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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 months between those upheavals, in February and October, of the forces and individuals who made 1917 so epochal a year, of their intrigues, negotiations, conflicts and catastrophes. From familiar names like Lenin and Trotsky to their opponents Kornilov and Kerensky; from the byzantine squabbles of urban activists to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire; from the revolutionary railroad Sublime to the ciphers and static of coup by telegram; from grand sweep to forgotten detail.
Historians have debated the revolution for 100 years, its portents and possibilities: the mass of literature can be daunting. But here is a book for those new to the events, told not only in their historical import but in all their passion and drama and strangeness. Because as well as a political event of profound and ongoing consequence, Mieville reveals the Russian Revolution as a breathtaking story.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Darwin8u on 08-12-17
The 20th Century's New Weird History
A nice narrative history of the Russian Revolution in 1917. This isn't an academic book. This, by design, is meant to be a nonintimidating book of 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 self-described Leninist. 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, committee-heavy, infighting of 1917 seem exciting. But while his approach is similar to others who have approached history or biography from a novelistic approach, 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/Fantasy 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, (plus the women), 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.
36 of 39 people found this review helpful
By Laura Adams on 12-06-17
Read by someone who can't pronounce Russian words
How did the narrator detract from the book?
As someone who speaks Russian, I was unable to listen to the reader mispronounce the many, many Russian words in this book. The audiobook will likely be very difficult for anyone who knows how these words, names and places are supposed to be pronounced.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
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By DLC on 12-11-17
not a book for audio - good to read only,
I really like this auther & have heard all his other audio books but this one's not good for audio. U have to just concentrate, shut ur eyes & empty ur mind of all but the audio book. good story, well narrated, but best read it.
22 of 24 people found this review helpful
By llwyd on 12-05-17
An excellent analysis of the Russian revolution. The author tackles this huge historic event magnificently, you feel like a witness to the Russian people's desire to topple the tsar and greedy monarchical hold over the empire.
More info on what other key people were up to would have been greatly appreciated, for instance Stalin pops in and out throughout and we don't get a thorough understanding of what his role or importance was. Or we dont really understand the tsars personal reaction to the end of his reign.
Overall, a very worthwhile listen, great voicework by the speaker. A follow up book on bolshevik consolidation of power and civil war events would be great, the author certainly knows this bloody history well.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
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By Marcus on 04-28-18
Comprehensive, Objective yet Self-Aware
Mieville provides not only a fairly comprehensive account, but does so from the perspective of a contemporary revolutionary, which allows him to provide insight your general historian might miss. This perspective is not inherently more bias than any other, indeed perhaps less so than some (Robert Service comes to mind). There is a clear desire in this work to find 'truth'. While this means being 'objective', it also means attempting (through analysis and the structure of the book itself) to really understand the forces at play and how agents responded and attempted to shape these forces. There are no dry and empty words or phrases here. No balancing of variables that explain outcome X and Y, or recourse to a democracy of determinants. With help of Banks excellent narration, we are transitioned as invisible specters, watching the days of October unfold.