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on 24 August 2005
I have read both Perdido Street Station and The Scar (I can't recall why King Rat has passed me by) and have been pleasantly surprised by both. China Miéville doesn't ostracise the non-science fiction reader, nor does he patronise them. He has an ability to create worlds out of science fiction, rather than science fiction worlds per say and this is a real ability.
I, like many others, was sadly disappointed by Iron Council though. It's a big book, not unlike the previous novels but very unlike them it really drags at times. It was genuinely an effort to finish, not something I like to say about a novel and really left me with a lack of empathy to the characters and their ultimate aims.
The plot starts around a ground of renegades meeting in a forest and amongst them is Cutter, a man of flawed temperament and questionable loyalties. This opening salvo offers little in the way of direction of the story, apart from arguable introducing you to the FReemade and possible a little of Cutter's psyche but overall I found this superfluous to my enjoyment and the structure of the novel.
The story continues in very much a 2 string approach, intersplicing chapters from different situations with one another. This makes the story ultimately difficult to follow as the volume of imagery Miéville throws at you can be difficult to take in. One thread follows Cutter as he meets the wispersmith Drogon and one of the central characters Judah Low - another curiously described character who I really struggle to either empathise, or sympathise with. A shame really, he started off quite interesting. The second string harbours around the fortunes of New Crobuzon as it struggles against the war that is pulling it apart. This focus's on Ori and Spiral Jacobs and the interaction with Toro - the mythical bull headed FReemade. This thread again somewhat peters out leaving you wondering what the point was.
My main bug bears with the book are its seeming lack of direction, which once corrected late on seems to become a bit of an irrelevance, a damp squib if you like which makes you wonder why you bothered reading the last 600 or so pages. A secondary concern is the sheer volume of characters that are used. Characters such as Ori, Thick Shanks, Spiral Jacobs all have a place in the book but just don't feel fully developed. Its like they have started to exist and then they suddenly fall away to be discarded in New Crobuzon's filthy underbelly.
If this book shaved off 200 pages and 2 - 3 major characters it could have had a lot more impact and really tried to get the reader wrapped up in the sense of occasion that the climax was trying to achieve. As it is I didn't really care what happened and when the ending comes round (or possible out of left field) I really found myself thinking this is a bit of a cop out.
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on 1 November 2016
I enjoyed the first of the two was a fairly mundane plot smothered with over elaborate descriptions of the world of New Crobuzon something that this book has even more of it has a tendency to intrude upon the plot and characters much so for me that I skipped quite large chunks ...,:/
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on 15 August 2005
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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on 4 July 2013
In many ways a very impressive book and has the author's customary mix of outlandish ideas and colorful characters. Overtly political - no bad thing- but very ponderous in places. The action sequences (of which there are many) - are sadly rather flat. Rightly known for his rich and complex prose, Mieville usually just about keeps to the right side of pretentious but unfortunately I think he's overstepped the mark here. Also like most of his works, I feel the editors have given Mieville way too much leeway and the book could easily have been reigned in by at least a 100 pages with no ill effects on the overall story arc or character development. Whereas Mieville's other two Bas-Lag novels (Perdido Street Station and The Scar) were fresh, dark, and challenging they were at least also great fun, sadly I found Iron Council a bit of a chore. Although ostensibly a standalone novel, I would definitely not recommend this to first timers to the world of Bas-Lag (unless you want to get hopelessly lost) - it would be a real shame to be put off from this otherwise fantastic universe.
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on 18 July 2012
My immediate thoughts on finishing "Iron Council."

NB, contains spoilers. And Godwin's Law.

The game is in its final phase. As the Allies charge down towards the concentration camp, Judah closes his eyes and mutters a potent invocation, conjuring up... ...from the sheared moments and seconds of their advancement...
... a time golem...
...that immediately wraps itself round the Allied forces and freezes them all mid-stride, like a theme park diorama.

In the stunned silence that follows, all the other members of the party look at one another.

"Er, Judah," says one of them, after a moment, "given that you can effectively cast Time Stop, which is a 9th level spell, and given that people are still being, you know, tortured, inside the camp ... would it not be a better idea, you know, to cast it on, like, the other side."

He doesn't actually add the words "you stupid pillock" but they hang in the air, unspoken, implicit.

Judah draws himself up to his full height. A noble, visionary light glows in his eyes.

"It's more poignant this way," he explains.
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on 1 October 2004
Wow, what a stunning author China Mieville is!His new novel "Iron Council" is definitely up there with "The Scar"(and if you've read that one,you'll know that's high praise).Profound, poetic, challenging, grotesque, brutal, moving & beautiful,"Iron Council" is a tour de force of imaginative fiction.I find that,like no other writer, China Mieville creates images of cinematic clarity that linger in one's mind long after the final page.If you've read his others then this is essential:if you're a newcomer to his works, start with "Perdido Street Station"(take it slow-its a bit of a mind-blower!),climb aboard Armada with "The Scar"(possibly my favourite fantasy novel of all time), then meet "Iron Council".This man is phenomenal.
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on 16 December 2013
Not the best of his three New Crobuzon books but it is still very much worth a read. The problem is that the book itself is a bit like the train it follows. It meanders around a bit to real point then rushes. It's hard to care for many of the characters and by the time you do care suddenly they're dead. However there are a sufficient range of interesting ideas and images to make the train journey a reasonably interesting one.
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on 4 March 2015
I was really disappointed by this book, which has nothing in common with author's previous book 'Perdido Street Station'. It talked about lots of sex between men and women and men and men, violence and never-ending war. It was really annoying and I tremendously struggled to finish it to get rid off it for good. If author hinted at any government and American government's treatment of its own citizens and the Middle East in particular by talking about New Crobuzon's militiamen, I salute him. But I suspect he was far away from the idea. In this case I am lost what book was about and if there was any sense to waste lifetime by writing it. This book is not definitely the one I would ever read again. I have put it in a bag with other books which I am going to donate. Do not read it, save your breath.
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on 22 February 2012
It is no secret that China Miéville is a Marxist; he has written a book about it. What I consider his best book, Perdido Street Station, is clearly informed by this: the workers in New Crobuzon are oppressed by the ruling class, freedom of expression and association are ruthlessly suppressed, and what democracy exists is clearly skewed to make sure there is never any real change in the government. This is the background to a gripping and scary story. With Iron Council he has not managed to repeat this outstanding achievement. The propaganda has come more to the front and become more heavy-handed, with attitudes strongly reminiscent of the 1970s, while the story has broken into pieces. Instead of one main plot there is a series of discontinuous sub-plots, rather loosely attached to the theme of the transcontinental railway, and there is rarely any real urgency to them. One sub-plot--"New Crobuzon must be saved from a terrifying supernatural assault"--is devalued by being little more than a retread of the defence against the slake-moths in Perdido Street Station. The battle even occurs on the station roof: the same place as in the earlier book. As ever, Miéville's ideas are vivid and outlandish, and he manages to make various extraordinary inventions believable, but these should be the foundations on which the story is built, and there isn't enough story to justify the complexity of the setting.
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on 22 August 2007
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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