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
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:304 pages

October: The Story of the Russian Revolution Reviews

  • Jordan
    May 26, 2017

    Engaging narrative history of the revolution where, according to the author, no 'local color' or even dialogue was invented -- it is all from the personal accounts and records of the participants in the events. The 'story' of the revolution moves forward at a quick pace and is told in an engrossing way, with details such as how the mood of the time was reflected in contemporary arts, etc included to give the reader a good sense of setting.

    I steeled myself against a Trotskyist perspective knowing

    Engaging narrative history of the revolution where, according to the author, no 'local color' or even dialogue was invented -- it is all from the personal accounts and records of the participants in the events. The 'story' of the revolution moves forward at a quick pace and is told in an engrossing way, with details such as how the mood of the time was reflected in contemporary arts, etc included to give the reader a good sense of setting.

    I steeled myself against a Trotskyist perspective knowing the author's tendency, but was relieved to find that confined to the epilogue, which covers in a very truncated form the events following 1917. This part might as well have been written by Robert Conquest (I exaggerate).

    Readers who are not familiar already with the personalities and political factions involved in the revolution will probably feel lost in a sea of names, abbreviations and jargon, but leftists who have some background in these will find the book enjoyable, at least until that epilogue.

  • David M
    Mar 09, 2017

    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
    May 25, 2017

    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.

  • Tudor Ciocarlie
    Jun 20, 2017

    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.

  • Adam  McPhee
    Jun 01, 2017

    A good outline of the revolution and a good intro to Miéville. I've never been able to get more than a few pages or so into Perdido Street Station, and I haven't looked at the Russian Revolution since high school, and of course I realize now what I'd learned about it was more than a little bare. I really liked my hi

    A good outline of the revolution and a good intro to Miéville. I've never been able to get more than a few pages or so into Perdido Street Station, and I haven't looked at the Russian Revolution since high school, and of course I realize now what I'd learned about it was more than a little bare. I really liked my high school history teacher, who was both eccentric and encouraging, but we spent more time on the Romanovs and Rasputin then on the Revolution proper. But like I said, this is a good retelling of the Russian Revolution.

    My highlights:

    A graphic strike:

    A Cossack ca'canny :

    Lenin keeping sicko libs out of the washroom:

    My home's small role in the Russian Revolution:

    Anarchists:

    Lenin knows how to fill a room:

    Trotsky demands equal treatment:

    All of these slogans are good, why pick only one?

    This is like something out a fairy tale:

    Lenin really does come off like a fox in a fairy tale:

    Classic liberal trick still used today:

    The right wingers demand to be shot:

    Fantastic part from the epilogue:

  • Evan Leach
    Jun 20, 2017

    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
    Jun 04, 2017

    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.

  • Tal MacNeil
    Jun 18, 2017

    China Miéville has himself in a tight spot here: the project is to write a history of the October Revolution which is accessible for readers who are new to learning about this part of Russian history, but even that level of explanation requires him to take a breakneck speed in order to get from February to October of 1917 within 300 pages. There's very little time for deeper analysis, and not much space for explanations of the often Byzantine disagreements of the splintered political scene. We l

    China Miéville has himself in a tight spot here: the project is to write a history of the October Revolution which is accessible for readers who are new to learning about this part of Russian history, but even that level of explanation requires him to take a breakneck speed in order to get from February to October of 1917 within 300 pages. There's very little time for deeper analysis, and not much space for explanations of the often Byzantine disagreements of the splintered political scene. We learn that two groups had a trivial-sounding disagreement, and in the next paragraph they're either physically fighting or they've made peace for weird reasons or else the original disagreement has mutated into something even less comprehensible. I don't think this is Miéville's fault, but it means that even after reading this book, you might not be able to coherently explain to a friend why things happened the way they did. So you'll have to keep reading.

    The middle section, covering the summer of 1917, is filled with material ripe for comedy. I laughed out loud at the book a few times, but I feel like a writer better suited to humour would have made this an utter riot. Miéville excels at evocative descriptions of the violent revolution, but the straight-up stupid political machinations require something on the level of the Coen brothers.

    The glossary of names at the back is super useful, as are the maps, and I would have also appreciated some kind of diagram of how the various parties splintered off from each other and changed their names. It's a good, readable book, but the material is not easy. I need to go back and listen again to the Miéville interview on Chapo Trap House now that I've read it.

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