots, only experimented with different interactions of milieu. I read this book when it first came out last year and was engrossed, however, I do think it is on a different level that PSS or the Scar.

Although not reading an author's previous works allows for a more objective point of view I do believe it would be helpful in setting up New Crobuzon as a back drop. Also, I think the reviewer needs to do a little more analysis on regarding why two of the central character's deaths "are of no moment." The bells and whistles should be going off. Why does it evoke this feeling? How has it evoked this feeling? Is Mieville trying to say something about how the world, other characters, or the readers as an audience react? Or doesn't it matter? Is the lack of "characterization" an allusion to a greater departure of self or in fact a lack of meaning in the world? There are so many questions that a reviewer should ask his/herself before commenting on a work.

Needless to say, I loved Perdido Street Station and the Scar, however, I do think that Iron Council is a work within itself and what it lacks in an externally driven world more than makes up for it when it unites the two in the "revolution."

ad hoc devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12388472)

"it's just a completely ad hoc device"

Not wanting to be murdered in my sleep by outraged geeks, I won't mention anything at all about re-aligning the phase of the neutrino flux from the dilithium crystals, or things like that....

Iron Council book review somewhat off mark (1)

Rob Lawlis (880124) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388474)

>Iron Council is entirely self-contained. Not really. Knowledge of the other twoe books provides considerable context. Perdido Street Station is both entirely self-contained and of substantially higher literery quality. The Scar, not as good but better than Iron Council. Amazingly inventive talent that needs to reassert the discipline exhibited in Perdido Street Station.

Fairly disappointed myself (1)

heavyboots (793960) | more than 9 years ago | (#12388846)

Had heard a lot about Meiville and really didn't find Iron Council to have been worth the effort. A very fully fleshed vision of the city and the land but the characters are just hauled all over it without any strong motivations (well, I wasn't engaged by their motivations if they did exist at any rate).

On the other hand, recently read The Year of Our War by Steph Swainston, which is another thoroughly alternate reality-style book. However, she(?) attached the reader to a single viewpoint and sticks with it. I really enjoyed that book and the weird alternate reality she set it in.

Re:Fairly disappointed myself (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 9 years ago | (#12389675)

I agree. I actually read "The Scar" and thought that it was a WONDERFUL work. THe characters and the storyline were so well done.

I picked up "Iron Council" and soaked it up but the ending really put me off. Spiral Jacbos and the golum maker (can't be bothered right now to go look it up) were the coolest characters.

Meiville has a wonderful universe on his hands and I plan on going back and reading "Perdido Street Station" but I would only reread "The Scar" for a bit of filler for the next book, whatever that may be.

troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12388978)


dont feel forced (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12389115)

Dont feel you have to continue the reviews for our sake. If you've gotta stop we won't be too upset......

Bleh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12389324)

Ugh! This was a horribly written book, at least as much as I was able to read. After a hundred pages or so, I couldn't handle it any more and quit, something I hardly ever do.

It seems the author is trying to impress us simultaneously with his big vocabulary and his ability to invent new words, which leads to dozens of instances where I'm asking myself "Is that a real word?" This in itself results to too much effort for too little payoff, especially given the mediocre story, which is mildly interesting, but hardly captivating.

Bleh! I don't need a writer who is constantly hitting me over the head with how "clever" he thinks he is.

Re:Bleh! (1)

AussieVamp2 (636560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12390359)

on the other hand, some people do appreciate books that are deliberately written to be not for people like you :)

Link to interview with the author... (1)

AndrewStephens (815287) | more than 9 years ago | (#12390368)

There is an interesting interview with China Miéville at _mieville.php [] .
I have read both Perdido Street Station and The Scar and enjoyed both of them. The reviewer is right that his characters are sometimes a little hard to care about, but thats not really the point of the books, the setting and writing style really grabbed me. From the interview I linked to, Miéville seems like the quintesential geek author and I would recommend his books to anyone on Slashdot, although I haven't read Iron Council yet.
Here is a potted review of The Scar that I wrote for my personal book log:

The Scar - China Miéville
This is the sequel to Perdido Street Station, set in the same world but thousands of miles away from the damp city setting of the first book. This is set mainly on the open ocean, this allows for all sorts of navel battles, pirates, rigs that pump magic like oil from the ground, flying golems, a backstory involving aliens, etc all told in a gritty yet lyrical style, perhaps best described as maximalist. Miéville's richly spiced crockpot of fantasy genre favourites added to some generous scoops of genuinely new ideas reads like an instant classic. In many ways it is even better than the first book, although they both suffer slightly from having abrupt endings. Nevertheless, this is still a great book.

John? (1)

Digital Pizza (855175) | more than 9 years ago | (#12390603)

and a draining war with Tesh is fueling discontent.

His music will bring anybody down.

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