Customer Review

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Growing Pains, 18 Feb 2005
This review is from: Iron Council (Hardcover)
I approached this novel with mixed feelings, mainly because the book has received mixed reviews here. It was still very good, and in fact the weaknesses point to the potential for something greater that may yet come.
In many ways Iron Council is still China Mieville at his abrasive, aggressive, intelligent best. Reading his work is like going to the deli and finding something spicy and new amongst the safe meats. It's a slightly unnerving taste, but you're glad you've tried it.
So why have some people been cautious? Part of the answer lies in the fact that the author is exploring new ground, flexing some literary muscle. He's trying to balance style with character and environment, and also he's throwing in some more of the political environment that he loves. In many ways this is a more ambitious book than either Perdido Street Station or The Scar. It's a step on for Mieville, and like all authors he is learning on the job.
There are, I think, two reasons why people might not like this book. Firstly, the whole thing could have been a bit tighter especially towards the end, the characters needed a little more internal integrity, and there was not the depth to the New Crobuzon environment that was such a delight in the previous books; but in the scheme of the work these are minor adjustments required to achieve excellence.
The second is more a matter of choice. China describes himself as a writer of 'weird fiction', and that's a good description. If he chooses to keep politics largely out of his work he will find more commercial success, and a broader appeal. If however he chooses to include and explore the politics that he loves, he will find that he leaves some of his readership behind. This is not so much a question of literary excellence as the author deciding which way to take his work.
But then, just perhaps he might be able to really win the Prize and produce a book that offers profound political insight and storytelling genius. I suspect he is feeling his way towards this lofty goal, and it's a learning process; hence my comment about some of the caution reflecting the fact that he is breaking new ground, exploring new territory.
China Mieville might well have the potential to match the genius of Orwell and Hemmingway, Waugh and Greene. He's shown us he is an excellent story teller, and a ferociously creative thinker. The question is, can he step up from that and realise the potential that I think is there within him?
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