Iron Council by China Mieville

caladanbrood said:
This is bizarre. I didn't think Iron Council was anywhere near as good as his other stuff:confused:

I have to agree with you on this one :confused:
This is bizarre. I didn't think Iron Council was anywhere near as good as his other stuff:confused:

I have to agree with you on this one :confused:

Iron Council's competition didn't include his other works so teh fact (whci his one I agree with) that it isn't quite as enjoyable as his prior 2 novels doesn't really matter in regards to the award.

I enjoyed thw first 2 Bas-lag novels more, but admittedly I thouth Iron Council was still damn good. (In htat I don't think anyone could have written anything like it, and it was good)

From a structural sense it improved greatly, which was the chief knock on Mieville among critics, his imagination/descriptive language has always been bountiful, but almost so much so, that Mieville ignored any semblance of structure within his work (and in doing so he got away with with it better than anyone I have witnessed in a while). From that perspective, I can see the improvement in Iron Council; but like I said I prefered both Perdido Street Station, and The Scar, but still enjoyed Iron Council to a degree, that I'm can't argue the choice. The only other works that compared last year IMHO, won the Best New Author Award, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, and Stephenson won the best SF Award for his Baroque Cycle offerings - so all the basis were covered IMHO
Looking at the top five (Song of Susannah, Going Postal, The Wizard Knight and The Family Trade) I'm not suprised that Iron Council beat of the opposition.

I just didn't realise it was such a weak year for fantasy:confused:
littlemissattitude said:
Sounds good. I do have a question, though. You say that this one can be read independently of "Perdido Street Station" and "The Scar". But what about those two. I just bought "The Scar" yesterday (had a birthday gift card to spend, but they didn't have "Perdido"). Should I wait to read "The Scar" until I have read "Perdido" (which I can get from my local library)?

I didn't - I read the Scar first, and barely missed out on anything. There is one moment where they refer to the incident that takes place in Perdido Street Station, but it is so minor (a couple of words, literally) that it doesn't make a difference. I don't think it really matters at all which order you read them in. With the Scar first, I actually found it interesting to be able to go back and actually read what really happened with this incident which there wasn't really any detail on in the Scar, but sounded interesting.

I just bought Iron Council, and I'm looking forward to reading it soon.
I'm kind of curious to know what people thought of the characters in The Scar and Iron Council, especially compared to Perdido Street Station. I thought they were all really well written books with an incredible setting - the details of the worlds are superb. Only problem was, I really struggled to care about the main characters in The Scar and Iron Council. I coasted along, enjoying the details and the structures of the books, but it's a bit of a struggle reading a book when you don't really care if the main characters die on the next page! Was it just me, or were they all a bit difficult to like as people?
I've read Iron Council now, and I don't know what everyone's complaining about. Sure, it may not be as perfect as the Scar or Perdido Street Station, but even Mieville's weak books are better than 95% of the competition. At first, I hated how he had shifted his writing style so much. Then the more I read, the better it seemed, and I think if anything it just increases my admiration of Mieville because he shows that he isn't limited to a baroque style of writing and he is at least the second best living writer IMO. The weak part of this novel was the first section with Cutter, which didn't grab me in the same way as the others, but after that it was back up to his usual standards.
Most were difficult to like as people, but I think that is entirely the point, and one of the reasons I like his books so much. If you look at a David Eddings novel, almost all the characters on the good side are very likeable people. Does that make it worth reading? No. They aren't realistic at all. Most people aren't likeable in real life, and they aren't here, which is the good thing. That doesn't mean he can't create sympathy for them - admittedly, it wasn't done as well as Peake's Gormenghast with Steerpike, but then, what really can compete with that?
mikeo said:
Was it just me, or were they all a bit difficult to like as people?

No mikeo, it wasn't just you. I too find many of China's characters very difficult to like.
Like many people seem to have done I also started reading Mieville from The Scar, and am now halfway through Iron Council (in the slow back-story of Judah, to be exact). I have to agree that the strength of his writing keeps me interested more than any other part of the book. (For instance the confusing and random structure!)
I know that a good writer does not make all his characters "goody-two-shoes" free from moral complications, but it can get a bit tiresome when all the characters seem to be spiteful, boring, sulky or just plain crude. A good writer has the ability to bond characters to readers, even if those readers don't always agree with the actions of the character. Unfortunately I have not yet bonded with any of Mievilles characters and find them rather irritating.

Also - has anyone else noticed that there doesn't seem to be much beauty in the world of Bas-Lag? Sure there are amazing things, but the closest I think Mieville has got to actual beauty was the description of the underwater Crab City in the Scar. I loved those people, but about half-way thorough The Scar they seem to have been forgotten, and I have not encountered them in any parts of the books since. Every other town or city in the whole of Bas-Lag seems to be dirty, dingy, scummy and depressing in appearance and in population. I find it rather tiring.

That said, Mieville is definitley a writer of innovation, and it is his incredible creativity that keeps me reading
Yes, but there are such a number of unlikable and ugly things and people in our own world, I don't find it a problem. Mieville has jetissoned the lulling sense of aesthetics for a world that's as messed-up as ours,but fantastic in that it's full of strange creatures and weird magics. It's a very conscious thing I think and a worthwhile challenge to the reader.
I still don't think there should be a necessity for characters you can bond with. They can be done well (though the examples of them are very rare indeed) - but there is no such thing as a perfect person in real life. Why should we have them in fiction? They're boring and predictable, and it's far more interesting for me to read about a reprehensible, Machievellian character than to read about someone who has no flaws. Mieville has some characters which are generally "good" - Cutter in Iron Council for example, but they aren't without their flaws. If writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez can do it and get a Nobel prize for literature partly because of that, I don't see why there should be requirements for sympathetic characters in fantasy.

Also - has anyone else noticed that there doesn't seem to be much beauty in the world of Bas-Lag

Yes - Mieville has as well. He was asked a question about where were the nice parts of New Crobuzon, and realised that he hadn't described them nearly as thoroughly. But it's a position I sympathise with - most industrialising cities are not at all beautiful, and we haven't seen much by way of landscape - in Iron Council it was only where the train was, and then the route that followed wasn't through the nicest terrain either. I can't remember another town being properly described other than New Crobuzon, so I don't know how we can generalise that they are all
dirty, dingy, scummy and depressing in appearance and in population
. We've got the evidence of one city here, and that city is heavily influenced by London.
"(Myrshock) was an ugly port ... The architecture looked thrown together, chance materials agregated and surprised to find themselves a town. Old but without history. Where it was designed, its aesthetic was unsure - churches with cement facades mimicking antique curlicues, banks using slate in uncommon colours, acheiving only vulgarity" - Iron Council, pg22

There are descriptions of other places scattered through the books. This was the one I have encountered most recently.

Of course there are unlikeable and ugly things in our own world. But that doesn't mean that they are the only things that exist or that have the power to effect change. Ugly is ugly specifically because it is contrasted against the existence of something beautiful. And I have no illusions either of what 19th Century London was like. But not all of England was a reflection of that big stinking city.

I am not immature enough in my reading to need one-dimensional hero figures, and am definitely not asking for a perfect character. I agree with you Brys, that characters such as these are dead boring.

In general, I was making a point that without certain elements of beauty, nobility and selflessness, a potentially great story may remain only a good story.
I'm kind of suprised that there are a number of people saying that Mieville's characters are unsympathetic or hard to connect with. Especially in the The Scar. Aside from Tanner I thought Bellis was plenty sympathetic. What is it about her that people seem not to like? That she was rude to people? I don't know, I'm having a hard time seeing it.

As for Iron Council, I can see how certain characters could make the reader grow cold. Personally, I found Ori pretty sympathetic, and it was these small sections of the early part of the novel that kept me reading on.

I was a bit disappointed in the first half of this book, especially with the extensive Judah background sections, but it really picked up steam in the 2nd half and I thought the ending was well done.
I'm suprised that so many of you disliked the ending to IC. I haven't read PSS but having just completed the Scar I found little to complain about by comparison.​

[Apologies in advance if I'm retreading the same ground as others but I haven't read this thread in its entirety.]​

I found the ending to IC not only fulfilling and complete, but in a startling break from mainstream fantasy it actually held meaning. While I would also argue that any written word holds meaning of a sort this ending in particular held vast meaning, I would say for anyone that lives on the planet earth. In a world oppressed by propaganda and corporate powers not all that unlike the political engine of New Crobuzon it seemed to me to make a very clear point. Some may argue that it was a meaningless gesture, and destined to have very little impact. But I would argue otherwise, history shows again and again that while the masses may always posses the power to change, very few in comfort will devote their lives to it without a clear and present indication of prior success. While it seems a very rational standpoint, especially for this with families and lives outside their own to live for, it is also the standpoint those in authority would wish us to have. While we of the first world do enjoy far more power and privilige than those depicted in Mievilles works, at the same time our thoughts and desires are far more controlled.​

All told I think Mieville has managed to make a very relevent statement, and one we would all do well to consider.​
My problem with the ending wasn't what happened, but the explanation behind it. It was well established that the main caracter (who's name I've long forgotten) gave the energy to his creations and stuff from his own life source, or whatever it was - I'm fuzzy on the detail, having not read the book for at least a year and a half. The way it was all explained though, made it impossible. The story was fine, but the mechanics of it simply wouldn't work...
Hi there

Spoiler Warning folks

Read Iron Council a wee while ago and I thought the ending was very poetic very sad even a little, dare I say it, futile. There they are stuck like fly's in amber so near yet so far from the revolution that they yearned for.

I know we all read books for escapism but maybe we should also read them to make ourselves think. The the casual brutality of this world is disturbing and fascinating in equal measure.

I enjoyed all three, weird and wonderfull trips into dark fantasy. But also very sad books.
I agree with Rane that the endings are disappointing. I read Perdido Street Station and very much enjoyed the characterisation and the world in which it was set. I had a go at Iron Council and, though I like the idea and imagery, am still struggling with it. I do, however, love the world in which these stories are set. I'd particularly like to know more about the characters of Perdido Street and I so wanted the artist/insect girl to survive.

I'm not sure if links are allowed, but a friend of mine created an image based on The Iron Council that some might enjoy:
Okay, a little background first- I haven't read any of his works before, and knew next to nothing (okay, nothing) about the author, other than that his name kept creeping up as one of the best new lights of the field. So I picked this book up and was rather excited to start it. Which perhaps is why it made me so angry.

I can't figure out what makes this guy worth note- the narrative is nearly incomprehensible, and felt like little more than a pile of made-up and obscure English words (a bad combination, by the way- I never knew if he was making up something or if I should reach for the dictionary). The characterizations were nearly non-existant- after 200 pages (the point at which I quit) I didn't feel like I knew anything about any of the characters, despite whatever background the author gave them. The creatures (to me anyway) felt like something out of a Final Fantasy game, rather than being imaginative, and I never got the feel of any of the areas he was describing, in spite of his long descriptions of geology and flora.

Can't comment on the politics, as I haven't and in all likelihood never will finish the book. There was just too much gore and sexual content that was offensive. I tried to finish this novel- most books only get fifty pages of my time, but I just can't- there were some parts of the story that were simply too depraved.
Yeah, if you're squeamish about gore, Mieville's not for you. From what I've read of him (4 books so far, but not Iron Council), he doesn't make up words but has a frighteningly vast vocabulary (and apparently even uses a lot of them in actual conversation). I've found the character writing in his New Crobuzon books (Perdido Street Station and The Scar) quite exceptional, not derived from the usual RPG/Tolkien crock, and a huge part of the reason I consider him a great author.
I didn't mean to say that he made up descriptive words, but that it is sometimes very difficult to discern between a race, character, or place name, and an unusual word (given that he doesn't "introduce" his world to the reader).
I finished this book today. I thought it was an interesting read. I liked the different characters and races in it, and also the political storyline. The only parts I didn't like were the combat scenes, I got bored when reading those. I also wish there has been a map, it would have been nice to have a frame of reference to where the Iron Council was travelling through. Also an appendix describing the different races would have been helpful.

Anyways, this book has intrigued me enough that I would like to read Perdido Street Station and The Scar.
The nature of these three books is very very adult, its a very shocking and brutal world that these folk live in. It is vary sad lith that you didnt enjoy these books. I have read all three and yes the sexual scenes can make one's eyes smart but once you get through the dense and often violent content at the start, about a third of the way in the books start to make sense.

That said these are not for everyone but I would urge you to give em another go. Yes they are brutal nasty but quite fascinating. China handles very volatile subjects in a head on kind of fashon.

Similar threads