Rating: 2 out of 5
It feels weird for me to start a history, and to notice that the author says that he isn’t trying to correct for his own biases in what he is writing. This introduction made me wary; the book justified that wariness. Far more a glorification of Lenin than a review of the two revolutions that ruptured Russia in 1917, Mr Miéville’s writings don’t justify the time spent on them.
The main problem is that Mr Miéville’s leftist views come through at every step, and also seem to have justified the topics on which he focusses as opposed to those he leaves out. The complicated nature of 1917 in Russia means that the sub-400 pages the author dedicated to the topic aren’t nearly sufficient to delve into the problems. And, in deciding what to write about, it’s clear that pre-Revolution societal complexity didn’t deserve a high place.
A good example for this is the Emperor, Nicholas II. Miéville barely mentions him, and definitely doesn’t go into as much detail as most authors who write about *other* topics. The Emperor’s reliance on his aides isn’t mentioned, and in general his personality is very poorly brought across. And, yet, this was the one person on whom everything hinged!
Another example could be taken in looking at what anecdotes the author included. There’s one on Lenin for most months if not weeks, showing him in a variety of different situations, and, yet, the other key players barely get one. One of the very few in which Kerenski is portrayed has to do with how scary Lenin is. The other characters, no matter how powerful or important, rarely feature in even the meagre detail afforded to Kerenski.
The epilogue descended into a discussion of what went wrong with the Revolution, but it’s described as ‘just happening’ and not something specific people were responsible for.