Bas-Lag Wiki
"Exotic, compelling, and constantly surprising, Iron Council is an overtly political novel that offers powerful visions and unique perceptions on virtually every page. Without sacrificing any of the genre’s traditional pleasures, Mieville has created a hybrid of fantasy and revolutionary politics that is hard to set aside and difficult, perhaps impossible, to forget."
—Subterranean Press

See also: Iron Council (organization)

Iron Council is the third novel set in Bas-Lag, China Miéville's created world. It is Miéville's fourth novel, and was first published in 2004 by Macmillan.


To Jemima, my sister


"Erect portable moving monuments on the platforms of trains."


For all their help with this book, I owe my deepest gratitude to Emma Bircham, Mark Bould, Andrew Butler, Mic Cheetham, Deanna Hoak, Simon Kavanagh, Peter Lavery, Claudia Lightfoot, Farah Mendelsohn, Jemima Miéville, Gillian Redfearn, Max Schaefer, Chris Schluep, and Jesse Soodalter. Huge thanks also to Nick Mamatas and Mehitobel Wilson, and to everyone at Macmillan and Del Rey for all their work. Though as always I am indebted to countless writers, for this book I must especially thank William Durbin, John Ehle, Jane Gaskell, Zane Grey, Sembène Ousmane, Tim Powers, T. F. Powys, and Frank Spearman.

Plot summary[]

Iron Council follows three major narrative threads that join to form the novel's climax. Although Miéville weaves back and forth between narrative, time and space, this summary will follow each narrative individually, discussing their relation to each other toward the end. The novel is set in and around New Crobuzon, a sprawling London-esque city. New Crobuzon has for some unknown time been at war with Tesh, and is attempting to build a railroad across the outlying desert, partially as a new means of conducting this war. Against this backdrop, the novel follows the deeds of three main characters—Ori, Cutter and Judah Low.

Judah's story begins some 20 years before the novel's opening. Judah was hired as a railroad scout for New Crobuzon, charged with mapping terrain and informing the land's inhabitants of the railroad's coming. While doing so, he spends time with the Stiltspear, a race of indescribable creatures who can conjure golems, living creatures made from unliving matter. Judah attempts to warn the Stiltspear away, but they will not listen and he must settle for making a few recordings and beginning to learn their golemetric arts. Eventually, he returns to the railroad, which does indeed wipe out the Stiltspear. Shortly afterward, Judah, a sex worker named Ann-Hari, and a Remade named Uzman lead a revolution in which the rail workers drive the overseers away, free the Remade, and hijack the train, transforming it into a moving socialist dwelling.

Iron Council, the perpetual train, moves through the desert, gathering track from behind and laying it in whichever direction its citizens decide. The Council keeps moving to avoid the New Crobuzon militia, who are anxious to reclaim the train and destroy the rebellion-inspiring Council. Judah returns to New Crobuzon, where he immerses himself in esoteric golemetry literature, emerging as a master of the art. Eventually, Judah returns to the Iron Council, having spread its word throughout New Crobuzon, intent on using his golemetry to protect it.

Cutter, whom the reader joins at the novel's opening, was a friend, disciple, and lover to Judah during Judah's return to New Crobuzon. He leads a group consisting of other disciples of Judah in search of the Iron Council to warn of an impending attack by the New Crobuzon militia. After living and working with the Council for a while, Cutter returns with Judah and others to New Crobuzon to inspire revolt with the news of Iron Council, which has decided to return to the city and confront the militia on its own turf. In their travels they meet Qurabin, a monk of the Moment of the Hidden and Lost, who continually trades aspects of himself in return for whatever knowledge he needs (over the course of the novel, Qurabin loses his native language, various memories, and finally his eyes to help the protagonists).

Meanwhile, dissatisfied revolutionary Ori is led by a half-crazed old homeless man named Spiral Jacobs to join the militant gang of Toro. Committing robberies, raids, and even murder, Toro's group proceeds mercilessly on its quest to assassinate the mayor of New Crobuzon, a plan which is later revealed to be personal rather than political. During Ori's struggles with and against his new gang, an uprising by the Collective, a union of revolutionary groups, threatens to finally wrest New Crobuzon from the hands of its corrupt parliament and militia. After several days of fighting, however, the Collective is destroyed. Ori then learns that Spiral Jacobs is actually a powerful sorcerer sent by Tesh to introduce a dark, destructive force into the midst of New Crobuzon. Here Judah, Ori, and Cutter unite to stop Jacobs with the help of Qurabin, who takes the Tesh ambassador with him 'into the domain of Tekke Vogu'. Ori is killed in the confrontation.

In light of the collapse of the Collective, Judah sends Cutter to dissuade Iron Council from returning. He is unsuccessful, and Judah conjures a time-golem to freeze the train in time to save its citizens. Ann-Hari murders Judah shortly thereafter for thwarting the attack. As the novel ends, Iron Council has become a public monument of sorts, poised on the verge of attacking New Crobuzon until the unknown moment when the time golem dissipates. Cutter re-immerses himself in New Crobuzon's underground resistance movements, revitalising the protest publication Runagate Rampant.


Part One: Trappings[]

Part Two: Returns[]

Part Three: Wine Land[]

Anamnesis: The Perpetual Train[]

NB: "Anamnesis" means "the ability to recall past events; recollection".

Part Four: The Hainting[]

Part Five: Retread[]

Part Six: The Caucus Race[]

Part Seven: Stain[]

Part Eight: The Remaking[]

Part Nine: Sound And Light[]

Part Ten: The Monument[]


Major characters[]

  • Ann-Hari - A former prostitute and one of the Iron Council's leaders.
  • Cutter - A lover of Judah Low, and one of the travelers who searches for the Iron Council. One of the main protagonists.
  • Drogon - A whispersmith and one of the travelers who accompanies Cutter, Judah, Elsie, and Pomeroy on their search for the Iron Council.
  • Elsie - One of the New Crobuzon revolutionaries searching for the Iron Council. Pomeroy's lover.
  • Judah Low - A golemtrist and one of the original members of the Iron Council. One of the main protagonists.
  • Ori Ciuraz - A young man and later member of Toro's Gang. One of the main protagonists.
  • Pomeroy - One of the New Crobuzon revolutionaries searching for the Iron Council, and is Elsie's lover.
  • Qurabin - A Tesh monk of Tekke Vogu.
  • Spiral Jacobs - A vagabond and enabler of the rebellion in New Crobuzon.
  • Toro - An extreme anti-government figure in New Crobuzon.

Minor characters[]

  • Baron - A former member of the overseas militia and a supporter of Toro's Gang.
  • Bertold Sulion - A member of the elite Clypean guard and militia turncoat.
  • Mayor Eliza Stem-Fulcher
  • Old Shoulder - A member of Toro's Gang.
  • Magistrate Legus - A New Crobuzon Magister.
  • Pennyhaugh - An early member of Judah's golem-fighting ring, later government employee.
  • Petron Carrickos - A member of the Nuevists and Ori's friend.
  • Thick Shanks - A member of the Iron Council.
  • Uzman - One of the original members of the Iron Council.
  • Weather Wrightby - The creator of the Transcontinental Railroad Trust and the financier of the railroad project that later became the Iron Council.


2005 - Hugo Award for Best Novel
2005 - World Fantasy Award for Best Novel
2005 - Arthur C. Clarke Award


  • German - Der Eiserne Rat
  • Français - Le Concile de Fer

See Also[]

External Links[]

China Miéville's novels and other works
The Bas-Lag Cycle

Perdido Street Station · The Scar · Iron council · "Jack"

Other novels

The City & the City · Embassytown · King Rat · Kraken · Railsea · Un Lun Dun


The Last Days of New Paris · This Census-Taker · The Tain

Short story collections

The Apology Chapbook · Looking for Jake · Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories


October: The Story of the Russian Revolution