Iron Council (China Miéville)

Iron Council is the third novel in the Bas-Lag series by China Miéville.
Finished on: 4.6.2017
[Here are my reviews of the other books.]

Cutter knows he has to find the Iron Council, the perpetually moving train full of rebels and dissenters who fled New Crobuzon. Among those rebels is Judah, who Cutter used to be very close to. And now Cutter has gained knowledge that the New Crobuzon militia is ready to strike against the Iron Council. Meanwhile in New Crobuzon itself, things are brewing, too, and Ori knows he wants to have a part in it, a hopefully very active part.

As usual with Miéville, Iron Council takes work to read and it takes a little time to get into this. But it’s worth it to stick with it, as Miéville gives us not only a wonderfully intricate world and complex characters, but also an awesome political slant.

A lot of fantasy fiction, at least when it’s not urban fantasy, is so unquestioningly conservative, it can get quite aggravating. Every country is a monarchy, we got feudalism everywhere and definitely patriarchal structures – all unquestioned. So it’s nice when you find fantasy fiction that doesn’t just happen to not reproduce certain things, but is consciously political – and definitely on the left side of things. Miéville is always political in his writing, but in Iron Council it’s not just an undercurrent, it’s the damn main event – and it’s beautiful.

And despite obvious political leanings, the novel isn’t satisfied with easy answers, so we get complex situations and connections, difficult decisions to make and flawed characters who make them.

What we get is a pretty classical Marxist worker’s revolution, but in various shades of gray, and added into the mix are religious elements that aren’t really explored, but that do pop up here and there. Judah comes off rather like Jesus, mixed with a bit of Buddha, and he works with golems, which are Jewish creatures. Though the golems here are not necessarily the golems we know from those legends.

It’s an intriguing mix, made even richer by the fact that there are themes of globalization and the destruction of natural resources. Plus, we get quite a few queer characters, which outweighs the fact, at least a little, that there are way too few women in the novel – my big gripe with it.

It all culminates in one of the best endings, on a narrative level, that I have ever read, tying things up perfectly, but not being so obvious about it that it becomes predictable. In short, it’s really good writing, both on the structural and the linguistic level, even when it doesn’t make for easy reading and there were a couple of parts where I needed to fight my way through. But all in all I really loved it.

Summarizing: I can only say it again and again: read Miéville, it’s definitely worth it.

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