Iron Council is yet another story set in the world of Bas-Lag. Like his earlier works, Perdido Street Station and The Scar, it's set in and around the city of New Crobuzon. Here's the gist of the story…
It is a time of war and revolution! New Crobuzon is at war with the shadowy state of Tesh, the city of crawling liquid, but it also has to contend with revolution and rebellion from within.
The attempt to build a trailine to Cobsea has ended in revolt, with the workers and enslaved Remade prisoners taking both train and line and forming the Iron Council. Meanwhile the revolutionary Jack Half-a-prayer is dead but a new hero of the downtrodden rises by the name of Toro and the struggle goes on.
While the New Crobuzon militia contests the war with Tesh and pursues the runaway Iron Council across the continent, Toro and his band plot to assassinate the mayor and overthrow the government.
There are three major threads to the story. Cutter and his band of followers leave New Crobuzon in search of the Iron Council, a wandering group of disgruntled ex-railroad workers and Remade prisoners, to warn them that the city intends to attack and destroy them. Judah's tale begins some 20 years earlier when New Crobuzon was trying to build a railroad link to Cobsea, the very railroad that spawned the Iron Council. Ori's story is that of the young rebel who joins up with the revolutionary leader Toro, who's main quest is to assassinate the mayor and bring down the government.
I found it a difficult book to read and it took me much longer than usual to get through. There's too much overt homosexuality in it for me. It detracts from the main plotlines and doesn't seem to add anything other than gratuitous detail. Maybe Miéville is just out to shock or to stretch his readership as there is some aberrant sexual activity in both his previous novels but it didn't work for me.
As for the story itself - I think it's getting too out-there with so many mutant species and ridiculous Remade variations. The basic story is okay and Miéville has a great imagination but I wouldn't have thought any government would waste their time pursuing a band of dissidents while waging a war and trying to control internal unrest. As for the characters, the only captivating one is Judah Low, the golemist. Cutter is unlikable and seems only interested in having sex with men while Ori is basically a terrorist.
I thought Perdido Street Station was a classic piece of work but this just didn't do it for me at all!
Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction
My Rating: 6/10