Bas-Lag Reading Project Iron Council Part Eight: The Remaking
A rant is coming. “The Remaking” is the conclusion of the subplot of Iron Council. I both love this section as the best written, but I also find it frustrating that there is no Remaking.
What I mean is that New Crobuzon’s Commune (called the Collective) is doomed to failure. Indeed, the Militia has shrunk the areas under Collectivist control down to just three districts (Dog Fenn, Smog Bend, and Heath Barrow). Kinken has been destroyed (by those damn Quillers rather than the Militia), and much of the rest of the city is in pretty bad shape.
And Ori is reflective of that. Ori is the erstwhile protagonist of the even numbered sections, but Ori only appears in the third chapter and has been completely destroyed by the revelations of his being used by Toro and Spiral Jacobs and his knowledge that the Collective is doomed. He is a shell, an observer, he is cut off and adrift.
Perhaps, however, I am wrong that there is no permanent Remaking going on in the city. New Crobuzon will bear the scars of the conflict for years, decades to come. The Khepri have largely been expelled from New Crobuzon (Kinken destroyed, Creekside’s status is unknown, but the Khepri seems to have been hit pretty hard by the Quillers).
But, what I meant by the Remaking not holding, not lasting is that Spiral Jacobs’s attack, the many named city killer ritual, is a dud. Had the heroes not intervened, the city would have been destroyed. New Crobuzon is saved however, and I have a huge problem with how it is saved and that there is no after effects, even as what ever the Urbomach is almost came through.
I like the fact that Spiral Jacobs bested Judah Low. Judah is a great somnaturge, but he is no match for Spiral Jacobs. So, in a way, it is nice seeing Quarbin take out Jacobs. But I also see that as a cop out. Quarbin acts as a quick fix, a means of getting information quickly (though at the price of who Quarbin is). That Quarbin saves New Crobuzon is excellent, how Quarbin saves New Crobuzon is a stinker. He just asks the Hidden Moment for aid and everything is done? Such a disappointment.
That New Crobuzon would be saved is beyond question, though how Spiral Jacobs could be defeated is the source of tension. The thing is that the New Crobuzon-Tesh War is the subplot. The coming of Iron Council to New Crobuzon is the main plot, so it stands to reason that the more tension filled ending comes with Iron Council’s fate.
What bugs me is that there is no residual of the failed attack. New Crobuzon should be marked in some way, the murderspirit was just beginning to appear as Quarbin learns what he needs to do. That frustrates me as a reader.
But the murderspirit is damn cool. The entity of the too many epithets was going to possess the entire city, New Crobuzon become a ravenous monster set on devouring its own people. Brutal.
This raises the question, as I mentioned earlier, of why Tesh is doing this. Is the difficulty in communication going both ways? What logical sense does it make to destroy New Crobuzon. While it is the enemy now, economically, it can be made a decent trading partner after an agreeable conclusion to the war. And Tesh seems to have been in the stronger position at the time. So why try and destroy it? This almost reverses the assumptions about the Grindylow of the Gengris. Of course, it does give a highly emotional sendoff for Ori and takes a little away from the rebellion in New Crobuzon.
That the Collective is doomed to fail is beyond question. Just like the Parisian Commune in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War failed. It is difficult to overthrow a government, a system of doing things that are beneficial to some. It is clear that the Collectivists did not have the entire city on their side, perhaps they did not even have half of the city. And Parliament, the Militia, is at that moment unwilling to compromise. I wonder, really, if Stem-Fulcher’s assassination did not really strengthen the resolve of the government to fight on.
As I mentioned in my last posts on The Scar, it is interesting to note that there is a movement in the Middle East that is seeing the removal of many of the regions longstanding dictators. The reason the Lovers fell in The Scar is because they relied on the support of those they governed, they ruled through, perhaps, the illusion of consensus. When they lost the support of Armada, they had to give up. And their forces refused to attack the crowd. This is the key.
New Crobuzon’s government has not lost the backing of the Militia and the powerful elite that supports it. That there are a few defectors is unsurprising, but a loosely organized movement is unlikely to win against a better trained, better equipped, and motivated force. The only way New Crobuzon will change is if enough of the elites support change or if the Militia (or enough of it) switches sides to make the difference.
That’s it for now. Next time the fate of the Iron Council in “Sound and Light” and “The Monument”