Book Reviews: Iron Council by China Mieville, Macmillan, Pounds 17.99

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Byline: Reviewed by Alex Sarll

China Mieville's latest novel returns to the setting of his acclaimed Perdido Street Station: New Crobuzon, a fantasy city rudely transfigured by a steampunk industrial revolution.

If fantasy is traditionally founded on 'sense of wonder', Mieville's world turns more on a sense of awed revulsion; this is a world where the mutagenic force of Torque and New Crobuzon's brutal punishment factories remake human and inhuman alike into creatures truly monstrous.

Iron Council itself is a legend of freedom, an inspiration for the oppressed citizens, in search of which one strand of the narrative follows a rebel faction across the strange and fantastical terrain beyond the city.

Meanwhile, within the city, we see one would-be reformer's increasing disillusionment - 'don't you sometimes wish you didn't care?' - as war, terrorism and revolt breed chaos.

A writer of rare gifts, Mieville combines the brutal vitality of modern urban noir with the profligate invention of a great fantasist; ideas are tossed out as set-dressing from which a lesser writer might drag a whole trilogy. …