October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville

October: The Story of the Russian Revolution

In February 1917, in the midst of bloody war, Russia was still an autocratic monarchy: nine months later, it became the first socialist state in world history. How did this unimaginable transformation take place? How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions?This is the story of the extraordinary mont...

Title:October: The Story of the Russian Revolution
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1784782777
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:304 pages

October: The Story of the Russian Revolution Reviews

  • David M

    If this book doesn't make Verso a killing, I really don't know what will. I recom

    If this book doesn't make Verso a killing, I really don't know what will. I recommend it to everyone - Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, liberals, anarchists, royalists, reactionaries, black hundreds, drunken soldiers deserting en masse. Fun for the whole family. Even more of a page-turner than

    and other classics of Marxist historiography.

    Lenin cuts an impressive figure in these pages, but he's not quite the sinister genius we've come to expect. Mieville shows him stumbling and hesitating at key moments. Like everyone else, a passenger of history.

    The true protagonist of October would be the great mass of humanity. Mieville's skills as a novelist are on full display as he depicts the anger, audacity, and despair of ordinary people. Lifelong vassals waking up to a sense of their own dignity. My personal favorite anecdote involved waiters refusing to accept tips, on the grounds they were a form of noblesse oblige.

    Not to be overly romantic. There was also a good deal of looting and random violence. Russia in 1917 was in an incredibly desperate situation, quickly descending into famine and chaos. The czar had been overthrown but the provisional government was still committed to waging a disastrous and hated war. In this context, Lenin was the only political actor of any significance who could plausibly claim to have a solution. He'd been against the war when practically everyone - including most other Marxists - had been in favor of it.

    Of course history is written by the victors, and often written very badly. Liberals who accuse Lenin of suppressing civil society are being laughably absurd. In 1917, Russia did not stand a remote chance of just magically becoming a liberal democracy. Those who call Lenin a ruthless terrorist and murderer tend to downplay the much greater violence of the first world war as well as the imperialist aggressions that followed October. It's amazing how the white terror has been more or less wiped clean from official history.

    I think it's fair to say that for the past hundred years

    denunciations of the revolution have been based on a position of ideological blindness and historical illiteracy. Nonetheless, that certainly doesn't mean it should be above all criticism. Though it still held on to power in one country, arguably Bolshevism had already failed in its mission by 1920 or so. The world overthrow of capitalism was not to be. China Mieville's great new book represents a critical celebration of what might have been.

  • Squire

    When I first heard China Miéville was coming out with a book on the Russian Revolution of 1917, I was excited to see how he would turn it into a SF novel. Of course , he didn't. This is a straight forward account of the two revolutions of 1917 (February, when Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his throne and October when the workers/peasants of Russia overthrew the Provisional Government and attempted to establish a purely socialist society) and the turbulent months between.

    But Mieville bri

    When I first heard China Miéville was coming out with a book on the Russian Revolution of 1917, I was excited to see how he would turn it into a SF novel. Of course , he didn't. This is a straight forward account of the two revolutions of 1917 (February, when Czar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his throne and October when the workers/peasants of Russia overthrew the Provisional Government and attempted to establish a purely socialist society) and the turbulent months between.

    But Mieville brings a novelist's sensibility to the whole affair that makes it exciting and suspenseful to read. It can be pretty dense with its political players and the shifting attitudes of each, but Miéville writes for the average reader and his distillation of this complex and bloody time is very approachable. As a former member of England's Socialist Party, I was expecting Miéville to deliver a one-sided account of the events, but he does a fine job of being objective though out. In fact, the events become an epic (and bloody) comedy of errors under his narration--unintentionally, I'm sure.

    I can count my socialist and communist sympathies on the big toe of my left hand, but I came away with a greater understanding of the events of 1917 and appreciation for their influence in today's world; and since these are the events that inspired Miéville all his life, I can see their influence in his writings.

    I'm sure there are more scholarly books on 1917 out there, but this one will suffice for me. But I can't wait for Miéville to get back to writing challenging sci-fi.

  • Sarah Jaffe

    So good. And on the advice of some friends, audiobooked it, mostly over a two-day road trip, and it's quite compelling as an audiobook--the story rolls inexorably on, the turns and twists and all the almost- moments. More history-as-novel, please!

  • Tudor Ciocarlie

    Chine Mieville at his best! This book about what was probably the most interesting period in the history of Europe since tumultuous years of the fall of the Roman Republic, is easily the best book about the Russian Revolution that I've ever read.

  • Evan Leach

    I was excited about this book for two reasons: I am a fan of the author's fiction, and my knowledge of the Russian Revolution was woefully scanty. China Miéville is a great storyteller, and this is a story that Miéville (a politically active socialist) is passionate about. The events of the Russian Revolution are certainly dramatic, and Miéville makes them exciting to read about. This is a great example of “popular nonfiction”: it is structured and paced a bit like a novel, and I was often excit

    I was excited about this book for two reasons: I am a fan of the author's fiction, and my knowledge of the Russian Revolution was woefully scanty. China Miéville is a great storyteller, and this is a story that Miéville (a politically active socialist) is passionate about. The events of the Russian Revolution are certainly dramatic, and Miéville makes them exciting to read about. This is a great example of “popular nonfiction”: it is structured and paced a bit like a novel, and I was often excited to pick up where I left off.

    The book is intended to be an introduction to the Russian Revolution, and I think it largely succeeds on those terms. That said, the revolutions of 1917 were an extremely complex series of events (starring a huge cast of characters with complicated Russian names), and Miéville has to fly through at a pretty fast clip in order to cover them all in a modest sized volume. It would have been nice to have the chance to dive deeper into certain aspects of the revolution, and I certainly can’t say that reading this book will make one an expert on the subject. Some of these problems may well have been compounded by listening to this on audiobook (particularly the Russian names).

    That said, this is a good introduction to the subject, and likely more fun to read than most of the literature on the revolution.

    , recommended!

  • Jonfaith

    The timing appears apt. A sunny Sunday in June begs for calm. Jihadis again rocked the night before. There is a thirst for deliverance in the air, again. Always. While I appreciate the urgency of the book, I am doubtful about the necessity. I a

    The timing appears apt. A sunny Sunday in June begs for calm. Jihadis again rocked the night before. There is a thirst for deliverance in the air, again. Always. While I appreciate the urgency of the book, I am doubtful about the necessity. I applaud Miéville for the effort and especially the Further Reading section. His analysis is painfully fair but emotionally neutral. This measured approach is leery of ghosts: Bunny Wilson and Nabokov frothing in polemic, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, Figes making sock puppet accounts on Amazon to denounce authors. Shit, if I didn't exist would Orlando invent me? That's enough vanity for one day. Edward Crankshaw provided a solid narrative history of these events, as have many others. This isn't a waste of anyone's time, nor is it revelatory.

  • Roy

    Well written enjoyable history novel. Read this slowly over a week. Never felt like binge reading it though.

  • Darwin8u

    - Letter from Rakalovsk peasants, quoted by China Miéville, October

    A nice narrative history of the Russian Revolution in 1917. This isn't an academic book. This book, by design, is meant to be a nonintimidating book of narrative history for the curious. As we look back on the last 100 years, the Communist Revolution still has much to teach us. Hell, Steve Bannon is a

    . We might want to pay CLOSE

    - Letter from Rakalovsk peasants, quoted by China Miéville, October

    A nice narrative history of the Russian Revolution in 1917. This isn't an academic book. This book, by design, is meant to be a nonintimidating book of narrative history for the curious. As we look back on the last 100 years, the Communist Revolution still has much to teach us. Hell, Steve Bannon is a

    . We might want to pay CLOSE attention to the trains of the past.

    I'm still trying to sort out exactly what I thought of this book. On one level it was well-written and paced (Miéville is a gifted story teller, obviously). He even makes the bureaucratic infighting of 1917 seem exciting. But while his technique is similar to others who have approached history or biography from a novelistic perspective, it doesn't quite hit the level of literature (not quite Mailer or Capote) I was hoping for. Next to Miéville's own books, it doesn't rise to the top.

    China Miéville is well-versed in political philosophy. Dude has a PhD in it (technically in Marxism and International Law). His own leftist politics is felt from the first to the last pages. That is where the book gets a bit messy for me. This is Red October told by a New Weird SF writer who also happens to be strongly involved in International Socialist causes. This is a bit like having Orson Scott Card write about Mormonism or having Ayn Rand write about Adam Smith. Sometimes gifted people who are "true believers" aren't going to be the best/fairest critics of things they love. To be fair, Miéville spends a bit of the last few pages discussing how the 'revolution' went off the rails. But, he does't dwell too much on it. It is uncomfortable to dwell too long on purges, gulags, and Stalin.

    He also doesn't have enough room here to properly examine most of the characters that appear. I would have loved to read more about Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, etc. Instead, this novel (constrained by an already large topic) passes over some crazy characters like eyes over an active chess board.

    Anyway, I liked it (probably 3.5 tsars). Enjoyed it even. Like Red October, however, it was boring in parts and seemed constrianed by a leftist genius who at times seemed blind to the dangers of his own ideology.

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