A review of

Iron Council

by China Miéville

Central question: How does one agitate for a better world?
Format: 576 pages, hardcover; Size: 9.30” x 6.70”; Price: $24.95; Publisher: Del Rey; Editor: Chris Schluep; Book designer: Susan Turner; Meaning of author’s name in Cockney rhyming slang: “Friend”; Film author forced himself to watch “for research purposes”: Waterworld; Publisher’s recommended categories for shelving: 1. Fiction—science fiction—adventure; 2. Fiction—science fiction; 3. Fiction—fantasy—epic; Representative sentence: “This continent will be made again, Remade, it’ll be made beautiful.”

Let’s ignore the compendious bestiaries of elementals, golems, and parasites. And not get caught up in those bridges erected from solidified color, the town constructed on the back of a tortoise, or the dwellings composed of extant plaster—insects to be exact. Denuded of the garments that tuck sci-fi away from too many literati, there emerges more than a gigantic imagination, more than a meticulous plotter. True, China Miéville’s novels—King Rat(1998), Perdido Street Station (2000), The Scar (2002)—skirt the low shelf life of (unconventional) thrillers. But they skirt it in a manner akin to Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Aside from his high-end prose style, Miéville’s characters, with their conceits and weaknesses abraded as moral choices play themselves out, secure their author’s place among the top-flight novelists of today.

Miéville fans will recall the words that opened the first chapter of Perdido Street Station (the first novel to be set in the city of New Crobuzon), reinstated in the sixth chapter of Iron Council: “A window burst open high above the market.” Two decades have passed since the events of Perdido Street Station and The Scar, but freshmen will be fluent in the city-state’s mores soon enough; like its predecessors, Iron Council can be read on its own.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Christopher Byrd

Christopher Byrd is a freelance cultural writer. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Wilson Quarterly, and Bookforum.

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