Iron Council

China Miéville
Iron Council Cover

When Quest Meets Unrest


The road is a sentence written on the ground... (p. 199)

And in Iron Council, that sentence is a manifesto. A tale where quest meets unrest, an unexpected journey, there and back again, not to destroy or retrieve a magical talisman, but to unshackle the working class. Told from the third-person narratives of three male revolutionaries, we see the effects of revolution on the individual: how it inspires, how it transcends, how it corrupts.

But it's a manifesto for Bas-Lag, not Earth. Still not quite the radical fantasy narrative I was promised from this oeuvre, Miéville isn't asking his readers to align with anything more extreme than basic human rights. I've heard some readers recoil at his name due to his political statements (I guess), but these books are safe. That is, unless you think labor rights are a bad thing, in which case, which corrupt, megalomaniacal corporate entity do you represent? And why are you reading this blog?

But the style has always been my problem, and at least this novel did not provoke in me that knee-jerk "who the hell is this person?" response I had with my first attempt at Perdido Street Station, with its snot-laden, bug-popping aesthetics on top of a back-cover vanity shot. This is the Miéville I wish I had started with. The earthy Miéville, the somber Miéville, the "mud and dangerous paths" Miéville (p. 150).

But ultimately, people say Iron Councilis boring. Even Miéville fans say it's boring. It's not exciting, but I kept turning the pages, not for the action, but out of wonder about how this will end. Will it be modeled off a known revolution? Will it go French? Russian? Cuban?

But perhaps I kept turning the pages because I just liked what it had to say. Coming off a superbly disappointing UK election season- a nasty harbinger of things to come on my own planet- Iron Council does contain some nice messages:

"A government for need not greed!" (p. 239)


"The Collective. It was a Remaking" (p. 499).

But the ultimate message to take home is in the repeated metaphor of the perpetual train:

The resistance will go on.

Fist Golem.

Click link for full review.