Bas-Lag Reading Project Iron Council Part Five: Retread
This is the Iron Council? This motley aggregation of pure democracy and metaphoric metal life? How disappointing. Perhaps Mieville was on to something when he did not show the Scar.
The Iron Council is at its root a better metaphor, a better symbol, and a better myth than a reality. This is what utopian socialism equates to: a hard and harsh life, though free. Ann-Hari, the mother of the revolution, become uglied and weathered by that revolution. Transcending the revolution, the loss of her looks, reveals her true power, what draws people to her.
The physical transformation of the Perpetual Train into Iron Council is really interesting. The feral description is very apt. The totemic skulls, the creation of a face from the grill is both inspiring and frightening. The creation of a moving, railed city with its regular trek is an achievement.
But, as Cutter points out, there is a feudal air about Iron Council as well. Is the train not a roaming manor? A castle on the rails? The communities that exist along the track have as much peasantry as proletariat. But the community itself, the majority decision of the people, is the “lord” of this independent fief.
During the course of this section, I agreed with Cutter’s critique of Iron Council. The lack of money, the feudal throwback, etc. I remember reading LeGuin’s The Dispossessed and absolutely detesting Anares (although Urras is little better). Despite my similar politics, I still find a lot of “socialist” literature uninteresting.
Which is why I find Cutter’s self condemnation problematic. What could be an interesting exploration of why Cutter believes what he does is subsumed by the narrator telling that he knows that he himself is wrong.
Moving on to the War, I find it interesting that, in this section, the war seems to be going more in New Crobuzon’s direction. Is the Witchocracy a party to the war? I think it is mentioned earlier in the novel that the Witchocracy and Tesh are allies or closely connected. But it has been a few hundred pages.
What annoys me is that instead of using the broken thassalomach spell to attack its enemies, New Crobuzon is sending an expeditionary force to wipe out Iron Council. Really, does New Crobuzon not have bigger fish to fry at the moment?
But, this section does accomplish its goal, to speed the Iron Council on its way to its final confrontation with New Crobuzon. The Iron Council is going home. First, though, there is the Cacotopic Stain. . .
Next time: Goodbye Eliza Stem-Fulcher in “The Caucus Race.”