• by China Mieville
  • Narrated by John Banks
  • 11 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The renowned fantasy and science fiction writer China Mieville has long been inspired by the ideals of the Russian Revolution, and here, on the centenary of the revolution, he provides his own distinctive take on its history.
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.


What the Critics Say

"Even when he is orbiting somewhere in a galaxy too far away for normal human comprehension...Mieville is dazzling." (The New York Times)


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

"Insurrection has strange triggers..."

...and so do the reasons for listening/reading this book. If you're looking for a book about what happens AFTER the revolution of October 1917, look elsewhere.

Great narration, but dense content for my mind. I listen while driving and at points had to either not pay as much attention to the book as I wanted to, or pull over to absorb the words and speeches more deeply; many times requiring the need to go back a chapter or two to find and re-listen to important paragraphs that, later on, take on contrary, ironic, and/or more powerful meanings.

China writes nonfiction in a similar voice to his fiction to great effect. The Bolshevik party plays the main-ish protagonist, as they (spoiler) eventually gain power. But, every party and player has a seat at the table, there is even some in-depth explanation and context of pre-soviet Jewish and Muslim law and order. (pretty much new information to me.)

The book, I feel, doesn't follow a traditional dramatic structure; alternating through build-up, conflict, resolution, conflict, build-up, conflict, resolution, conflict, build-up, and resolution. Needless to say, the events previous to and following 1917 are filled with conflict, much of it springing from little provocation.

If you're interested in Russian history, even world history, you're in good hands. I found myself making connections with present political, social, and military strife more times than I was comfortable with. Still, as any student of history knows, anyone who is capable of getting themselves into power (All power to the soviet!) should on no account be allowed to stay in power, and "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

So, listen and share your copy with your friends... you might surprise yourself how often you can relate to Lenin, Trotsky, and Kerensky. John Banks will at least have you calling out "All power to the soviet!" by the end.
Read full review

- Paul Robison

Comprehensive chronicles of people and events

The study of revolutions could be a lifelong interest. Every revolution will have similarities to all other revolutions, and each will have unique differences caused by a multitude of other factors including culture, history, key individuals, assumptions of the age, and just plain luck.

Novelist China Miéville confesses a long interest in the Russian revolution and in what is a fairly short book manages to cover considerable territory. While the book has a few glimpses of earlier Russian history, including Peter the Great's creation of St. Petersburg and the emancipation of serfs in 1861, nearly the entire book focuses on a 10-month period ending in October 1917 when the Bolsheviks succeeded in taking over Russia during what John Reed called the 10 days that shook the world.

The Russian revolution was spurred by many of the same forces that had spurred other revolutions. There was tremendous poverty with a wide gap between the wealthiest and poorest in society. At the same time there was a solid layer of well-educated professional and commercial middle class, almost always the group which is in a position to perceive the economic and moral flaws of a country: Close enough to the poor to have a strong sympathy with the poor but also in a position to understand the difficulty of rising out of the middle class due to financial or cultural barriers. There was also an intransigent or simply blinkered head of state that could not or would not conceive the need for change.

Nicholas II and Aleksandra were, in their way, similar to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Both leaders were more interested in their hobbies and lavish lifestyles than they were with governing. Both had foreign-born wives. Aleksandra was suspected of being insane by some, particularly because of her closeness to Rasputin, and was suspect for her German heritage at the outbreak of WWI.

The war was a disaster for the country, with some estimates of as many as 3-million Russian soldiers dying on the battlefields and the military and groups of cadets played an extensive role in the revolution. While much of what happened in 1917 was kindled in the 1905 revolution (Bloody Sunday, the mutiny on the battleship Potemkin, the exile of Lenin, the creation of the constitution and Duma governing body) the human and financial cost of the war, as well as the arming of millions, may have been the major factors in the final overthrow of the Tsar.

Miéville manages to thread his way through the dozens of intrigues and hundreds of characters driving the revolution, including the political battles among the communists, liberals, conservatives, and bourgeoisie to attempt to lead the country while maintaining Nicholas II in power. Much of the final outcome had much to do with the power of personalities and the failure of liberals to create and lead a moderate coalition. And then there's just dumb luck, such as the many close escapes of Lenin who was wanted for arrest from the moment he made his way into the country through Finland, or the discovery of a boot helping to expose Rasputin's killers.

Miéville takes the events month by month and sometimes hour by hour to create as clear a narrative as possible. Because of his skills as a novelist I had hoped for more in-depth material on living through the events of 1917. Still he manages to briefly dramatize many of the events and helps open up much of the mystery of how some things happened the way they did.

In the epilogue of the book the author focuses on what could have been in a change of government that began with so much hope and freedom. He doesn't shirk from their eventual collapse or from the horror of life in the country after Lenin died. But he does remind the reader of the positive hopes that inspire revolutions with a wistful sense of what might have been.
Read full review

- kwdayboise (Kim Day)

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-09-2017
  • Publisher: Audible Studios