Well, I think the romance of New Crobuzon is broken for me. I was suspicious that Mieville jumped the shark on the concept as early as The Scar, and Iron Council confirmed it for me. Perhaps, had Mieville stuck to his knitting on the wonder that was the urban fantasy of Perdido Street Station he might have kept my attention, but the last two books I’ve read have been somewhat in the conventional fantasy mould, with a little steampunk thrown in there to bring them up to date.

So, not so great.

The one redeeming feature of Iron Council is the consistent use of golems by one character, in increasingly imaginative ways. I’m used to the concept of golems, but see them as a creature made of a specific matter. For instance, earth golem, iron golem, clay golem etc. But Mieville really pushes out the imaginative boundaries of this one fantasy creature in some pretty amazing ways. I’m almost tempted to issue a few spoilers in order to mention them…

As I say, the problem with Iron Council is that Mieville loses the awesomely dark, Babylonian mood of Perdido Street Station in favour of a more conventional travel-quest-fantasy. A frankly, these are boring. While there was enough action set in New Crobuzon for me to realise the city is a fantasization of London (one set of characters called Quillers, all of whom are dressed in suits and Bowlers…), the dark underbelly that makes the best urban fantasy was laid open too wide, and undermined the dramatic tension.

Likewise the premise of the iron council itself. The ‘iron council’ is a anarchist utopia Mieville introduces that is supposed to serve as some sort of counterpoint to the authoritarian-liberalism of New Crobuzon (and yes, the oxymoron is deliberate). And while I can see the vision, it’s a well-hashed idea leading all the way back to Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. Perhaps what Mieville is doing is exploring the increasing surveillance and control he is experiencing in a liberal demomcracy like British London.

My recommendation is: maybe as a holiday read. It is a whopping 500 pages after all.