Reviewlet: Iron Council by China Miéville

Well, the intention was to write a little reviewlet of Miéville’s Iron Council, but to be honest, in browsing around to see if anyone else thought, like myself, that the book was the expression of an incredibly imagined world of wonder wrapped in a story that dragged like the hind foot of a zombie on fright night, I stumbled into the Debating Iron Council blogstravgansa over at Crooked Timber.

Warning, spoilers abound! I’m putting the warning here, after the link, to punish all those of you who have shot off to read somebody else’s post before finishing with mine. The Internet really doesn’t teach the best of social graces when it comes to the art of conversation, it teaches us more about how to… Ooo, look, goldfish everyone! Goldfish!.

What really interested me was the link about two thirds of the way down the post which pointed to China’s responses to the points raised by several of the bloggers. It’s an interesting read, and gave me an insight into the man behind the book which coloured my opinion differently after having read his point of view, and more importantly showed that he felt that there were some valid criticisms, some of which he had received in the past, which he had tried to correct in Iron Council, obviously with varying success depending on each critics point of view.

But that’s not the really great part, the fun comes further down. In the mire that is the comments. Anyone who has blogged, read a blog, or once knew a man whose auntie’s dog was featured on a blog, will understand what happens in the comments. Generally, you get the nice people, writing to share their thoughts and perhaps heap a little praise on you for being able to do no more, if we’re honest, than string a few sentences together in a vaguely entertaining fashion. Then you get the Commentards; these are the people that have to pick a hole in something that you’ve said – not really justification in itself: debate is, after all, the art of war refined into a slightly less ‘head cleft in twain by sword’ fashion – but crucially, should you dare to respond and attempt a defence of your position they will essentially resort to calling you a Nazi and correct everything you’ve said as though you know nothing about the subject under discussion and that you’re simply trying to oppress them, even if the subject at hand happens to be the best selling book that you wrote.

Fun side-entertainment, head on over to China’s response post, and see if you can spot the point where the poor author’s soul is sundered into a thousand tiny little pieces. Hint: it’s his last post to the comment thread.

Those of you who stayed to finish this post before heading on over there, well done, award yourselves a biscuit and a small caffeinated beverage of your choice. Those of you just coming back from the other thread where you shot off like a puppy after a stick, those of us here who stuck around are now ignoring you like the bad puppy that just peed on grandma’s favourite Victorian winter shawl. While grandma was wearing it. That’s some mighty fine projectile peeing you’ve got going on there.

The wonder of it all though is this: more and more authors are making their presence felt online, and I’m not talking about the stand-offish token page, where you get the impression that the author is wearing industrial marigolds and a face mask, and holding the page out to you at arms length pinched between their finger and thumb so as to make sure that the amount of time that they will be in contact with you, via the page, is as little as possible. No, these authors, the Gaimans and Abercrombies (and I’m sure many others, these are just two of the prominent ones that I happen to read) of the online world, respond to readers either directly in comments or as the focus of their own posts. This rather brave behaviour gives an ‘indirect direct’ access to them that provides insight into the mind behind the stories and the person behind the characters, such that all of their works are enhanced tremendously from knowing them that little bit, as much as you can know anyone online. As much as you know me. For all you know I could be a fifty year old transvestite boxing champion with a walrus moustache, called Marjorie.

I did feel a tinge of sadness though. It was the idea of having such access to luminaries of the past, contact which in the past would have been reserved for only a close circle of friends, that triggered the melancholy; specifically I was thinking of the inimitable Bard himself, seeing as I find myself endlessly marvelling at his wordsmithing. I wondered what he would say to us if he had a blog and could respond to our questions and comments, briefly I marvelled at the possibility of contact with that mind and what insight we could have garnered, until I pulled-up short and realised the inevitable, the one and only comment that he would post: he would tell us all to fuck off, because he was fed-up with having to answer to the griping pedantic diatribes of a bunch of ingrates.

But it would be the most beautiful blog comment ever composed by man.