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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really not that bad
The real flaw this book is that it is different.
Mieville has moved from the urban landscapes of his first three novels and created a book, which is about journeys real and psychological. The book is also a great deal more political than his previous novels and as such becomes too human. The book also lacked the independence of the other three novels; you have to...
Published on 14 Dec 2004 by R. S. Loch

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Iron Council - China Mieville
Mieville sets a new bench mark for Sci-Fi creativity with this book. His inventiveness twists so many dimensions of culture, space, time and social norms that it can leave the reader reeling and confused. It is not just the challenge of imagining Mieville's many and varied creatures and landscapes that makes this book different. It is the way he spins what is essentially...
Published on 25 Sep 2006 by Sebastian Liebowitz


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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Iron Council - China Mieville, 25 Sep 2006
This review is from: Iron Council (Paperback)
Mieville sets a new bench mark for Sci-Fi creativity with this book. His inventiveness twists so many dimensions of culture, space, time and social norms that it can leave the reader reeling and confused. It is not just the challenge of imagining Mieville's many and varied creatures and landscapes that makes this book different. It is the way he spins what is essentially a heroic yarn - a group of revolutionaries try to save the city that spawned them - into a new millenium morality tale.

In doing so he treats the English Language as a watch-maker who is forced to mend a watch with a plastic spatula - it is so inadequate for the task at hand that Mieville invents a vast new lexicon to help himself describe the weirdity he has invented. Absolutists beware - it is rarely worth reaching for the dictionary as he has moved English on a phase and the dictionary has yet to catch up.

This is not a book for the prudish - his characters are raw, mainly male and spend quality time with each other and aliens. They are made to suffer physically and emotionally, perhaps helping us to divine the author's world view - this book presents life as a bitter struggle against domination by others, the oppression lifted only by hope for the future and stolen moments with those you love.

If you are looking for an easy read - this isn't it. It is no surprise that in working the imagination and lexicon so hard, Mieville loses readers along the way. So many literary special effects detract from the characters who generate little affection, and the plot itself is quite simplistic - just follow the spirals.

Despite that, there is real joy to be had throughout this book. To share in the wonderful creations of its author - cactus men, smoke stone, the Remade and city-sized eyes is a privilege, and Mieville expertly evokes the revolutionary fervour of the late nineteenth century with his Marxist plots, trade unions and seditious pamphlets. It is an Arthur C Clarke prize winner, and if the prize is awarded for creativity then it is well merited. However I suspect that it is the readers themselves who will feel deserving of a prize for seeing this book through to the end.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Revolution Descending the Staircase, 27 Jan 2005
This review is from: Iron Council (Hardcover)
There are several stories woven together in this novel - another on the New Crobuzon series (if you would call that a series). The very first is an expedition of New Crobuzon 'rebels' let by Cutter, setting out to find Judah Low and the Iron Council. The second theme is Judah's own tale - an observer and prospector for a new cross-country railroad, then a mage, and then a revolutionary. This is inextricably bound up with the tale of the train itself - slowly moving across the face of the world as the track is built, finally revolting from its overlords, workers and train taking off on their own. The strange ecology that comes into being as a feral train and those that keep it independent and moving it the Iron Council. Now something of a legend back in New Crobuzon, and hated by those it rebelled against.
Back in the city itself, the themes of oppression and revolution play themselves out. Ori, a young man, is drawn into the mild sedition or an organization (perhaps it is a 'dys'organization) called the Caucus. These meet secretively, engage in mild guerilla politics, but are mostly a discussion forum. Finally dissatisfied, he shifts to a more violent form of protest, let by the bull-headed Toro on a quest to kill New Crobuzon's mayor and bring down the current regime. New Crobuzon itself returns as a major theme, much like the one it played in Perdido Street Station. But while that book saw the city as something vitally and sometimes fearfully alive with both horrors and delights, Iron Council presents a picture of a degenerating social class struggle, a collapsing economy, and an increasing oppressive government.
The stories are sometimes disjoint, but inevitably intertwined, as the Iron Council becomes less a group of angry train builders and more a symbol for what is happening in the city. The great, peripatetic path of the Iron Council leads inevitably back to the city. The war with the Tesh rides on the insurgency. Judah, Cutter, and Ori are the players that tie these threads together into an unnerving tapestry straight out of Hieronymus Bosch.
When an author who has been consistently excellent falls short of his previous efforts, there is a tendency for the reviewer to be excessively critical in response. While I intend to avoid that extreme, Iron Council has some very real flaws that deserve some attention. The first is the extremely slow start of the story lines. Most of the first half of the book is the history of Judah and the train. While the core facts of this history are vital to an understanding of the story to come, Mieville seizes on the opportunity to show off his control of language. Scenery is described in almost excruciating detail and the writing style, full or portent and metaphor is florid, even to the point of invented words. By the time the story became more than historical narrative this reader was feeling a bit dazed, and I had a great deal of trouble re-establishing my reading momentum.
On top of considerable linguistic skills, Mieville is an extremely inventive author. But in Iron Council he, like the city itself, becomes too dependent on mechanism. Judah is a golem master, and these creations play dues ex machine roles in moving the story forward. Just as the city makes monsters out of human, machine, and animal parts, Mieville constructs his own version of the English language, with its own occasional horrors. The reader is often undecided if he is reading a work of fiction, a metaphoric autobiography, or something written purely for display.
If not as readable as Mieville's previous books, this is still a landmark effort and should be accorded respect. It isn't a 'reader friendly' book - none of the New Crobuzon novels are really that - but it is one that generates both thought and new ideas in the reader. If you are new to the series, start with Perdido Street Station, since this story is very much embedded in that one. If you are looking for stylistic parallels then you will find Mieville's facility with language quite similar to Umberto Eco's, and can make your decision accordingly.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really not that bad, 14 Dec 2004
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R. S. Loch "rsloch" (the wilds of Oxfordshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Iron Council (Hardcover)
The real flaw this book is that it is different.
Mieville has moved from the urban landscapes of his first three novels and created a book, which is about journeys real and psychological. The book is also a great deal more political than his previous novels and as such becomes too human. The book also lacked the independence of the other three novels; you have to have read Perdido Street Station to understand the world these events are occurring in.
With all due respect to other reviewers who have slated this book, I suspect it is more a reaction to the book's differences rather than its quality.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Crobuzon at war, 3 Jan 2006
By 
Jane Aland (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Iron Council (Paperback)
‘Iron Council’ is China Mieville’s 2nd sequel to ‘Perdido Street Station’, and as with ‘The Scar’ before it while it is not a direct sequel any new readers will certainly be missing out on much essential background detail if they don’t read the other books first. The story is essentially about a revolution of the underclass in New Crobuzon, and the narrative is divided between the tales of civil war in the city itself, and a desperate attempt to summon help from the mythical Iron Council. While the revolution in New Crobuzon drives the narrative, the real meat of the story concerns the typical fantasy ‘there and back again’ travelogue to reach the Iron Council, and a lengthy flashback which provides both a background for the main character Judah Low and the history of how Bas Lang’s first railway transformed into a mythical lost society. As with his previous novels Mieville is strong on inventive weirdness, with magic, monsters and the bizarre half-human remade, but his characters are strong enough to provide a real emotional core for the book. I’m at a loss as to why some reviewers seem to think this novel represents a change of style for Mieville, or is overly-political (the revolutionaries in New Crobuzon are clearly defined and there is little here that hasn’t already been set up in the previous novels), and having re-read both ‘Perdido Street Station’ and ‘The Scar’ immediately before reading this 3rd novel I can really detect no overt differences at all. And that’s all for the good – ‘Iron Council’ is another wonderfully bizarre and ultimately moving fantasy, and highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars China just keeps getting better and better, 22 Aug 2007
By 
Richard S. Clesham (somerset, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Iron Council (Paperback)
I know it's an awful cliche, but i actually couldnt put this book down. seriously.
yeh it doesnt start all that well with the search for Judah. but once it gets going it's breathtaking. the whole section about Judah's past was unforgettable and the sections during the attempted revolution in New Crobuzon was imense.
I know people disregard this book becuase of it's politics and the fact that i largely agree with his politics puts me in a better position to relate to the novel, but it is fantastic writing with astonishing ideas and.... well i can't really put it into words how much i enjoyed this book. it is not a happy novel and it is not an easy read but it is one of the most accomplished novels i have read. i was completely engrossed in the story and as i have thought of all his Bas-Lag novels, a fantasy world has never been so complete.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it, 5 Jan 2005
This review is from: Iron Council (Hardcover)
Contrary to a number of reviews, I really enjoyed 'The Iron Council', and read it far more quickly than either 'Perdido Street Station' or 'The Scar'. I continue to wonder, however, whether the author is writing fantasy, science fiction or political polemic. Don't forget he stood as a far left candidate in the last UK General Election. His descriptions of New Crobuzon remind me more and more of Dore etchings of 19th century London - remember the one of huddled terrace housing dominated by a railway viaduct? The descriptions of the building of the 'Transcontintal Railway'remind me of stories of the constructionof the Union Pacific in the USA, again during the 19th century - built. of course, using mainly 'alien' labour. Note the credit that the author gives to Zane Grey. Is Bas-La intended to be the Earth, long in the future, after somecatastrophe has caused numerous mutations? The author uses neologisms created from Latin and Greek - 'heliotype' for photograph, 'voxiterator' for tape recorder/dictaphone/telephone (it is unclear which). The word 'chaver' is used amongstthe conspirators for friend/comrade. Surely this is a Romany word? The currency is in part 'shekels'. Or is this all done to tease and amuse? To doubters, I say, if you enjoyed the previos 'New Crobuzon' novels, read this. To newcomers to Mieville, read the books in the order of writing, to get the full flavour of this amazing world.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars different but in a good way, 15 Aug 2005
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This review is from: Iron Council (Paperback)
Some times you get the feeling that that the author is a litle up his own bottom and llikes to show off...i dont know whether thats true or not ,but you can't deny his talent.
He challenges his readers in a similar way to stephen donaldson...although in no way are the stories comparable.
If you want to fully appreciate this book read his others first ...believe me ....they are well worth it........and then this one is much more entertaining.
His rich world of baslag is odd,very odd.Very provocative and hugely entertaining.....this guy is NOT someone just trying to make a fast buck from the genre,not that he would admit to being "in it", he is adding something new, original.
It will appeal to different people in different ways,i loved it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy turned up to 11, 13 Dec 2004
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This review is from: Iron Council (Hardcover)
After having been blown away by the first two novels in Mieville's New Crobuzon (where is the original city of Crobuzon I wonder? Is it a bit like York as compared with New York?) series, I was somewhat underwhelmed by Iron Council.
I can't possibly criticise the author for his imagination and use of language (his use of simile and metaphor are amazingly evocative) and I disagree with a previous reviewer, in that I felt the first two thirds of this book were gripping and fascinating.
I particularly like the fact that the novel centres on revolutionary politics - it's not often you see that in this particular genre. It reminds me of the seething seditionist undertow in the Victorian age, often forgotten in mainstream history.
I also love the visceral and solid way the world of New Crobuzon is conjured up by Mieville.
However, I felt the last third of the book was anticlimactic. The way the plot was resolved after the momentous build up was disappointing. I also found that the writing had lost its tightness and I began to skim read to get the book finished.
I wonder whether this is partly because the author had the scale of the fantasy wonders and violence turned up to 11 for too much of Iron Council. In the end, you can't go higher than 11, so where could the novel go in its climax?
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Left wanting......, 25 Aug 2004
By 
John Davies (Hertfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Iron Council (Hardcover)
I ordered a copy of the US release of the Iron Council, having immensely enjoyed Perdido Street Station and the Scar. I was really looking forward to delving into New Crobuzon's dark and oppressive alleyways. China has an amazing way with words, the narrative in his novels and novella is superb and truly grips the reader refusing to relinquish is grasp.
Unfortunately, this novel really disappointed me, I found it difficult to get into, highly unlike any of China's other works; and must confess that towards the end of the novel I almost committed the ultimate sin of starting another book, The Scar, to make myself feel better. I found it very difficult to feel anything for the characters in the novel, which is a major departure from China's earlier work.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed some parts of the novel; but to me, it feels like a stop gap between fantastic pieces of literature, like the Perdido Street Station and The Scar. I feel that is would have been better served having come out of PS Publishing as a novella, like the Tain, which was very good and didn't have any padding in it.
There was some good material in the novel, the aftermath of the construct council, the cacotopic stain, the nightmares that plagued New Crobuzon some thirty year prior to this novel and Toro, all of which linked nicely into Perdido Street Station, which I had just finished re-reading in anticipation of the Iron Council.
As always, read the novel yourself and make your own mind up, but in my humble opinion, the ending isn't all that. I am just hoping I was having a bad week when I read the novel. I need to re-read The Scar and then I think I will give the iron council another go.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars china believes the hype, 10 Nov 2004
This review is from: Iron Council (Hardcover)
WOW WHAT A WRITER!!!! science fiction/fantasy writing has a new star!After the talent that was perdido street station & the scar,which were both challenging,fascinating and gripping who could possibly be brave enough to say that this particular luminary could ever produce anything other than another classic?
well not the sycophantic critics thats for sure.
I loved the two previous books and I really have no axe to grind but this book was a bitter disappointment.
previously fantastic(in every sense)stories were woven around an incredible world populated by amazing characters you soon learned to love or fear,added to that was an incredibly hard edge rarely seen before in this genre.
iron council bothers only to tick the last box in that list,over and over again with a plot so thin a short story would have been pushing it and uninteresting shallow people wandering in and out of the story,when anyone dies it doesnt matter there'll be another dull cipher along in a page or two to fill the tiny void.
the wonderous city of new crobuzon is used as a pre-painted backdrop against which Mieville splatters his wafer thin plot,if you havent read the previous two books the author is not interested in you,and if you have the same old creatures doing the same old things is losing its interest.
As for those who rave about the incredible ending,they need to get out more often,it feels tacked on.
what a shame.what a disappointment.
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Iron Council by China Mieville (Hardcover - 17 Sep 2004)
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