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October: The Story of the Russian Revolution

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,486 ratings  ·  641 reviews
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
Hardcover, First Edition, 369 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Verso (first published May 1st 2017)
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Sam Ribnick As someone new to the Russian revolution, I found that it taught me a lot on the differences between Lenin and Trotsky, but that Stalin is mostly beyo…moreAs someone new to the Russian revolution, I found that it taught me a lot on the differences between Lenin and Trotsky, but that Stalin is mostly beyond the scope of this book. Because it only covers the events of 1917, we are introduced to Stalin but see very little of his career.(less)

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Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017, history
"We are sick and tired of living in debt and slavery. We want space and light."
- 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 self-described Leninist. We might want to pay CLOSE
David M
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One must always try to be as radical as reality itself. - Lenin

The position of the Bolsheviks I understood, because they preached 'Down with the war and immediate peace at any price,' but I couldn't understand at all the tactics of the SRs and the Mensheviks, who first broke up the army, as if to avoid counterrevolution, and at the same time desired the continuation of the war to a victorious end. - General Brusilov

If this book doesn't make Verso a killing, I really don't know what will. I recom
Earlier this year, I read “Doctor Zhivago” (, which I have to say is an absolute masterpiece. But as I read it, I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t know as much as I should have liked about the story’s setting. Canadian history classes don’t really go into details about the Russian Revolution: we are told that the Bolsheviks assassinated the tsar and his family and that life in Russia was very difficult and dangerous for the following seventy-five year ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
A Month by Month Narrative of Locomotive History

“October" is a bit of a misnomer for this very readable historical narrative (or is it a narrative history?) of the Russian Revolution.

There are, in fact, separate chapters for each month from February to October, 1917, as well as a prologue for the prehistory of the revolution and an epilogue for the aftermath.

Karl Marx wrote that “revolutions are the locomotives of history.” Each chapter of China Mieville's book measures the progress of a revolu
The old regime was vile and violent, while Russian liberalism was weak, and quick to make common cause with reaction. All the same, did October lead inexorably to Stalin? It is an old question, but one still very much alive. Is the gulag the telos of 1917?

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
Pleasant to read a history of the Russian Revolution that is not entirely negative, such as Richard Pipes' unserious text that both laments the loss of the royal family and suggests an identity of Lenin and Hitler. My approach to the subject had been mostly influenced by detractors, such as rightwing numbnuts in the US or internal rightwing critiques such as Solzhenitsyn, or internal left critiques such as Bakhtin and Medvedev.

Some emphasis on the pre-history of serfdom and famines and the worl
Julie Stielstra
Jun 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I'd give this something like 1.666 stars. I didn't dislike it. I admire China Mieville a good deal. I am socialistic in my political leanings and have been fascinated by the Russian Revolution since high school. So I was eager to plunge into Mieville's trawl through that frantic, thrilling, scary year of 1917. The Prologue, "The Pre-History of 1917," encapsulates preceding decades, introducing a typically Russian enormous cast of characters (there IS a Glossary of Personal Names in the back, whi ...more
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fast moving book, which leads the reader towards the October revolution. It is not an academic read, but the author does give events a real sense of immediacy and action. I think it would be a good introduction to the Russian Revolution, as it manages to pack a huge amount into a fairly short book.

What the book lacks in detail, it does make up with in story telling ability. In a way, this almost reads like a novel, as you hurtle, in breakneck pace, through one of the most turbulent tim
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Sarah Jaffe
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
October is a narrative account of that fraught year of 1917 when myriad groups brought down the tsar in February and the Bolsheviks brought down the Provisional Government in October (according to the Julian calendar). For me, the most telling aspects of the tale are the lack of coordination and the contingency of both revolutions. Everyone was riding the tiger but it was the Bolsheviks who rode it most adroitly. Which isn’t saying much as it was most often circumstance and pressure from below t ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: The People's Front of Judea, certainly, but NEVER for the Judean People's Front
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work, with much more believable plots
After a brief Introduction, during which China Miéville acknowledges his partisan and by no means dispassionate perspective on the Russian Revolution, October becomes instantly fascinating—just as promised,
It is, rather, a short introduction for those curious about an astonishing story, eager to be caught up in the revolution's rhythms. Because here it is precisely as a story that I have tried to tell it.

Miéville's usual inventiveness is here constrained by history, but his typically baroque
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Well written enjoyable history novel. Read this slowly over a week. Never felt like binge reading it though.
This relatively short non-fiction book by novelist China Miéville tells the story of the Russian Revolution in 1917, in particular the Bolshevik seizure of power in October . Miéville is a socialist in the Leninist tradition himself (I understand him to have been a member of the Socialist Workers Party in the UK until the Comrade Delta unpleasantness) so his version of the narrative is more pro-Bolshevik than that of other historians (where even in books by relatively dispassionate academic hist ...more
Evan Leach
img: Lenin

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
Miloš Petrik
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a rare occurrence that a non-fictionalized telling of historical events is so engrossing and so easy to read. The events of October 1917 are dramatic enough as they are, in their driest, most stylistically reduced form, but this book offers a concise and accurate retelling.

What sold me the most on this, notwithstanding my being a long-time fan of the author, is the approach without pretense at objectivity, but with every attempt at fairness. The political positions of various actors are ma
Nov 08, 2017 rated it liked it
The Good:
--Historical, blow-by-blow accounts have their uses, and Mieville uses his spellbinding storytelling talents to weave a tapestry of the months leading up to and the day of the October Revolution.
--For the purpose of learning about social change, I found the following particularly interesting:
1) Mieville suggests that Marx was rather cautious of his readers over-interpreting the stages of historical economic development he uses in his historical materialism. This ties in well with the po
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book manages to make the October Revolution incredibly boring. By removing the ideological debates and relying on thinly sketched personalities and political coalitions, the book never becomes more than a breathless Dan Brown-esque recitation of underbaked meetings. The forward momentum is there in the writing, but without the theory the book is all sizzle no steak. Without citations, some of the book's bigger revelations (usually personality based) becomes harder to investigate further. ...more
Bryan Alexander
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
October is a very good political history of the Russian Revolution. While it focuses on political maneuvering, it is also as engagingly well written as you would expect from a novelist,

Most of the book follows events chronologically, working through weeks, days, and even hours during a very chaotic 1917. We get to see the former Russian empire's lands become increasingly chaotic and the populations more politicized.

Central to October is the unusual political arrangement that followed the tsar's
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
All the while I was reading Mieville's history of the October Revolution, I was plotting a big review that would do the subject justice, something political, something timely, something incendiary, but now that I have reached the end, I am going to do something more muted.

October: The Story of the Russian Revolution is beautifully told. China Mieville has turned it into a thrilling narrative wherein all the major players of the twentieth century's most important revolutionary moment appear wit
Debbie Notkin
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is, by intention, a rigorous factual history of the Russian Revolution, published for the centenary of 1917. This means that to my taste a lot of it was inevitably dry. I kept describing it as filled with "begats," by which I mean lots and lots of names, and no way to tell which ones were going to be important and which ones were fleeting.

That being said, Mieville is (of course) a fine writer, and the dry segments are leavened with touches of absolutely beautiful writing, and compelling in
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville is very readable and gives a wonderful flavour of the excitement and confusion of the Russian Revolution. There's nothing of the subsequent ideological battles, just the dazzling reality of events.

It reads more like a novel than a history book and is a splendid evocation of one of the most turbulent year in Russia’s history: strikes, protests, riots, looting, mass desertions from the army, land occupations by hungry peasants and pit
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
'October' (VERSO, May 2017) another one of VERSO's Russian Revolution centenary publications (Tariq Ali and Zizek, among others, also trying to cash in on 1917 and Lenin this year).
I guess if you only want to read one book to get the October story, this is probably it. The author is primarily a fiction writer which makes this a particularly accessible and enjoyable piece of non-fiction on the Russian Revolution(s). Usually, most books about 'October' are pretty hardcore in terms of Marxist nerd
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written, thoroughly enjoyed.

I appreciate that the author is explicit in his politics and opinions rather than posing as impartial while allowing his biases to creep in as is so common.

It was often difficult to keep track of all the various players and factions at play during this time however that is not so much a criticism of Miéville's writing than a comment on how ridiculous and convoluted the reality of the situation was.
Gautam Bhatia
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gripping and fascinating narrative history of the October Revolution.
Rojitas Oliva
Oct 10, 2020 rated it did not like it
this homie studied just super super hard for the GRE and he want's you to know it! nobody is ever timid, rather they're pusillanimous. nobody directs libel at Lenin, it's calumny. not a jumble of boats, but a gallimaufry. again and again questions aren't raised, they're mooted. the rich don't throw a party for the end of the world, its a sybaritism baby!

the history sure is impressively condensed tho...almost like he wanted to make the book accessible or something idk.
There are many, many books one ought to read about the October Revolution, but if you had to pick only one, then it should be this one.

I find myself having read this book several weeks ago, continuously thinking what I could possibly say about it. And I still don't know. But it is November 7th — the 100 year anniversary of the Revolution — so I will go into it as unprepared as the Bolsheviks were at the time of their uprising.

A sweeping account of the events leading up to, and slightly after, Oc
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’m pleased that China Miéville has branched into narrative history, just as Francis Spufford branched from historical non-fiction into historical fiction. ‘October’ is a wonderfully involving work of narrative history, with a quality that made me want to read it aloud. If you’re already familiar with the Russian Revolution, it might not tell you anything you didn’t already know, although you’ll likely still enjoy the telling. I was only familiar with the broadest outline of events, so I found i ...more
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Even though it is written for the layman, the numerous names, acronyms, organisations, allegiances and changes in who is supporting who makes any book on the Russian Revolution quite complex. Mielville is better known for his fiction writing and his use of adjectives and verbs makes this book quite different to those written by historians, journalists, academics or politicians. At times his writing works, other times it didn't.
This book actually covers two revolutions. The first in February 1917
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“The revolution of 1917 is a revolution of trains. History proceeding in screams of cold metal. The tsar’s wheeled palace, shunted into sidings forever; Lenin’s sealed stateless carriage; Guchkov and Shulgin’s meandering abdication express; the trains criss-crossing Russia heavy with desperate deserters; the engine stoked by ‘Konstantin Ivanov’, Lenin in his wig, eagerly shovelling coal. And more and more will come: Trotsky’s armoured train, the Red Army’s propaganda trains, the troop carriers of the Civil War. Looming trains, trains hurtling through trees, out of the dark. Revolutions, Marx said, are the locomotives of history. ‘Put the locomotive into top gear’, Lenin exhorted himself in a private note, scant weeks after October, ‘and keep it on the rails.’ But how could you keep it there if there really was only one true way, one line, and it is blocked? ‘I have gone where you did not want me to go.’ In” 2 likes
“The poet Osip Mandelstam, in a poem that goes by various names, a celebrated first-anniversary commemoration of the start of 1917, speaks of 'liberty's dim light'. The word he uses, 'sumerki', usually portends twilight, but it may also refer to the darkness before dawn. Does he honour, his translator Boris Dralyuk wonders, 'liberty's fading light, or its first faint glimmer?'

Perhaps the glow at the horizon is neither of longer sunsets nor less sudden dawns, but is rather a protracted, constitutive ambiguity. Such crepuscularity we have all known, and will all know again. Such strange light is not only Russia's.”
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