Review of IRON COUNCIL by CHINA MIEVILLE
This evocative spec fic story cuts between a few different perspectives, all of them revolutionaries trying to overthrow the current system. In a world that fuses magic with science, we follow the epic legend of the only people to escape the militia, the Iron Council. Though the premise of the Iron Council strained my suspended disbelief (refugees fleeing through the slow process of laying down train tracks), it’s a tantalizing hero story.
I should warn readers that I’m uncertain whether IRON COUNCIL is a standalone or part of a series. From my research and experience, I believe it’s a standalone but the third book set in a particular universe. The writer uses the immersion approach to introduce readers to his world and sometimes I found myself confused when unusual elements or words are referenced without explanation. However, I can’t say without reading the other books whether that lack of clarification is simply the author’s style or if it’s better to read the books in publication order.
The writing is at times a little heavy for my taste. Neither to the point nor admirably poetic, just wordy. Of course, I think it’s weighed down by a lot of worldbuilding words and if those aren’t familiar to you it can make the whole experience a little dense.
I found this book unexpectedly feminist. I can’t expound on the “unexpectedly” part without ruining the pacing of the story, but I will say that women play active roles, and some readers will likely be surprised by which women and which roles.
In general, the novel boasts plenty of unique twists I didn’t see coming. Even the ending strays away from the classic triumphant-defeat-of-evil-enemy model. The end is neither a final win nor loss, but a startling closure point with a little of both.