Sunday, 31 January 2010

Iron Council; Or how I learned to love China Mieville

I'm quite pleased with myself today - I finally finished China Mieville's Iron Council this morning, meaning that I have started on the right path towards completing one of my New Year goals. That is, I wanted to read at least one novel every month for the whole year.

Now, I'll be honest with you. I didn't always like China Mieville. My good friend Simon was determined that I'd like him, and loaned me Perdido Street Station a couple of years back. It sounded interesting, and I wanted to like it so much since Simon clearly thought a lot of it. Trouble is, I didn't like it. Not at first. I persevered with it for Simon's sake, getting bored with the length of time it was taking for anything to happen. Then, about 3/4 of the way into the book, it did. BAM! I couldn't put it down.

Still, that's a fairly bad sign if it takes me until almost 75% of a book to decide I like it. Simon was still determined that I'd like Mieville, and let me borrow The Scar. I think The Scar is a much more successful book (possibly because the location is a lot more limited - New Crobuzon's sprawling nature means that sometimes more emphasis is placed on the geography than the plot), and features a host of fabulous characters (Uther Doul, the Brucolac, Tanner Sack etc.) but it still took me until half of the way in before I liked it.

Thankfully, where Iron Council is concerned, I liked it immediately. I found it quite difficult to warm to any of the characters, since they're all either selfish, arrogant, pathetic or one-dimensional, but the plot managed to keep things cracking along at a fair pace. He divides the book into smaller books, each concerned with past events which explain the present goings-on, or with the machinations and actions of the present. Mieville has certainly got a broad vision of his continent of Bas-Lag, and his sheer invention of geography, science and history makes this an incredibly awesome book. New Crobuzon, his immense city that provides a home to countless different species, becomes a character in its own right; both backdrop, and protagonist.

If you like sprawling epics within the speculative fiction or fantasy genres, then I suspect that you just might grow to like Mieville as much as I have...

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