This is the third book in the Bas-Lag Trilogy and is as epic as the other two (Perdido Street Station and The Scar). At 600+ pages it’s very long indeed, but the shortest of the three, and the reader is immediately drawn into Miéville’s fictitious world full of weird creatures and even more weird places.
Miéville’s writing is so unique that there really isn’t any point in relating the story of The Iron Council here because it won’t make sense – the story description on the back of the book didn’t make sense to me when I read it and I have read the previous two in the trilogy. The prose is astonishing, the plot amazing and the world that Miéville creates Is completely believable, even although it's impossible to exist.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it. Perhaps not as an introduction to China Miéville although it can be read on it's own as a separate story.
This is going to be difficult to review.
China Miéville is one of my favourite writers.
The book is a very short one, 168 pages or so, and is set in Paris, France (just to be clear) during the years 1941 and 1950. Both years Paris is occupied by the Germans, Nazi era. The main character is a Resistance fighter and all of the other members of his particular cell have been killed. He meets someone else who seems to want the same thing that he does but turns out to be his mortal enemy. Now, this is the hard bit, the Germans are working towards controlling what's called in the book a manif. This is short for manifestation and means that the Germans are trying to control a piece of art (i.e. figure from a painting) that they have somehow managed to bring to life. There are many manifs around, all out of control and some more deadly than others. There are also Devils and Demons on the loose and out of control. The main character has, and can control to a certain extent, something called an exquisite corpse, of which there is more than one scattered around. This is made up of weird things that shouldn't work at all, let alone together and comes in very useful when the two main characters are being shot at.
I got lost somewhere in the middle of the story - but I don't mind that - so it's not a straightforward summary of the storyline. If you look at the attached photo of the cover of the book, the picture is of the main character's exquisite corpse and then you'll see the difficulty in describing it (and the other manifs).
China does provide an afterword to say how he came to write the book and a list of the manifs at the back and from which art they came. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I'd recommend it but I think really to only people who are familiar with China's work.
The Scar is the second book in a trilogy known as Bas-Lag. The first is Perdido Street Station and the third is The Iron Council.
I enjoyed this book very much indeed. China Miéville is fast becoming one of my favourite writers. Unfortunately I thought that this book lacked the sparkle that was in PST. Something I can't quite put my finger on.
The story centres around people who live in New Crobuzon and who were on a sea journey to get away from it for their own reasons. They were then attacked by pirates and taken to the floating city of boats, Armada. Naturally the press-ganged want to go home, in spite of the fact that they were journeying away from home when they were captured. This forms the basis of the story.
The remade are there and now a familiar concept, pirates are there and there are also vampires. A few new species are also introduced, some of them don't have names. As I've come to expect from CM the characters are well rounded and believable even although the reader knows that they canoot possibly exist and the story, whilst long - this book is over 800 pages so not for the feint hearted - there is not a spare word in it. It just didn't delight me quite as much as PST.
It isn't necessary to have read the first book in order to make sense of the second but for those who have there is a small connection between the two.
I will read the next one and I'm looking forward to it but I am hoping to get a bit more of the sparkle that I experienced with PST. Nevertheless, I highly recommend The Scar.
I was not sure what I would think of this book as I have not read any of China Miéville’s other books. This is his first book for young adults and is a story based around the idea of two girls from London, who find themselves in the parallel city (the abcity) of Un Lun Dun with the responsibility of saving it from being overtaken by the sinister Smog.
The basic plot is one of young people finding themselves on a quest to save the day, with the help from characters they meet along the way. In this book though, the formula is given so many twists and is populated by the most outlandish and cleverly thought out fantasy characters - ‘Skool’ a character that is actually a school of fish and other sea creatures all sealed inside an old fashioned diving suit and working as one; ‘unbrellas’ are broken umbrellas that have found their way down from London, into the abcity and have become animate objects – under the control of Brokkenbroll the Unbrellissimo. The Smog is actually all the smoke and pollution from the real world that has found its way into the abcity and has become a thinking entity, intent on growing and spreading.
The book definitely has a feel of a modern day Alice in Wonderland and indeed, Miéville does acknowledge the inspiration of Lewis Carroll and several other fantasy authors. I enjoyed it and will definitely give it another read sometime as there was so much to take in I know I will find something new on a return visit.
15th December 2005, 02:51 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Glasgow, UK
I’m not one for fantasy, the thought of the genre immediately brings to mind hordes of orcs, objects with magical properties, and characters who are either good or evil with no middle ground; of course, for this, Tolkien has to shoulder some of the blame. So, it was, with much concern that I took on board the recommendation of China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, a fantasy novel that breaks with the stereotypes and thrusts us into a bleak world where science and magic work inharmoniously together, mutants go about their daily lives, and cities are powerful autarchies where even the slightest whisper against the government may lead to you joining the desaparecidos.
It begins with Isaac and Lin, a mixed species couple (he’s human and she’s khepri, an insect hybrid) whose lives change when both receive contracts of work. Isaac is asked by a mysterious visitor to restore his power of flight, while Lin is employed by the local mafia boss to craft his sculpture, an artform in which insect sputum is her medium. As they work at their respective jobs Isaac unwittingly unleashes his research specimens upon the city of New Crobuzon, an event that affects him in a number of ways, and with his friends he sets out to right his wrong.
At 800 pages Perdido Street Station is no breeze, but one can’t help feel that it is drawn out, stuffed with adjectives, and as tedious a read as life in New Crobuzon. It would certainly have benefited from large quantities of editing, but there are some who would argue that it’s a homage to the style of Mervyn Peake. The story, for the first two hundred pages, was nicely taking form, but, when the slake-moths Isaac was researching escape, the novel slides downhill into a depressing chase, which, despite the implied timeframe and urgency, seemed leisurely and unexciting.
It was incredibly drawn out so that small spaces of time were dragged over pages which added nothing to the tension. The story, at the beginning, was shaping up nicely and when the slake-moths escaped the book just went downhill into a really depressing chase which, despite the implied timeframe and the importance, seemed leisurely as the narrative failed to excite.
Miéville shows us that New Crobuzon, a city in the world of Bas-Lag, is a dirty place; grimy windows, littered streets, and scores of nefarious characters. It’s a well realised setting, and not difficult to imagine its soaring towers, its crumbling buildings, the rusted train network, but, by the final two hundred pages, the author still takes many opportunities from the pressing narrative to remind us of the extreme filth and depressive air surrounding the place.
The prose is mediocre, although, having never read Peake, I can’t say whether the tribute is fitting. The author, at times, seems more interested in displaying his extensive vocabulary, but, in an attempt to do so, he finds himself repeating a number of words that actually limits his lexis; ‘extraordinary’, ‘onieric’, and all possibilities of ‘thaumaturgy’ making considerable appearances. And when Miéville wants to describe something as brown then, rather than say it’s brown, he uses the word dun – repeatedly.
The citizens of New Crobuzon are well-crafted and, like the city, utterly loathable. They are also, due to different species, mutations, and immigrants, extremely varied. Aside from the aforementioned humans and khepri, there are winged creatures called garuda, evolved cacti, which I could never visualise without reverting to caricature, and the Remade, those whose bodies have been reconfigured in imaginative ways by the use of controlled magic, are just a few of the types to be found wandering the streets, or, like any society, living ghettoised.
While Perdido Street Station starts well, it devolves into little more than a moth hunt, punctuated with Miéville’s own socialist politics. The climax takes place in the station of the title, the main thoroughfare of New Crobuzon, but it is hard to tell why the book is named after this construction as it only appears in the denouement for approximately fifty pages. All in all, Miéville isn’t a bad writer per se but he is by no means great. Should I wish to read another fantasy novel then I may approach his fiction again, but I will wait until he has a substantial body of work behind him and hope, that with each book, he improves on his craft.
15th December 2005, 04:23 PM
Subscriber and Founder Member
H'm sorry, Stewart, have to disagree. This was one of my favourite reads of last year, ironically for most of the reasons you list!
I was impressed by the vivid realisation of New Crobuzon and its inhabitants and also Miéville's fresh and original slant on the fantasy world. I'm not alone as this won the Arthur C. Clarke and the British Fantasy award when it was published in 2000.
I found the story pacy and engaging and warmed to many of the characters despite their flaws. As a self confessed lefty, I liked the politics too.
Yes, it is very long, but for reasons I've never been able to work out, brevity is rarely a hallmark of the fantasy genre.
15th December 2005, 04:37 PM
I can understand why it won an award as it's certainly different from most other fantasy I've been privy to and would have been viewed as a fresh idea or, indeed, a revelation to that genre; I just found it spent more time trying to create a new brand of fantasy world rather than just telling a good story.