Nataliya's Reviews > London's Overthrow

London's Overthrow by China Miéville
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May 18, 12

bookshelves: mieville-is-awesome, nonfiction, 2012-reads, location-is-the-true-protagonist
Recommended to Nataliya by: Candiss
Read from May 14 to 15, 2012, read count: 2

China Miéville does not really look like your "average academic type", does he? When I look at him, I don't necessarily think "PhD thesis in Marxism and international law".

Stereotype vs. China Miéville - looks can be deceiving indeed.

And yet CM is an academic, and when he writes a passionate, angry, taking-no-middle-ground political photo-essay about the impact of recent economic and political decisions and trends on London and on the country as a whole, I am not only willing to pay attention but also feel tempted to take copious notes, like a good student should.

"London, buffeted by economic catastrophe, vastly reconfigured by a sporting jamboree of militarised corporate banality, jostling with social unrest, still reeling from riots. Apocalypse is less a cliché than a truism. This place is pre-something."
This guy is no stranger to politics and its implementation and consequences, and I am more than willing to take his opinions seriously. And now I know that I have tremendous respect for him not only as a talented writer but also as a person, and I admire the strength of his political convictions and his willingness to not just take the often easy compromising middle ground on troubling issues (having said that, I do believe that quite often middle ground is the only reasonable way to go, but I don't have to agree 100% to appreciate his views).
"The pay gap between the highest and lowest paid in the UK has grown faster than in any other developed country, spiking since 2005. In 2008, average income of the top 10 percent was 12 times that of the lowest. Their riches grow. We others are told to tighten belts.

We’re approaching Victorian levels of inequality, and London’s more unequal than anywhere else in the country. Here, the richest 10 percent hold two thirds of all wealth, the poorest half, one 20th[...] Almost a quarter of young Londoners are out of work. A wrenching 40 percent of London children live in poverty.
Now, I don't know that much about current British politics or economics. But the climate is not that different in the US - the country, where, interestingly, 'socialist' is a slur employed by our own right-wing political party. And so I feel that I can understand and relate to the issues that Miéville so angrily yet eloquently brings up.
"People, though, refuse to forget that the filthy riches of the filthy rich are not unrelated to the filthy poverty of others."
Miéville tackles the uncomfortable here. He attacks the huge and still growing economic divide between the rich and the poor, aptly noticing that "Still, in London, defenders of privilege aren’t quite so prone to open swagger as their US counterparts".
"The Olympics are slated to cost taxpayers £9.3bn. In this time of ‘austerity’, youth clubs and libraries are expendable fripperies; this expenditure, though, is not negotiable."
He questions the rationale behind severe cuts to the welfare and education systems while at the same time dropping huge amounts of money on the upcoming Olympics. Seeing the similar things happen across the board in my own country, I do share the indignation.
"Everyone knows there’s a catastrophe, that few can afford to live in their own city. It was not always so."
He addresses "feral" youth rioting, questioning the motives behind viewing the young people as danger and the actions of police dealing with them. Miéville thinks police actions cross the line more often that not. When I read his angry words, I can't help thinking about the police actions in the two public universities in California that I've attended - UC Berkeley and UC Davis; the Berkeley police beating the Occupy protesters and the infamous UC Davis pepperspraying incident (pictures below. Google it). I'm sure there's something to be said about the behavior on both sides of the virtual barricades, but when do the police actions cross the line? Here:

He takes on racism as well - the ultimate uncomfortable subject that most politicians would rather pretend doesn't exist.
"Racism, of course, endures, adapts. According to the exigencies of ideology, casts around for one, then another first-choice hate [...]The government’s official counterterror strategy includes asking lecturers to report depressed Muslim students."
I loved this passionate and highly intelligent (would you expect anything different from CM?) essay about the wrongs of the society. I'm reading his politically charged fiction book Iron Council now, and reading this essay made me appreciate the events he portrays in his story even more, seeing what he thinks of the real-life events. I highly recommend this essay - but be warned if your political views are closer to the right-wing - you will not like it.

Miéville's photo-essay is here, free on his website.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Jacob (last edited May 16, 2012 09:33PM) (new)

Jacob Your next assignment: Read his thesis. Finding it will be half the challenge.

Nataliya Oh dear. A thesis on Marxism for this ex-Soviet? That may turn out to be quite interesting...

Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways And here is a half-hour chat between Nancy Pearl and His Chinaness.

message 4: by Jane (new)

Jane I too can't help feeling the revolution creep up on us on both sides of the Atlantic. 1848 all over again...

With much scarier weapons. A little social justice might go a long way to staving off disaster.

Nataliya I honestly hope that if any revolution is brewing it will be bloodless. As my mother loves to say, "A bad peace is better than the best war". But things are getting to the point when it's becoming hard to be okay with the status quo in any way or shape.

message 6: by Jane (new)

Jane Yup.

Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Nataliya...lovely review!

Jane...1848 is an excellent parallel to today's climate. It makes me feel only slightly less despairing to imagine that We-the-People might get a few licks in before the elites bomb us back to Saxon times.

message 8: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Natalia what a fantastic review.

[Name Redacted By Goodreads Because Irrelevant to Review] I can assure you that China Mieville looks EXACTLY like your "average academic type." If my girlfriend weren't so opposed to it, I'd even have a shaved head.

Nataliya Thanks, Richard and Tracy!

Ian - you must hang out with a much cooler academic crowd than I'm used to seeing. Btw, you can always bribe your hairdresser into giving you a "botched" haircut, after which you'd *have* to shave your head ;)

[Name Redacted By Goodreads Because Irrelevant to Review] Believe me, I've considered that. But a good relationship is built upon honesty!

message 12: by Catie (new)

Catie The topics that he addresses here seem to relate to the characters and setting of Iron Council quite a bit. He's such an interesting person. I will definitely have to listen to the interview that he did with Nancy Pearl.

Nataliya Catie wrote: "The topics that he addresses here seem to relate to the characters and setting of Iron Council quite a bit. He's such an interesting person. I will definitely have to listen to the interview that..."

I still need to listen to that interview.
And yes, I kept thinking about this essay while reading about the revolutionary events in New Crobuzon.

message 14: by Catie (new)

Catie I just watched it - it's a great interview! Nancy Pearl asks a ton of interesting questions and I loved what he had to say, especially about trying to challenge himself to break stereotypes but still letting the story evolve organically. He's very well-spoken. Now I really want to read Embassytown and Kraken.

I actually started the Kraken audiobook on my walk the other day and it's very different from Bas-Lag. It's almost contemporary in comparison! I loved what he had to say about Bas-Lag too - that it was like his "rag-bag" for any ideas he was interested in but didn't have a place for.

Nataliya I am looking forward to your opinion on "Kraken". I'm starting "The City and The City" tomorrow - my airplane read.

message 16: by Catie (new)

Catie Nice! It will be the perfect read for Eastern Europe (as it sort of takes place there). I hope you have a great trip!

Nataliya Thanks, Catie!

message 18: by J.P. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.P. Really good review Nataliya. I hope that people no matter what their political beliefs can recognize injustice when they see it and can read this with an open mind.

message 19: by Ruby (new) - added it

Ruby  Tombstone [Uncensored or Else] Thanks Nataliya - I started the photo essay a couple of weeks ago and drifted away from it before I really got to the issues you raise here. I will have to go back and finish it...

...maybe after I finish The Scar. Why do I get the feeling I'll be spending the next 12 months reading nothing but CM?

Nataliya Ruby wrote: "Thanks Nataliya - I started the photo essay a couple of weeks ago and drifted away from it before I really got to the issues you raise here. I will have to go back and finish it...

...maybe after ..."

For me, this is shaping up to be Mieville spring/summer. And I love it.

message 21: by Jim (new) - added it

Jim Wonderful review, Nataliya! I downloaded and started reading the photo-essay (bits at a time, unfortunately). It is awesome!

It is shocking to realize that the inequality situation in London so closely parallels what is happening here. I should have known, with their current government and all the 'austerity' measures.

I was aware of the UC Davis pepperspray incident, and saved some docs from it at the time. But I never made the connection that you were near that scene until now.

You and Catie will have me spending MY summer with Mieville if I am not careful! I would love to do that, but fear the consequences for my poor aching head at this particular moment in my life...

The guy is an awesome force, that is for sure. My respect for him is growing by the day!

Have a great time on your trip!!

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