China Miéville’s contribution in October is to get away from ideological battles and go back to the dazzling reality of events. There is no schadenfreude here about the revolution’s bloody aftermath, nor patronising talk of experiments that failed because they were doomed to fail. Known as a left-wing activist and author of fantasy or what he himself calls weird fiction, Miéville writes with the brio and excitement of an enthusiast who would have wanted the revolution to succeed ... The story is old but Miéville retells it with verve and empathy. He brilliantly captures the tensions of coup and counter-coup and the kaleidoscope of coalitions that formed and then broke. There is wonderful detail on small points too ... his moral is that we should keep trying. Change is not doomed to make things worse. With a different external environment and different actions by the main participants, the October revolution might have had a better outcome. Its degradation was 'not a given, was not written in any stars.'
This gripping account is a re-enactment of the Russian Revolution, month by month, by an author who has used the fantasy genre to convey political messages ... The book’s conception is in line with its dramatic (occasionally melodramatic) style: Miéville confesses to have done no original research here, instead distilling his sources into an informative page-turner. If he occasionally gets his facts wrong (the new-style date of the October Revolution, for instance, is November 7, not November 5 as mentioned), that feels unavoidable in such an enterprise. Revolutions rarely go without a hitch.
Miéville's academic past and interest in leftism give him the background he needs to handle a potentially mind-numbing task ... Miéville doesn't neglect the misery, confusion, and violence that led up to the revolution. He's especially evocative when he chronicles the scenes on the chaotic streets. But much of the value of October comes in his mastery of how the intricacies of human decision-making play out in Petrograd (the once and future St. Petersburg), Moscow, and beyond.